Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Belfast Prison/Crumlin Road Jail

As with the Crumlin Road Courthouse and many other Belfast buildings of note Crumlin Road Jail was built by Sir Charles Lanyon. The prison was built between 1843 and 1845 and cost £60,000. As a replacement for the county gaol on Antrim street in Carrickfergus Partly based on HMP Pentonville, it was one of the most advanced prisons of its day.

Built within a five-sided wall, the four wings are up to four storeys in height and fan off from the central area which was known as The Circle. The prison was originally built to hold between 500 and 550 prisoners in cells that measured 12 x 7 feet, these were without class and prisoners slept on straw. It was also the first prison in Ireland to be built according to "The Separate System", intended to separate prisoners from each other with no communication between them. Later, especially in the early 1970s, as many as three prisoners were placed in each cell.

It is connected by the passageway shown in the picture to crumlin road courthouse across the road.

The first 106 inmates, who were forced to walk from Carrickfergus Prison in chains, arrived in 1846. These inmates, who were men, women and children, completed the changeover of the two prisons. Children from impoverished working-class families were often imprisoned at the Jail in the early years for offences such as stealing food or clothing and routinely flogged with a cat o’nine tails as part of their sentence. Women inmates were kept in the prison block house until the early 1900s. Ten year old Patrick Magee, who had been sentenced to three months in prison hanged himself in his cell in 1858.

When originally designed by Lanyon, the prison did not contain a gallows and the executions were carried out in public view until 1901, when an execution chamber was constructed and used until the last of the hangings in 1961.

Seventeen prisoners were executed in the prison, the last being Robert McGladdery who was hanged in 1961 for the murder of Pearl Gamble.The condemned would live in a large cell (large enough for two guards to live in as well), unknowingly living next to the gallows, which were concealed by a bookcase. The bodies of the executed were buried inside the prison in unconsecrated ground and the graves were marked only with their initials and year of execution on the prison wall.

The execution of TomWilliams took place on 2 September 1942. Williams, nineteen years old, was hanged for the murder of an RUC officer.

The hangman in charge was hangman famous Thomas Pierrepoint (he was also the gaol's most regular hangman, he carried out six executionthe gaol between 1928 and 1942) the gaol between 1928 and 1942)
Even with the heavy security in place, there were several escapes from the prison over the years. In 1943, three prisoners including the IRA's chief of staff, escaped from Crumlin Road Gaol and were not recaptured despite a £3,000 reward being offered. Several other escapes by IRA prisoners were carried out in 1971.

For the last thirty years of its working life until it closed on 31 March 1996, Crumlin Road prison served as a remand centre for suspected Terrorist prisoners awaiting trial.

Its recently been opened to tours for the public with 27,000 visiting in 2009 sadly at the time of writing it is under renovation so again I have had to use pics from the 28 days later forum.

A film “ghost machine” was recently filmed in the jail it has also benn used for film screenings and some theatre pieces.

Check out the trailer for “ghost machine here”

(huge thanks to wikipedia for this post)

Theres a very extensive tour of the jail by two local men from the “Belfast History Project”

No comments:

Post a Comment