19th Century Lodgings in Lurgan
by Jim McIllmurry
In the 19th century there wasn’t a lot of work in rural Ireland, tradesmen who could not get work in their own area often took to the road and went from town to town, they became known as journeymen.
In 1860 there was a house building programme underway in Lurgan, the railway had arrived and the linen industry was booming so it became attractive, so did the prospect of taking in a lodger to help pay the rent.
Lurgan Town Commissioners decided it was time to regulate this new growing industry. Lodging houses had opened up all over Lurgan, some were comfortable, others nothing more than hovels with clay floors and a shared toilet in another property. Outbreaks of Cholera was a regular occurrence in Lurgan in the mid-19th century.
In 1861, there were officially 16 purpose let lodging houses listed in Lurgan. The town Commissioners visited each one and inspected it from top to bottom and stipulated how many people it could accommodate.
Each lodging house had to display the regulations that they were served with in each room and they had to be visual in the entrance for inspectors.
An example, a house could have 10 adults in it, but they could have more if they were children. Two children under eight, or three with a combined age of 16 years. The Lurgan “Hotels” saw their numbers reduced as the Commissioners would not allow anyone to be bedded below ground level. Also, no one was allowed to sleep in the scullery or kitchen. It became illegal to allow a traveller to sleep in the kitchen on a sofa bed or on the potatoes in the scullery as had been the practice before. The regulations also stated that no persons of opposite sexes could sleep in the same room unless they could produce a marriage certificate. The regulations stated no more than two adults per bed with or without a suckling child. Or not one adult or two with three child who’s united ages does not exceed 16 years. Or four children with a united age under 32 years. The regulations were not as strict when it came to bedding though. Blankets, rugs or covers had to receive a thorough cleaning on the first day of the following months, March, June, September and December each year.
It was also stated that any keeper had to report any outbreak of fever or diseases to the Inspector of Nuisances who in turn would contact the Relieving Officer and take them to the Workhouse.
Blankets or bedclothes used by a sick person had to be washed in disinfectant and the mattress fumigated. If the mattress was of shavings or straw it had to be burned immediately.
The privy seat, walls and floor must be clean of filth and clean in all other respects.
Every lodging house will have proper drain communicating with the common sewer at least 100 yards from the property.
Our thanks to Jim for his kindness in giving us permission to publish these stories here.