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Armagh Gaol – History

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Armagh Gaol is one of Northern Ireland’s most important landmark buildings. Steeped in history, for most of its working life Armagh Gaol was the primary women's prison in Northern Ireland until its closure in 1986. The Gaol is Grade B+ listed and has been vacant for over 20 years. The construction of the prison began in the 1780’s and it was extended in the style of Pentonville Prison in the 1840 and 1850s. The Gaol was largely designed by two of Ireland’s most renowned architects, Francis Cooley and William Murray.

Armagh Gaol consisted of three prisons – one for women, one for debtors and one for felons. Executions were common, taking place in the Gaol square, but were later moved behind the prison walls. The last man to be executed at Armagh gaol was Joseph Fee in 1904.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the Gaol accommodated high-profile political prisoners. Although the prison is often described as Armagh women's Gaol, at various points in its history, various wings in the prison were used to hold male prisoners. Due to the growing prison population during the Troubles, Armagh also housed male remand and sentenced prisoners.

In 2009 it was announced that the prison was part of plans for major redevelopment including the construction of a hotel and accommodation. Today the Gaol is opened on a temporary basis, giving the public the opportunity to see the Gaol in its original state before work commences. This tour informs you about the Gaol's history that includes women and children imprisonment and the executions that took place in the grounds