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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Entire building complex, small redbrick building at east corner and former exercise yards.

Date of Construction:
1840 - 1859

Address :
Roe Valley Hospital (Former Workhouse) Benevenagh Avenue Limavady Co Londonderry BT49 OAQ

Rathbrady More

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
30/11/1982 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Hospital Building

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:
29/6 NW

IG Ref:
C6765 2275

Owner Category

Health Board

Exterior Description And Setting

The former workhouse consisted of three blocks, namely first, a two storey block, five bays long, built of random rubble stone, trimmed at quoins with sandstone, each end bay forming a lateral block or pavilion projecting 500mm at front and approximately three metres to rear, having natural slated roofs; second, a two storey block, 15 bays long with three storey, two bay wide lateral blocks at each end built in similar fashion; third 2/3 storey block, 15 bays long with single storey in line at north east end and built in similar fashion as first. The second and third blocks are connected by a single storey slated building which has a short single block at right angles on either side and again of similar construction. The first block contained the admission/receiving wards as well as offices and board room. The second block contained the male and female wards, school rooms and children’s wards. The third block contained the infirmary, idiot wards and sheds. The connecting block between 2nd and 3rd contained the kitchen, laundry, wash house, workroom, and a large room for dining/work tasks and chapel. Around these blocks were wall enclosed yards which formed a large rectangle of the whole. Men, women, boys and girls and idiots were all separated and each group had its own exercise yard. At the present the Roe Valley Hospital occupies the 2nd and 3rd blocks and the connecting block and to these some extensions have been added. The 1st block is occupied by a mental health charity. Many of the enclosing walls forming the yards have been removed. 1st block. The entrance or north west facade has a central entrance door with three pointed arches with bold chamfered sandstone surround and over a simple hood moulding with label stops. On either side there are square two light windows with chamfered sandstone surround with square hood moulding and moulded label stops. Originally there wasn’t a ground floor window in the gabled lateral block but now there is a modern rectangular insertion, spoiling the composition. A simple moulded string course across the facade defines the floor level and neatly steps up over the entrance. Each lateral has a centre window with chamfered sandstone surround without hood moulding and prominent cruciform mullion/transome, while in the centre three similar windows slightly piercing the eaves have gaily curved barges forming gabled dormers. Likewise the lateral gables have almost identical curving barges, though much larger completing a pleasing facade. Two chimneys adorn the ridge and are built in red brick. At the south east gable is a single storey porch projection with door similar to main entrance but narrower. On the rear elevation the gabled laterals are treated similarily as front with one window at first floor level in each, in the centre three windows at ground level and above a single window, off-centre, while high up on the roof there is a small gabled dormer. The north west gable has a single door at ground level and asymmetrically arranged windows. Nothing remains of the yard walls. Downpipes from the front facade roof make devious routes downwards. The second block south east facade has dominant rows of windows at ground and first floor with a central door repeating the main entrance door without label moulding but having a delightful cantilevered gabled and slated canopy with curvy barges. The rafter feet are exposed at ends and the underside sheeted and painted white. The windows have the cruciform mullion/transome arrangement except those on either side of the doorway which have six lights each. There was formerly an external door to each classroom giving access to the enclosed yard but these are now built-up. At each end of the block double pile, gabled, three storey laterals form positive terminations punctuated with six light windows. Unfortunately many of these openings have lost their original windows and been replaced with inappropriate modern ones. Each window has a trim of red brick which like the quoins are all painted white with some exceptions. Where the two storey meets the three storey staircase towers with pyramidal roofs with triple windows on each face pop up through the rear slope to make a lively roofscape. Whether these towers were original it is difficult to say as they are not indicated on some early drawings and axonometrics. To the rear of the second block the window arrangement is more or less the same as the front except that there have been many modern insertions. A staircase protrusion, built in stone, two storey high appears to have been built later. The original connecting link with the third block is much obscured with modern extensions, particularly post Second World War and these are easily recognised as they are rendered in plasterwork. The third block is of lesser width and though it has a continuous unbroken pitched roof and gabled ends the floors within vary between two and three. To the rear of it there have been added two projecting bays. Windows and doors have been more or less retained but there are many alterations. On the south west facade a series of segmental headed small windows provide high level lighting to what was called the idiot wards. This block is not balanced on the connecting link in that it is shorter to the south east and then continues as a single storey. This block’s length is a little longer than the second. Originally the ground floor contained projecting sheds for use of those in the respective exercise yards. The building complex has an impressive unity. Walls are built of random rubble rust stained stonework and all roofs pitched and slated with windows all trimmed with either sandstone or brick and all quoins likewise. In the beginning windows had small diamond panes but most of these are replaced. Situated to the south west of Limavady centre between Irish Green Street and Scroggy Road and now surrounded by contemporary buildings it was originally in open countryside, with the approach avenue from Irish Green Street. Later the former railway line from Limavady to Dungiven cut past the reception block passing under a bridge. Most of the enclosing yard walls have gone but sufficient remain to the rear of the third block to help visualise the arrangement. Within the yard at the north west single storey stone built and slated out-houses were erected. To the north a narrow strip of ground was set aside as a paupers’ graveyard.. At the north east outside the yard wall there is a small five bay long red brick building with five no. oculii on each long wall and gateway in gable end. It has a pitched and slated roof.


