Crumlin Road Gaol Visitor Attraction & Conference Centre

Crumlin Road Gaol Visitor Attraction & Conference Centre
The foreboding North Belfast edifaces of Crumlin Road Gaol and Courthouse stand face-to-face and are connected by an underground tunnel once used to spirit prisoners from the Gaol to the Courthouse for trial - and back if convicted.

The Neo-Palladian Courthouse
was opened in 1850 and is topped by a scales-free figure of Justice. Since its official closure in 1998, the building has been used as a makeshift theatre, film location and cinema. It is currently owned by a private developer and there are no plans for its future use. As a result, it is in an appaling state of disrepair having been targeted by arsonists, vandals and break-ins over recent years.

Opened in 1845,
the black basalt and red sandstone Crumlin Road Gaol (pronounced jail) was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon and inspired by the cutting-edge layout of London's Pentonville Prison. The Gaol's four Wings (A-D) radiate from a centre Circle and rise three storeys, with a fourth basement level. Each small prison cell was built for single occupancy, though many housed up to four cellmates during the 1970s.

In the early years, inmates included women, children and petty criminals - some bound for Australia's penal colonies.
Suffragettes were also housed here before female emancipation following WW1. Throughout the Troubles, the Gaol witnessed many breakouts, bombings and rooftop protests.

And, over the decades, inmates and internees of note (and for various reasons and sentences) have included Ian Paisley, Eamon de Valera, loyalist murderer Michael Stone and Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy.

Since its closure in 1996, the building laid derelict until recent restoration work and tours breathed new life back into 'The Crum. And, from 19 Nov 2012, the Gaol opens as the city's latest permanent visitor attraction.

Conducted by trained guides, each c.1hr tour begins at the front entrance, taking visitors inside via the reception and Governor's Corridor. You then descend into the tunnel where cockroaches once roamed and ghosts are said to still haunt.

The Circle, with its ornate wrought iron railings and spiral staircase, is the next stop before continuing down a restored wing and into one of the 550 or so cells. At the end of the wing is the Condemned Man's Cell - larger than the others as it also housed two 24hr prison officers. Seventeen men were executed at Crumlin Road Gaol from 1854-1961, and all but two remain buried in unmarked graves at the back of the complex.

Your first glimpse of the original hangman's noose is guaranteed to leave even the hardiest of visitors slack-jawed. And the descent to the basement 'drop cell' - where the dead man was left to dangle until sure death - will send a shiver down the straightest of spines. A short walk outside reveals the large back yard, old hospital building - and those unmarked graves.


Conference and educational research facilities are available. And a Gift Shop with a wide range of souvenirs, local arts, crafts and much more, and cafe complete your unique day out. 

To get there by car: From city centre, drive up Crumlin Road, pass the Mater Hospital, Crumlin Road Gaol and petrol station on your right, turn right at traffic lights onto Cliftonpark Ave, then take first right and follow signs to free car park.

Adult £7.50, 4-15 £5.50, U4 free, family (2+2) £22. Tours 10:00 - 16:30 daily. 

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Crumlin Road Gaol Visitor Attraction & Conference Centre Comments

