History of the Crumlin Road Gaol

The Crumlin Road Gaol dates back to 1845 and closed its 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 its 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

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1841: Gaol Design
Designed by Charles Lanyon. Lanyon’s design for the layout of the prison was based on that of Pentonville Prison in London.
1843-1845: Construction
Built by contractor, William & Sons, Dublin. The Gaol was ready for the reception of prisoners by summer 1845. First governor John Forbes appointed.
1846: First Prisoners
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: Gaol Development
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
Prison Hospital built (extended in later years)
1901: Execution Chamber
A new stone execution chamber was used for the first time in C Wing.
1914: Suffragettes Imprisoned
Suffragettes were imprisoned in the Gaol.
1924: Eamon De Valera
November. Eamon De Valera is arrested for illegally entering Northern Ireland and held in solitary confinement at Crumlin Road Gaol for a month.
1927: Escape
Four prisoners escaped on the 9th May.
1927: Staff Accommodation
Staff cottages built at the front of the prison.
1934: Padded Cell
Cell in B-Wing converted to Padded Cell.
1941: WW2 Damage
A portion of the boundary wall at the west end of the Gaol damaged by an air raid; rebuilt in 1942.
1953: Staff Quarters
Governor’s House converted to staff quarters.
1959: Developments
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: Escape
On 17th November, nine republican prisoners (the ‘Crumlin Kangaroos’) escaped. Less than a month later three more republican prisoners escaped.
1991: Attacks
November, explosive device detonated in dining hall, two prisoners killed.
1996: Closure
Closed for the holding of prisoners 31st March.

Executions

21st June 1854 Robert Henry O’Neill
8th April 1863 Daniel Ward
27th April 1876 John Daly
14th January 1889 Arthur McKeown
17th August 1894 John Gilmour
1st November 1901 William Woods
19th August 1909 Richard Justin
17th August 1922 Simon McGeown
8th May 1924 Michael J Pratley
8th August 1928 William Smiley
8th April 1930 Samuel Cushnahan
31st July 1931 Thomas Dornan
3rd March 1932 Eddie Cullins
7th April 1933 Harold Courtney
2nd September 1942 Thomas Joseph Williams
25th July 1961 Samuel McLaughlin
20th December 1961 Robert McGladdery