The development of Dispensaries in the Newry and Mourne area –

Continuing with a series of articles to coincide with Newry Museum’s exhibition, Caring for the Community: The Development of Medicine in Newry and Mourne, this week we look at the development of early dispensaries in the district.


Up until the 18th century, medical provision was only available to those who could afford to pay. This began to change with the passing of an Act in 1765 by the Irish Parliament to enable the Grand Juries to establish County Infirmaries. These were located in Armagh and Downpatrick and owing to the distances required to travel to them, another Act was passed to help establish dispensaries to “afford medical and surgical need to the poor”. The first charitable dispensary in the area was located in Rathfriland and was funded by the Meade family, who were the local landlords. 

Map showing the locations of dispensaries in the local area. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

In 1805 another Act was passed which allowed Grand Juries to match funds raised by local subscribers and establish a formal system of charitable dispensaries. Dispensaries set up as a result of

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