  • Sum ppl seem to forget my father was the last man to get married in the vein
  • i grew up in belfast and every time i went past the jail i couldn't help feeling sorry for any poor soul who was locked up there i think it was and still is a scary place i live in australia now and i am going home in august 2013 and i will be sure to visit it.
  • awsome
  • Been back to visit the Crum and it's much the same without the smell noise and fer There was a painting of a wall done in 1977 it went from the Crum to the H blocks and ended up at Maghaberry to 1993 there is 100 s of names on it all signed by the prisoners I still have that painting to this day if anyone that names on it you will get me on Facebook it will bring back good and sad times to the ones that's on it Willis Hutchinson Coleraine
  • mark, belfast , ulster is one of the biggest spoofers i have ever heard, he's certainly rewriting the history of life in the crum
  • went to crumin jail in 1977 rem it like yesterday am going back to see it Friends of mine over 200 if them sign a painting if they remember over 13 years going from one jail another I still have that same painting it anyone would like to see it am on Facebook love to hear from you all
  • Vince from bangor here, i entered the welfare system in 1965 aged four, and having been dragged up through their system in 1978 i ended up in the crum, the prison offercers were some of the most and biggest bullys iv ever met, the crum was filthy and not fit for anyone, but i loved it, i met some of the best people and characters ive ever met and think of them often,,,good memorys. So Since 1965 having been cared for by my new parents the welfare system i ended up in the crum...whats that all about ??...Vince from Bangor.
  • Going to jail is supposed to be an experience which you don't want to repeat, it was hardly ever going to be the ritz, no offence!!!!!!!
  • The crum has a history like no other prison in the world. whilst most prisons hold criminals of every creed the crum was home to men who were never criminally minded. men who in most circumstances would have led honest and probably successful lives. having been in the crum as a loyalist prisoner from the age of 17 i was awestruck not only by the character and the history which the brickwork maintained but also by the presence of being amongst men both loyalist and republican. i would find myself equal amongst loyalist who out ranked me to the stage of unworthiness on the outside. due to rank being striped so there was not to many chiefs and command was adhered to in the prison. before using the toilet asking if it was loyalist or republican in case of the latter i would wait until said republican would leave. ira man jerry kelly even picked a bouncing table tennis ball up which i struggled to catch with a arm full of snooker balls in one arm heading to our recreation. he placed it into my cup with a wink and a smile. mind bugling acts would happen in the form of 5 top ira commanders of the prison would come on to our excersize yard to meet our own command. being young and nieve to the process of prison politics and the need for communication i like others wondered why we let these men out of our yard alive. obviously the same young ira men thought the same. only when the younger ones took over command the republicans decided communication was no longer required and planted a bomb in our rec room killing 3 loyalist prisoners in c wing. the result was the total secregation of both sides and the regime became a logistical nightmare for the prison authorities. a policy of attack on sight was upheld at every opportunity even resulting in loyalists attacking loyalist due to mistaken identity. we would come of rec and wait outside a republicans door as if it was ours and with the screws under so much pressure and too many whiskeys the door would be opened and a ferocious attack would enfold for 2 unsuspecting republicans. crip mcwilliams the gunman who worked for the sercuity forces in the killing of billy wright surrcumb to a beating my a group of loyalists returning from visits after convincing the screw he was a loyalist the slidder was opened and he was cornered cowering in the screws office. the mufty mob(rapid response riot screws) defently saved his life that day....maybe thats why he felt obliged. the regime in the crum was slowly(like the name) crumbling. men werent getting slooped out or even washed because of the violence. scews were being attacked inside and murdered outside. i watched the decline of the moral amonst the screws as they became lonely and vunerable. coming into work and walking through the piss as every prisoner had empted there piss pots under the door that night once again. the unity and loyalty that i witnessed amonst loyalist prisoners was the weapon no prison or institute would ever control never mind win. the regime knew it was over. the crumlin road prison which stood in the heart of belfast was about to be brought to its knees. and 103 loyalists would become a part of history which only gets whispered. on the 8th of july 1994 totaly unplanned and unscripted 103 loyalist prisoners made there way up on to A wing roof. what started out as a normal refusal to lock up protest(with the twist of fighting till the last as the screws police tried to enter) which i might add was the first time an order had been given to battle the mufty mob. whilst statistically stock piling arms ready to bombard any one who tried to enter the yard the shelter was flattened once this 30 ft plus corrugated iron roof came crashing to the ground it was clear the this could maybe be high enough to reach a wall that run against A wing. It was enough and thanks to old heating pipes the first young loyalists made it to the roof. this inspired b wing loyalist who were also refusing to lock up. With the poles holding up the shelter that we threw over to b wing they used them to batter 2 fifteen feet gatse wide open. This resulted in all loyalist prisoners on 1 exercise yard and onward on to the roof. after destroying the roof an agreement was made that we would come down we were promised that all our men would be slopped out and had access to hot water daily. this promise was never upheld. this was the demise of the crumlin road prison and its powers to contain the spirit of ulster men between the boulders which held it up and the brass which locked the gates.The following week we were giving the order at midday all loyalist prisoners on the stroke of 9pm on Saturday were to dig through their walls using there metal bed ends. 9pm and the digging started as most will know the cells were set out as loyalist then republicans so every loyalist could only dig into a republicans cell. I was cell mate with the commander of my landing and he was a bear of a man taking turns we managed to break through the 2-3 foot wall. it took us 3and a half hours to get in by this time the police and the army were removing