Remembering the Workhouse and its uncounted and unnamed dead.
During the years between 1841 and 1922 the Callan workhouse operated as a place to house and offer support to may of the poor and fallen people who lived in the surrounding areas.
I want to share here some images and facts about both the workhouse and the associated grave yard that is located just one kilometre south of the town of Callan.
Both these site still exist today and a visit to them is both very moving and haunting.
The Workhouse now operates as a home for people with special needs and many feel that this is a great outcome considering its original use and its history.
A visit to Cherryfields Grave yard is very moving, I have included some written details below with some recent images, the thing that personally hits me the most about this place is that no one knows how many people lay at rest here as there is not one single name to be found anywhere.
My final Gallery at the bottom of the post reflects on the contrast between cherryfields and other local grave yards, where all the graves are marks with stones, the only technical difference being the level of finance you or your family possessed.
The Callan Work house
The Callan Union of workhouses was situated partly in Co Kilkenny and partly in Co Tipperary. It comprised an area of 106,633 statute acres with a population of 42,707.
The Callan workhouse was contracted for on May 29, 1840 and was completed in 1841.
The management of the workhouse was as follows: Master, matron, clerk chaplain, schoolmaster, porter.
It cost £5,500 to build and $1,140 to fit out. The entire complex, situated at the south end of the town, covered an area of six and a quarter acres. It was built to accommodate 600 people and its first admission took place on March 25, 1842.
Thirty-three Poor Law Guardians, elected from various areas in the Union, had overall responsibility for the workhouse.
Built, as mentioned to accommodate 600 people, it had at the height of the Famine thousands of unfortunates clamouring for admittance. Even by 1851 it was still crammed to over capacity. The census for that year lists 2,102 people as residing in it.
The statistics for the Famine in the Callan area are grim and mind-boggling. Between 1841 and 1851 a total of 1,411 people, 688 males and 723 females, died in Callan Workhouse, and 2,104, 1,050 males and 1,054 females died in the temporary fever sheds, a grand total of 3,515 people. These virtually all died during the years of 1846 to 1850.
After the famine years, the workhouse settled back into a more normal level of operation and continued to function right up until the 1920s. In 1922 it was garrisoned by Free State troops during the Civil War.
It was later sold to private individuals and public bodies.
CherryFields Grave Yard
on approaching Cherryfields – Callan, A plaque on a pillar at the graveyard reads: In memory of the uncounted victims of famine and poverty buried here, most of whom died in Callan Workhouse 1841-1922. The Plaque was erected in 1986 by Callan Heritage Society.
The now disused burial ground is the resting place of those who died in Callan Workhouse and who had no family or friends to claim them.
It is located in a remote one and a quarter acre site about one and a half miles south-east of the town off the Clonmel Road in the townland of Baunta Commons.
Because cherries grew three in times gone by it is still popularly known as Cherryfield.
Most of those buried in Cherryfield were victims of the Great Hunger which devastated Ireland during the 1840s. The Callan area of Co Kilkenny was severely affected by this catastrophe.
Tales have been passed down about the endless procession of funerals from the Workhouse. It is said that often up to six bodies at a time were carted out for burial, and that it was not uncommon for corpses to fall off the ‘funeral cart’ because the boreen into Cherryfield was so rough and muddy.
Originally it was intended to have a ‘pauper’s graveyard’, as the terminology of the time called it, located in less remote place as Lord Clifden proposed, but because Baunta Commons consisted of large areas of poor agricultural common land there was little problem in acquiring a cheap site.
The graveyard was crudely fenced off for many years but was fully enclosed by a wall in the 1860s. A substantial gate and entry piers were also erected at that time.
Contrast of Cherryfields to other local Grave yards
The surrounding areas of south Kilkenny, contain many old grave yards all of which are wonderful to visit, they hold great records of the people who lived locally and now rest in these places.