Situated about 300m from the Market Square in Dunfanaghy sits the Old Workhouse. This beautiful historic building houses the tourist information point for the area, as well as an exhibition centre, beautiful coffee shop, art gallery, craft and book shop.
The Dunfanaghy Union Workhouse was built to designs by George Wilkinson (1814-90), architect to the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland from 1838-55. Wilkinson was responsible for the design and erection of all 130 workhouses that were built in Ireland. It was built on land which was purchased in 1842 from Alexander Stewart of Ards House, the proprietor of the town and surrounding areas at the time, and was planned to accommodate 300 ‘paupers’. It closed in 1922 and the site became abandoned. Thankfully, this building which is of huge historical interest because of its association with the Great Famine was obtained by the community and opened as a heritage and tourist centre in 1995.
A visit to the Dunfanaghy area would not be complete without a visit to the Workhouse. The exhibition telling the story of Wee Hannah, who is mentioned in The Famine Graveyard page of this website, will give an insight to life in this beautiful corner of Ireland during the terrible years of famine. Wee Hannah struggled to survive The Famine, and lived for a while in The Workhouse.
This beautiful historic building houses local crafts, tourist information and a coffee shop, but most importantly, you will get a great welcome from the local staff who will help with any questions you have about the area. The workhouse also is a valuable local community resource used for concerts, children's activities and seasonal fairs.
Admission to the Workhouse is free, and everyone is very welcome, but some of the exhibitions do charge.
The Workhouse also has a superb outdoor children’s play area which is open to everyone!!!
Next to the Workhouse is The Gallery, a lovely art and craft shop which is housed in a building originally built in 1843 as the fever hospital to treat patients from the Workhouse. See more information in the Arts and Crafts section.