Belfast – Crumlin Road Gaol

Belfast-Jail Walkway
Metal walkway inside the Crumlin Road Gaol of Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The Crumlin Road Gaol was an interesting subject for a blog post because of the backdrop of history in Northern Ireland during its existence and for its incredible architecture. It is constructed of black basalt rock. But some of the windows and doors and stone walls are remarkable.

The Jail is the only example of a Victorian Era prison left in Ireland. It existed as a jail from 1850 to 1996.  There is a tunnel that connects the jail with the courthouse and the tunnel is pretty creepy. You can truly imagine prisoners walking in chains in the cold or wet as they went to the courthouse.

It was the first prison to assign each inmate to their own cell. In the 1960’s there were so many inmates, they had as many as 3 inmates to a cell before its closing.  One of the most well known prisoners was Eamon de Valera, who later became President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. He later led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland which made Ireland a ‘sovereign’ state, renamed Ireland. But he was an active revolutionary associated with Sinn Fein or IRA. For this reason he was probably sent to Crumlin Gaol. Another famous inmate was Bobby Sands, also of the Sinn Fein.

The tour guide did an excellent job of recreating the life of those living within the wall of Crumlin Road Gaol and he also enlightened us to the social, religious and political upheaval of Northern Ireland during those times.  It was definitely worth a visit.

Next blog will focus on the Titanic Museum in Belfast.