the shocked and relieved republicans out of there cells and into the rec rooms. we continued digging and managed to get through our floor as well which i have to say were the only cell to do so. By 3am 2 wings were totally destroyed as far as holding prisoners. the next day we were all moved to the maze loyalist and republicans in a concoy which didnt stop once. I arrived at H block 2 UVF block. we were the first remand prisoners in the maze and no longer were our men subject to the Victorian regime of a prison which walls could breath the history of northern ireland. This is my story my account and although i am proud to of been part of this battle with an enemy so old yet strong and fearless. i never once underestimate the fortress which still stood towering amongst the generations who came and our now gone. your walls may keep us steadfast and stillyour weakness some may come and spillyour gates were strong in war and peaceyour cells were empty the regime ceasedbattle worn which was not yoursno battle lost for this were sureyou only give way to ease the painand only thy master will you be slain.
  • Having been an inmate in the "crum" im amazed at how it looks today why couldnt we have been kept in these conditions and when the "bigwigs" came to visit i hope now they hang their heads in shame as passing this hell hole fit for human purpose four to a cell having to shit in a po rags for clothes food not fit for humans inhuman treatment that would now contravene human rights ie doctors dentists no mental health organisations screws who did not give a f**k wether you lived or died the only good memory for me was when i went to magilligen at least fresh air was a god send not the stench of despair which you breathed every day and night so put it back the way it was and let the public see the reality..........rant over
  • The Crumlin Road Gaol is closed for major renovations and the plan is it will re-open Autumn 2011 for year-round tours.
  • Do you know if the tours started again? I've been to Belfast twice and each time was sorry to miss them, because they weren't on.
  • I THINK IT SHOULD BE KNOWN AS THE THE HOUSE OF LIES AND COMEDY OF ERRORS.IT SHOULD BE TURNED INTO A MUSEUM.IT IS OUR HISTORY AND OUR CHILDREN NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST SO THEY DO NOT DO NOT REPEAT IT IN THE FUTURE.
  • i totally agree with jim kinghams veiws, like him i spent some time in the crum (14 months on remand in "c" wing 73-74)by late 74 we were 3 to a cell and can remember listening to the cockroaches and mice scurrying around the cell during the night and if you can imagine having to use the po (1 of 3)because of the others in the cell we used to make a "mystery parcel" human waste wrapped in a newspaper and thrown out of the cell window. i was lucky enough to be moved into the condemned cell, lucky because although there was 4 of us in it - it was 3 times bigger than the standard cells,up till then it had been sealed up and was later used as a class room.one things certain if kids were sent to the crum they would,nt reoffend!
  • It's not now possible to buy tickets at the Gaol entrance - only pre booking at Belfast Welcome Centre. The Gaol will be open until 13th December 09.
  • as a past inmate i think the crum should have stayed the way it was and not the way it is now with all the security removed the high wire fence that kept you enclosed within the jail and exercise yards has all but gone it was part of the jail then why not now the visitors that see it now dont get to see the jail as it realy was. but still a lot to see
  • Did the tour this past summer and it was a very interesting experience. Lots of history good and bad, depending on your viewpoint.Well worth the trip.
  • I think the jail should have been left the way it was when it closed in 1976,having being there on a few occasions when it was open....it is nothing like the place I was in...and it do,s not let you know the way visitors were cramped into a dungeon before their visit...or do,s it show the way prisoners were locked in boxes before going to the horrible base.or is it a fact that the powers to be really don,t want people to know the shit hole it really was??
  • This historic place should not become a hotel. This must become a Musiam. This will help the next generation to know about their history
  • I am currently doing my Masters research on Dark Tourism in Belfast and locations like the Crumlin Road Jail and Courthouse have the probability of becoming major tourists attractions if it is'nt already considered so and all would agree that tourism is good for the economy. It needs to stay!
  • This building should become a museum. Action needs to be taken now to save it from further deterioration. Belfast has a terrible track record of bulldozing its built heritage. Other cities have learnt that saving your past is vital to building a successful future.
  • this courthouse cannot be a luxury hotel and here is a good reason why. the crumlin road isnt suitable enough and our national heritage is in danger. open it as a museum so people interested can learn its 150 year history. god sake belfast open your eyes and save this landmark from being turned into a waste of time and money hotel!
  • this courthouse hotel rubbish should be stopped. historical places in belfast are being destroyed thanks to the council! this building should be opened as a place to learn the gruelling past of what had to be said by past inmates and magistrates from over a 160 years ago. people are forgetting their national heritage and i say preserve this building. the crumlin road isnt even a suitable place for a hotel and luxury isnt a word i would use for this pathetic plan of barry gilligan's.
  • I Think That It And The Courthouse Should Be A Museum Because It Would Be Very Interesting To Learn About The History And The Fate The Prisoners Had To Face
  • As a past inmate in The Crum I think it should be left as it was when it was closed down.....As a sign to would be offenders as to what it was like to be kept in the horrible place......Jail should be a detarint not a place to be cleaned up and made all nice and tidy for tourists......The Crum was a shit hole infested with vermin and not a pleasent place to be at all... Young people should see it as a hell hole not a holiday camp like all of todays modern prisons all the mod cons and mobil phones tv,s and the like...... When i was there times was hard I did not enjoy a minute of it at all and would not wish it on anyone....Spending taxpayers hard earned cash in this way is a sin and those who deside to do so should be locked up in the cells and treated the way we were in the horrible Crum

Open:

Daily 09:30 - 17:00.

Address:

53-55 Crumlin Rd

Phone:

(+44) (0)28 9074 1500

www:

http://www.crumlinroadgaol.com

Metro station:

12

Conference facilities Restaurant Dataport Guarded parking

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