LAOIS County Council have announced plans set to completely refurbish the former dining hall building at the Donaghmore Workhouse in a move to boost tourism in Laois.
The council, in conjunction with the Donaghmore Museum Committee and Laois Partnership plan to spend in the region of E700,000 refurbishing the hall building to its original mid-19th century appearance, both inside and out. This will entail the reversal of all 20th century structural alterations as well as the removal of two side extensions and all internal remnants of the creamery.
Details of the revamp were confirmed this week at Laois County Council. County Manager, Peter Carey thanked Trevor Stanley and the committee for their work. He said they had achieved tremendous work on a shoestring.
Mr Carey said the council had to be more imaginative and innovative to attain funding projects, But he said there was E0.5 million available and the council are to spend E60,000 per year over the next three years on the project.
He said Donaghmore Workhouse was part of a bigger effort to create a loop of tourist attractions around the country.
Cllr Martin Phelan was the first to lend his support to the plan. He thanked the county manager, Peter Carey and Laois Partnership for developing this project.
“The committee have done tremendous work out there and have run the museum on a shoe string budget,” he said.
Cllr Brendan Phelan also extended his gratitude to the county manager and the council staff.
“I would also like to acknowledge the work of the small committee who ensured that the building didn’t fall down and protected the equipment which local farmers bought for the creamery,” he said.
Cllr John King said it was great to see E700,000 being spent in the area. Noting the community’s strong links with the Workhouse, Cllr King said: “Our forefathers died in the workhouse and our families were employed in Glanbia.”
Cllr John Joe Fennelly said the Donaghmore Workhouse was another jewel to bring tourism into the county. He said a message should go out to tour companies and people that the south of Laois was open for business.
“We have the Durrow Loop Walks, Donaghmore Workhouse, the Slieve Blooms, Abbeyleix Heritage House and Heywood Gardens in Ballinakill, it would be the best half day you could spend anywhere,” he said.
The Donaghmore Workhouse opened in September 23, 1853, under the Poor Law Union, it cost £5,500 to build and furnish and had a capacity of 400. The workshouse closed on September 30, 1886. It was used temorarily as a military barracks around 1920, after which time they fell into disuse.
In 1927, have been leased from the County Laois Health Board, the site re-opened as Donaghmore Co-operative Creamery Limited with the dining block of the former workhouse being used as the creamery. In the mid 1960’s Donaghmore Creamery merged with other co-operatives to form Avonmore Creameries Ltd, however, in the following years, the creamery at Donaghmore became redundant.
In the late 1980s, the front block of the former workhouse became superfluous to requirements and was leased by Laois County Council to a local community group. With the assistance of LEADER funsing for rural enterprises, the buildings were refurbished and re-opened in May 1993 as the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse and Agricultural Museum.