OPW185 Project

To mark 185 years since an Act of Parliament in Westminster established the Office of Public Works [OPW], a number of projects have been instigated by the OPW185 Project Team.

From 26th May 2017 to 31st October 2017, an exhibition, OPW185, will be displayed at Portumna Castle, Co. Galway. The exhibition attempts to demonstrate the breadth of public works and services carried out by generations of OPW staff over the 185 years. The range and breadth of this work includes the design, construction, maintenance and management of piers, harbours, roads, coast guard stations, schools, barracks, garda stations, housing, asylums, office accommodation, bridges, canals, courthouses, mines, quarries, prisons, railways, drainage, sewerage and water works, and post offices. The work of the organization also includes the provision of furniture and artworks, conserving and interpreting heritage sites, maintaining war graves, providing flood risk management and provision of visitor facilities.

A Timeline has been designed that is 18.5 metres long, which illustrates the Government Acts that have directed the work of the OPW; the main events in each decade; significant projects; the Chairmen of the Office Public Works and world events impacting on Ireland.

The items and artefacts exhibited were all proposed, submitted or loaned by OPW staff, both current and retired, following a process of staff engagement in June/July 2016. These items/artefacts have been categorized loosely in relation to the tasks involved, such as Drawing, Measuring, Conserving and so forth. Illustrated short stories/reminiscences of OPW staff are also included.

In addition, a catalogue of selected files and drawings held by the National Archives relating to the OPW, and CD-ROMs of similar material held at the OPW Library, OPW Headquarters, Trim, Co. Meath, are available below.

It is hoped that this exhibition, and the availability of research material, will stimulate interest in the social history surrounding the provision of public works, and the work of the OPW.

OPW185 Portumna Castle

OPW185 Project Team

  • Angela Rolfe – Chair
  • Irene Barry
  • Myles Campbell
  • Nuala Canny
  • Linda Connolly
  • Teresa Eddery
  • Mary Heffernan
  • Jacquie Moore
  • Marian O’Brien
  • Catherine O’Connor
  • Marie O’Gallagher
  • Jurga Rakauskaite









Indices to the Historic Files of the Office of Public Works

On 15th October 2016, the 185th anniversary of its foundation, the Office of Public Works [OPW] is making available aids to researching the history of the OPW and the work of the Office.

Throughout its history, the Office of Public Works has undertaken public works in almost every townland of Ireland (32 counties prior to 1922), whether it was drainage works, bridges, harbours, famine relief works, roads, waterways, farm labourers’ housing, government buildings, garda/army barracks, schools, post offices, loans for various works, telegraph stations, state properties/offices, National Monuments, Heritage Services or management of the State Art Collection. The past list is long and varied. Currently, the OPW manages the State Property Portfolio, including the State Art Collection, Flood Relief Management and Heritage Services throughout Ireland.

More than 10 years ago, as part of the OPW History Project, Dr Desmond McCabe photographed and compiled indices of a selection of the OPW files that he consulted both in the National Archives of Ireland and the Office of Public Works Registry. It is these indices that are being made available for research purposes.

They are as follows:

  1. OPW files in the National Archives, 1935 – 1960. Listed by file number, grouped under headings by building / project title. Files are available in the National Archives of Ireland.
  2. OPW plans and drawings in the National Archives, c. 1800 – 1924. Listed by building name / topic / building type. Drawings are all available in the National Archives of Ireland.
  3. Board of Works Calendar of Papers in the National Archives, 1848 – 1935. Works are listed by storage box number with contents listed by file name. Files are held in the National Archives of Ireland.
  4. Excel sheet listing the DVD/CDs held in the OPW Library, OPW Headquarters, Trim. Listed by drawer then disc number, with contents listed by file name and number. These discs, which are housed in the OPW Library, contain photographic images of the complete files.

A very useful publication to assist researchers is the OPW-published work:

Lohan, Rena, Guide to the Archives of the Office of Public Works, 1994. ISBN: 0707604656.

Contact details for Office of Public Works Library are:

Address: OPW Library, OPW Headquarters, Jonathan Swift Street, Trim, Co. Meath

Email: library@opw.ie

Contact details for National Archives of Ireland are:

Address: National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 8

Website: www.nationalarchives.ie

Email: mail@nationalarchives.ie