Since the Gaol opened to the public in 2012 it has been something that I have not yet experienced. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to take a tour of the Gaol, I grabbed it with both hands.
Upon arrival, I had a bit of time to look around the building and take a minute to think about the prisoners that were sentenced here and reflect on the fact that for some prisoners it would be where they would spend their last days.
The tour began in the reception area of the Gaol (This isn’t where you pay your entrance fee), where prisoners were logged, completely stripped of their clothes and bathed. We were advised that a small cubical was where they undressed and hung their belongings and that these prisoners would not see these belongings again until they were released. Sadly for some it would be the last time they would ever see them.
Next was the famous tunnel. This tunnel runs from the Court House to the Gaol. Prisoners who were sentenced would be guided through this tunnel to the Gaol, sometimes over 100 prisoners at a time. Although the tunnel would have been overcrowded with prisoners I got the feeling that this would have been a very lonely walk.
We then left the tunnel and went to see the Governor’s Office. If a prisoner was misbehaving and needed to be reprimanded they would be sent to the Governor’s Office, and he would have dealt with the prisoner as he saw fit. The Governor’s Office was also the place where prisoners could be married. If a prisoner was sentenced but was engaged to be married, the prison would allow their loved one to come to the prison and the Governor would marry them.
After the Governor’s Office we went to see the Gaol cells. We arrived at what was referred to as the “Circle” where all four prison wings join together so that one guard could see down each wing. It was here, in more recent times, that Republican and Loyalist prisoners were kept separately in A and C Wings with the ODCs (Ordinary Decent Criminals) being held between them in B Wing.
We then went on a trip down C-wing and here you will get to see the history of the Gaol and its prisoners from Victorian times to the 1970s.
Next was a visit to the condemned man’s cell, which is two cells joined together with an en suite bathroom. This was where the person condemned to be executed was held. The condemned man had privileges such as better meals, three assigned Prison Offers (who were there to prevent the prisoner from making an attempt on his own life before his execution date) and clergy visits. The prisoner would have been unaware that they were never more than twelve steps away from their death. A bookshelf in the bathroom is actually a door that leads through to the execution chamber.
A total of 17 men were executed during the 150 years of the Gaol. Hangmen were brought over from England which meant that condemned men or women could have been waiting months until their execution.
Our final stop, was the “Drop Cell”. It was here that we were informed about how the body was dealt with after death. The final resting place for an executed prisoner is an unmarked grave within the prison grounds.
With Halloween almost here where better to visit than one of Belfast’s most haunted buildings, Crumlin Road Gaol. For those who are brave enough it is an ideal opportunity to not only soak up the atmosphere of the grim history of the prison but also to be captivated by some paranormal activity and unexplained ghostly happenings. Believe me, it will not disappoint.
Open seven days per week
- First Tour : 10.00am
- Last Tour : 4.30pm
- Tour Duration : 1 hr 15 mins (Approx)
- Adults : £9.00
- Children : £6.50 (5-15yrs)
- Concession : £8.00
- Family : £25.00 (2 Adults & 2 Children)
- Group Rate : Available on request