Identity Statement for Albert Agricultural College

  • Reference code: IE UCDA AAC1
  • Title: Records of the Albert Agricultural College
  • Dates: 1838–[1970]
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 123 items
  • Context
  • Content & Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Allied Materials

Administrative history

The Albert Agricultural College began life as the Glasnevin Model Farm in 1838 becoming the Albert National Agricultural Training Institution in 1853 after a visit by Prince Albert. The name Albert Agricultural College first appears in the 1902/3 'Report of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction'. Its foundation was an important event in the history of Irish agricultural education, whose primary function in its early years was the provision of instruction for primary school teachers to teach agriculture and meet the requirements set down by Board of National Education in Ireland. The Board was established in 1831 to create a nationwide system of primary education. By 1837 it had decided that agriculture should be taught in all its schools and therefore teachers would need training in modern farming methods and the provision of this instruction was the main purpose of the college during the first sixty years of its existence. The Board's 1938 Report mentions the beginning of Glasnevin's teaching responsibilities and indicates also that from the earliest days, the Albert College also taught those who wished to make a career in agriculture.

The Board extended its policy of primary-level agricultural education by establishing twenty Model Agricultural Schools and provided many National Schools with small holdings or gardens. There were forty-seven of these Ordinary Agricultural Schools by 1859. From 1850 the Board adopted a policy of teaching agriculture in the workhouse schools and by 1859 lessons in agriculture were being given in fifty-nine workhouse schools. 

Despite its success, the Board met opposition from members of all religious denominations as one of its aims was to establish non-denominational education and various accommodations had to be made. However, no accommodation was possible with the prevalent laissez-faire economic policies. The Liverpool Financial Reform Association attacked the use of public money for agricultural education, and in parliament, Liberal MPs and several Chief Secretaries opposed the Boardís policies. The Board was forced to discontinue support for the workhouse schools in 1863 and in 1874 disposed of most of the model farms. The Albert Agricultural College survived, probably because it was not exclusively concerned with the Board's educational policies (the Board's own inspectors reported that both textbooks and teaching skills were inadequate)it also carried out research work in new crop varieties, farming methods and breeding livestock.

From the 1870s, valuable work was being carried out in the college in experimenting with new crop varieties and new farming methods, and in improving breed of livestock, especially pigs. In 1890 the college pioneered the use in Ireland of a French method of treating fungal infection. This turned out to be the first successful treatment for potato blight.

An 1896 report by the Recess Committee stated that big increases in agricultural production could be achieved by 'Organisation, Representation, Education' of the farming population. The Recess Committee was an unofficial committee organised and chaired by Sir Horace Plunkett and composed of prominent Irishmen of all political and religious persuasions. Its function was to consider a wide range of matters concerned with Ireland's economic and social future. The Agricultural and Technical Instruction Act, 1899, was passed as a result. Of this report. The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction [DATI], which began work in 1900, determined that the problems with the development of agriculture in Ireland would be better addressed through higher education and a Faculty of Education was established at the College of Science. Most of the teaching was carried out in the Albert Agricultural College and the college continued to teach courses of its own as well. Many of the students at the Faculty had first completed one of the collegeís own courses. Peripatetic instructors were considered particularly important, and, by 191314, 175 of these had been trained by the Faculty.

Dáil Éireann set up nine departments in April 1919 including a Department of Agriculture. The DATI continued to function and was tolerated by the Dáil, whose members recognised its valuable work and disinterested traditions. The situation was clarified following the singing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 when a single Department of Agriculture was established in 1922. Under the University Education (Agriculture and Dairy Science) Act, 1926, a Faculty of Agriculture was set up at University College, Dublin and the Albert Agricultural College and the Royal College of Science for Ireland were taken over by UCD. In 1979 the Faculty of General Agricultureís new building at Belfield was opened and the Albert Agricultural College site was finally closed.

Archival history

The present collection of Albert Agricultural College bound volumes, photographs and printed material is made up of one deposit by the Faculty of General Agriculture in 1986, one deposit by Eva Philbin in 1990 (Albert Agricultural College Centenary Souvenir 18381938) and two deposits of photographs by the Faculty of Agri-Food and the Environment in 2002.


Scope and Content

Bound volumes (journals and registers) and photographs concerning students (their origins, studies, behaviour and careers after leaving the college). Includes information on college life, the curricula, disciplinary matters and pastimes. The photographs show pupils and staff, the college’s buildings, land and livestock.


  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCDA reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in digital and original format. Original material will be retrieved at 11am and 2pm only.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive list

Publication note

'Albert Agricultural College Centenary Souvenir' Dublin: University College Dublin, 1938

D. Hoctor 'The Department's Story: A History of the Department of Agriculture' Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 1971.