Gaol History

History of the Crumlin Road Gaol

The Crumlin Road Gaol dates back to 1845 and closed it’s doors as a working prison in 1996. After extensive renovations the gaol has re opened as a visitor attraction and conference centre. Today you can take a guided tour of the prison and hear about the history of the site from when women and children were held within it’s walls through to the political segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners and learn about why the decision was taken to close the prison.

During the tour of the gaol you will be taken by your tour guide to visit the underground tunnel that used to connect the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse, you will get a chance to sit in the Governor’s chair, view all the wings from the circle and of course pay a visit to the condemned mans cell before seeing the execution cell where the majority of the 17 men were hanged.

Timeline

1841 – Designed by Charles Lanyon. Lanyon’s design for the layout of the prison was based on that of Pentonville Prison in London.
1843-1845 – Built by contractor, William & Sons, Dublin. The Gaol was ready for the reception of prisoners by summer 1845. First governor John Forbes appointed.
1846 – The first prisoners arrived, marched in chains from the county Gaol in Carrickfergus. The total number of prisoners was 106, consisting of six awaiting deportation, 17 serving sentences (6 of whom were described as lunatics) and the remainder awaiting trial.
1850 – Additions made to Gaol: front boundary railings and gates were built and an underground tunnel link to the courthouse created. Courthouse completed.
1854 – First execution. Robert Henry O’Neill, soldier, 21st June. His body and 14 others, are still interred in unmarked graves within the grounds of the Gaol.
1898 – Prison Hospital built (extended in later years)
1901 – A new stone execution chamber was used for the first time in C Wing.
1914 – Suffragettes imprisoned in the Gaol.
1924 – November. Eamon DeValera is arrested for illegally entering Northern Ireland and held in solitary confinement at Crumlin Road Gaol for a month.
1927 – 4 prisoners escaped, 9th May.
1927 – Staff cottages built at the front of the prison.
1934 – Cell in B-Wing coverted to Padded Cell.
1941 – A portion of the boundary wall at the west end of the Gaol damaged by an air raid; rebuilt in 1942.
1953 – Governor’s House converted to staff quarters.
1959 – Concert hall and gymnasium added.
1961 – Last execution: Robert McGladdery, 20th December. He was found guilty of the murder of Pearl Gamble near Newry in Co Down.
1971 – On 9th November, 9 republican prisoners (the ‘Crumlin Kangaroos’) escaped. Less than 1 month later three other republican prisoners escaped.
1991 – November, explosive device detonated in dining hall, two prisoners killed.
1996 – Closed for the holding of prisoners 31st March

Executions

1854 – First execution. Robert Henry O’Neill, soldier, 21st June. His body and14 others, are still interred in unmarked graves within the grounds of the Gaol.
1863 – The execution of Daniel Ward, 8th April.
1876 – The execution of John Daly, April 27th.
1889 – The execution of Arthur McKeown, 14th January.
1901 – The execution of William Woods, 1st November. A new stone execution chamber was used for the first time in C Wing.
1909 – The execution of Richard Justin, 19th August.
1922 – The execution of Simon McGeown, 17th August.
1922 – The execution of Michael J Pratley, 8th May.
1928 – The execution of William Smiley, 8th August.
1930 – The execution of Samuel Cushnahan, 8th April.
1931 – The execution of Thomas Dornan, 31st July.
1932 – The execution of Eddie Cullins, 3rd March.
1933 – The execution of Harold Courtney, 7th April.
1942 – The execution of Thomas Joseph Williams, 2nd September.
1961 – The execution of Samuel McLaughlin, 25th July.
1961 – Last execution: Robert McGladdery, 20th December. He was found guilty of the murder of Pearl Gamble near Newry in Co Down.

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