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BIRR WORKHOUSE 

Being one of 130 workhouse built in Ireland in the 1840's under the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838 this protected structure is of considerable architectural, historical and cultural importance.

 

Our role was to assess the design proposal for a major commercial office complex on the site which included converting the existing complex into a Workhouse Museum and Offices along with the construction of substantial new office buildings. Due to the scale of the proposal and the special importance of the Workhouse a detailed Architectural Heritage Assessment Report was required.

 

These workhouses were built to a standard plan designed by the English Architect George Wilkinson and varied in size to accommodate 400-1000 persons. Parsontown Union Workhouse is the only remaining workhouse in Co. Offaly and is, perhaps, the most intact workhouse surviving in Ireland today. It opened in 1842 and was designed to accommodate 800 ‘paupers’. At the height of the famine and cholera epidemic in 1849 the population exceeded 3,000. The workhouse closed in 1921. During the 20th century it was part used as light commercial and part residential. It has been unoccupied for a number of years now and is under threat of dereliction.

 

At the time of this assessment our client was preparing a design proposal for a major commercial office complex on the site for 400 persons. The proposal included converting the existing complex into a Workhouse Museum and Offices along with the construction of substantial new office buildings, a total area in excess of 13,000m2.

 

Dorman Architects were appointed to provide Conservation expertise and to carry out an Architectural Heritage Impact Assessment for the project. It included an evaluation of the quality and importance of the protected structure; a detailed architectural inventory and photographic record and a comprehensive impact assessment of the proposal on this important architectural, historical and cultural complex.

 

With the advent of the great recession the project did not proceed. In 2017 the west wing of the accomodation block suffered severe damage after an arson attack. The building remains unoccupied.