The Belfast prison (known as “Crumlin Road Gaol“) was opened in 1845. In 1996 after 150 years of service it was closed and opened to visitors in 2012 thanks to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which gave it Class A status due to its historical and architectural significance.
This prison was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon and the construction lasted two years from 1843-1845 at a cost of 60,000 pounds.
At the time of its opening it was a very modern prison in which all prisoners were to be separated from each other. Its construction was based on a five-sided wall with four wings, each of which had four floors. According to the original assumption, this facility could house between 500-550 prisoners, each of which had a cell size of 3.6m x 2.1m.
Later, particularly in the seventies, up to three prisoners were placed in each individual cell. In total, 25,000 convicts went through this prison, including women and children who were sentenced to stay in this facility for the theft of food.
Originally, no execution chamber was in the plans for this facility, but it was created in 1901 and there were as many as 17 executions. The last one was made in 1961, a man named Robert McGladdery, who was convicted for murdering 19-year-old Pearl Gamble.
On September 2, 1942, the execution of 19-year-old Tom Williams, an IRA member was carried out. His executioner was Thomas Pierrepoint, who carried out the most executions there, its said to be as many as 6.
Many attempts to escape from this prison were made, often referred to as the “European Alcatraz”, and several of them were successful – the first recorded took place in 1866.
The most well-known prisoners to have spent time in this facility were Martin McGuinness, Eamon de Valera, Bobby Sands and Michael Stone.
Guided tours take place every day from 10: 00-16: 30, and the duration is about 75 minutes.