Throughout the 19th century Ireland remained an almost feudal society or in others words it is where the lord or ruler of the land offers a fief in exchange for military service (medieval beneficium).

Figure 1: Detailed picture of the land plots that were available during the 19th century in kilkenny. Source: National library of Ireland.

At this stage a huge amount of the land in kilkenny was under rule by a very wealthy Anglo Irish Protestant elite.



It was the illiterate Catholic Irish peasants and tenant farmers who lived in horrible conditions and when times went bad their only resort was to beg in hope that they would receive food so that they could sustain some sort of lifestyle. Figure 3 displays an image of a workhouse that was opened during the famine in kilkenny to accommodate the poor, it was the 5th biggest workhouse in Ireland where it served thousands of men, women and children. It was during the peak time where it was known to have its worst living conditions imaginable, so men and women were separated as they entered and had a very slim chance of seeing one another again. Overcrowding occurred and this meant that diseases spread and deaths took place.

Hundreds of remains were found on this site during an archaeological dig.  Under the supervised care and authority of the National Museum of Ireland these remains were  respectfully buried in the Goods Shed Square (Famine memorial square). In recent times the workhouse buildings have now been restored to a retail/shopping centre. See Figure 4.

Figure 4: MacDonagh Junction today. Source: Reddy Architecture.

Finally during the 19th & 20th Century, education played a very important role. Edmund Ignatius Rice who was the founder of the Christian brothers (CBS) did as much as he could to improve education for the poorer Catholic children in Kilkenny. He was the man of his time as he broke rules and went against the law as he believed it was right to teach the catholic faith.

Figure 5: Edmund Ignatius Rice, native of kilkenny who was a courageous man of his time. Source: Catholic Ireland.

Throughout this blog I spoke about different aspects of the 19th century in kilkenny city. I incorporated living conditions, education and religion. Changes over time, in respect to and old workhouse is now a shopping centre.

Bibliography & Picture Sources

Figure 1: History of Kilkenny, old city plot map. Europeana. Available at:

Figures 2 & 3: Beggars and Macdonagh junction Famine workhouse. National Library of Ireland and kilkenny county library. Available at:,

Figure 4: Macdonagh junction shopping centre/The Goods Shed (Memorial square) Available at:

Figure 5: Edmund Ignatius Rice, CBS. Catholic Ireland. Available at:


An Ancestry Community, (2003) The Great Famine of Ireland. Available at: [Accessed 24th of October 2016]

Tighe, W (1800). Statistical observations relative to the county of kilkenny. (Downloaded: 24th of October 2016)