A period of mass starvation, emigration, disease and violence between the years 1845 and 1852 followed on from what was generally an already desperate time for many Irish Catholics in Ireland. The failure of the potato crop during these years devastated the people that had come to rely so heavily on it. Mayo was one of the most badly affected areas. In 1831 the population of Castlebar was 6,373. In this decade the workhouse was built to help the most destitute. There had already been crop failures in the previous decades. Conditions were bad as there wasn’t enough food and disease spread. Families were split up due to emigration and any work was all but impossible to come by. Stories of people deliberately getting arrested to be fed in the goal were reported in the Connaught Telegraph. The workhouse opened in 1842 for a capacity of 600 people, they had to overcrowd and rent other premises such as Walshe’s Brewery to accommodate 1,952 people by 1850. In the early 1840’s the government spent twice as much on the maintenance of the jail than it did on the infirmary, both in Castlebar, leaving in no doubt the whereabouts of their priorities. The 3rd Earl of Lucan, George Bingham was known as ‘The Exterminator’. He chose this time to increase his lands, clearing villages such as Drumconlon and Aughadrina of hundreds of people to facilitate pasture, building sheds from the stone of their houses. The streets of Castlebar were left filthy and from the previous high of 6,373 in 1831 the population would drop to 3,553 by the end of the century.