Wilkinson, George

Historical Information

At the end of the 18th century it was estimated that two million people in Ireland were at near starvation level and question of relief for the poor became urgent. However relief was slow in coming and several decades passed whilst Select Committees and Royal Commissions deliberated. However developments in England stemming from the Poor Relief Act 1834 which provided for the erection of workhouses there, prepared the way for legislation applying to Ireland. Accordingly an Act for the more effective relief of the destitute poor in Ireland passed into law on 31 July 1838. Sir George Nicholls (1781-1865), poor law reformer and administrator, was assigned by Government to organise and superintend the Act in Ireland. The Irish Commissioners consisted of three including Nicholls and later this was increased to four. Some 130 Unions were to be set up each with a Board of Guardians. The commissioners dictated policy and the manner of provision of workhouses but each Board of Guardians had to provide the revenue for capital and running costs. This was raised by exacting a charge on the Poor-Rate. Money was to be borrowed and charged with interest on the Poor Rates of each Union. This was contentious to the Guardians who mainly raised the money and had to accept the manner of erection and running of the workhouses. Nicholls selected an English architect called George Wilkinson (fl 1830-65) from a short list of three. Wilkinson arrived in Ireland in January 1839 and had standard plans and specifications ready for reporting to the Commissioners on 1 May 1839. The cost of Irish workhouses were to be 2/3rds that of a similar English workhouse. Limavady workhouse received its first admission on 15 March 1842. It was sited on 7 acres 14 perches of land, designed for 500 persons, cost to build £5,982 - builder McCarter of Derry, fittings £1,309. In 1844 asphalt replaced the clay floors but was not satisfactory and the ground floors were subsequently tiled. An extension was built in 1846 for provision of a fever hospital, a single storey stone building in the north east yard at a cost of around £400 . The builder was Robert Boyd and the building was handed over on December 1846. A plot of ground was set aside for a graveyard in the same year. In January 1848 an extension over the idiot ward to the north west was complete. The effects of the Great Famine greatly increased the weekly intake of admissions which had increased from 37-40 per week to 80-100 per week and in early 1848 there were 950 in residence. As the burial ground was too near the complex a further ½ acre was rented at a little distance away. There were 7-8 deaths per week which was low compared to other parts of the country. After the famine from 1850 for the next 80 years routine in the workhouse and fever hospital continued without interruption and little improvement. The duties of the Board of Guardians were gradually extended to dispensary, health, education (minimal) , graveyard and sanitary conditions including water. In 1898 Mrs Jane Ritter became chairperson of the Board of Guardians to be succeeded by her daughter Mrs Jane Robertson and later her daughter Dorothy Robertson. This brought an element of compassion for the inmates and a sister of Dorothy became Medical Officer, Dr Kathleen Robertson. It was under the Robertsons and the change in Government that the workhouse became a district hospital. In 1928 conversion and improvements took place costing around £7,500, not without opposition as some members proposed that Pellipar House, Dungiven, be purchased and converted to a hospital. On 1st April 1930 the last of the workhouse inmates were transferred to Coleraine. Plans were now made to adapt the building to proper hospital use Mr Kennedy architect Coleraine was consulted and on 1st April 1933 the Board of Guardians ceased to be responsible for the District Hospital and a new Board of Governors appointed who met on 13th March 1933. Many improvements and adaptations were carried out in the next three years to provide the service that a District Hospital should and in September 1937 Mrs M McCausland of Drenagh performed the opening ceremony. The 1939-45 War brought increased activity and additional temporary accommodation. In 1948 the Roe Valley Hospital came under the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority which brought more changes to the old workhouse buildings. In the main these were external extensions, service improvements and as far as building character was concerned, alterations to windows. However in spite of this the original form materials and details have survived remarkably well. References John O’Connor, The Workhouses of Ireland 1995* M H Gould The Workhouses of Ulster, U A H S 1983 H Dixon Report on Workhouses in N I 1982 D Girvan The Buildings of North Derry UAHS Notes of Environmental Heritage Service* *These give details of the Administrations and working of the workhouses in general and Limavady in particular.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form G. Innovatory Qualities H-. Alterations detracting from building

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest X. Local Interest Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance Z. Rarity


A typically practical Victorian solution to an endemic social problem but with a conscious attempt at architectural pretention, given by its quasi-Tudor details to doors and windows. The overall form and roof lines are relieved by the uplifting staircase towers with their pyramidal roofs and splayed hip lines, all held together by a rigid symmetry.This weakens with the shortened length of the south east wing of the rear block. The severity of the form is relieved by the carved wooden bargeboardsand the interplay of gables which these adorn. The plan form in particular the organisation of the yards is a masterpiece of simplicity,well suited to the conception of minimal building. It is also remarkable that a building like it has been so adaptable to its present use and with more imagination could be greatly enhanced by use of the yards as gardens. Wilkinson original intention was that there should be a scheme of tree planting. He had a keen interest in geology and topography.

General Comments

Date of Survey

28 January 1998