St Joseph’s Care Centre, Dublin Road, is Longford’s principle health care facility. It stands on the site of Longford Workhouse, later renamed the county home.
The workhouse opened in 1842 and had capacity for 1000 people. It served an administrative area, Longford Poor Law Union, which consisted of about half of the county.
In the years of the Great Famine in the late 1840s, the workhouse was inundated and at times accommodated almost 2000. In such extreme circumstances, additional accommodation was sourced around the town.
The workhouse followed a standard design and included male and female sections. In the late 1840s, it had facilities for baking, carpentry, sewing, shoe-making and tailoring.
There was an infirmary and a separate fever hospital, which was built in 1844. The fever hospital, known as Mount Carmel, stands on the high ground behind the other buildings and is the only surviving part of the original complex. The workhouse also had a school, a church and a graveyard.
After independence in 1922, the workhouse was renamed Longford County Home. It provided care for older people unable to live independently and others including single pregnant women. The old buildings, with the exception of Mount Carmel, were demolished in the 1960s and replaced by modern buildings, constructed in phases.
On the roadway into St Joseph’s, you will see a memorial to the writer Padraic Colum, who was born in the workhouse in December 1881, as his father was serving as its master.
St. Joseph’s is a healthcare facility and not ordinarily open for tourist visitors.