BALLYMENA Councillors have praised the Northern Health and Social Care Trust for helping to protect an important - if tragic - part of local history.
Several months ago, Ald. Martin Clarke and Ald. Maurice Mills received a complaint from a member of the local public, who was concerned at storage containers being sited in the vicinity of the ‘pauper burial ground’ at the rear of the Braid Valley Hospital site.
However, when the councillors investigated the matter with the Trust, they were assured that the specific parcel of ground on which the containers were located, as part of the work into the new Health Centre scheme, had been tested and contained no bones.
Acknowledging the respect with which the Trust have treated the site, Ald. Maurice Mills commented: “Many people will not be aware of the burial plot which was associated with the old workhouse, dating back to the 1840s. Our original query has highlighted the existence of the site.”
And Ald. Clarke added: “The Trust decided to erect a low level timber fence around the burial ground to protect it. There was a large stone to the side of the site where a Council ‘historical plaque’ was erected some years ago. We asked the Trust to re-locate the stone to the front of the site so that passers-by could see it. The Trust agreed to do this and have planted two Yew trees on either side.”
Both councillors have thanked Mr. Pat Fyffe from the Trust for all his co-operation and help on this issue.
Historical background: 130 ‘Workhouses’ were built throughout Ireland and Ballymena was the focus of one such institution. In 1840 a six acre site was purchased from Sir Robert Adair and the workhouse opened its dooors in 1843. It could accomodate 900 inmates but records show that it was never filled to capacity.
Research has shed little light on the Workhouse burial ground. Exact burial numbers are unknown. The Workhouse closed its doors in the late 1940s and was subsequently covrted into the Braid Valley Hospital.