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 explore the prison as part of the “Crumlin Road Gaol Experience”, learning 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 this experience you will visit the underground tunnel that used to connect the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse, view all the wings from the circle and of course pay a visit to the condemned man’s cell before seeing the execution cell where the majority of the 17 men were executed.


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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.


21st June 1854Robert Henry O’Neill
8th April 1863Daniel Ward
26th April 1876John Daly
14th January 1889Arthur McKeown
17th August 1894John Gilmour
11th January 1901William Woods
19th August 1909Richard Justin
17th August 1922Simon McGeown
8th May 1924Michael J Pratley
8th August 1928William Smiley
8th April 1930Samuel Cushnahan
31st July 1931Thomas Dornan
13th January 1932Eddie Cullins
7th April 1933Harold Courtney
2nd September 1942Thomas Joseph Williams
25th July 1961Samuel McLaughlin
20th December 1961Robert McGladdery