Cork City Gaol and Radio Museum Experience

Convent Avenue, Cork City, Cork, T23 VX25
Tel:021-4305022

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One of the most memorable Cork tourist attractions. Cork is a city with a very rich historical and archaeological heritage – much of it still in evidence today.

Part of this heritage, Cork City Gaol is located 2 km NW from Patrick’s Street and while the magnificent castle-like building is now a major and unique visitor attraction, this Gaol once housed 19th century prisoners!

Visitors get a fascinating insight into day-to-day prison life at a time when the high walls ensured no escape and denied law-abiding citizens the opportunity to see one of the finest examples of Ireland’s architectural heritage…

Brief History of Cork City Gaol: (Opened 1824, Closed 1923)

The Cork City Gaol in Sunday’s well, was designed to replace the old Gaol at the Northgate Bridge in the heart of the city. The old Gaol was nearly 100 years old on a confined site, Overcrowded & Unhygienic.

In 1806 an Act of Parliament was passed and monies levied locally to allow the building of the new City Gaol.

The first site chosen was at distillery fields-an area prone to frequent flooding!! This fact and enlightened thinking that hilly airy sites were best for containing Gaol fever probably influenced the change to the present site.

In 1816 red sandstone was quarried from the hill approach roads constructed and outside security walls built. By 1818 planning of the interior building could commence and Mrs Deane. And her son, Thomas, won the building contract. John Hogan later to become Ireland’s greatest neo-classical sculptor, developed sketch drawings from the plans of architect, William Robertson of Kilkenny.

The new Cork City Gaol opened in 1824 & was reported as being “the finest in 3 kingdoms”.

In 1870 the west wing was remodelled into a double sided cell wing & in 1878 under the General Prisons (Ireland) Act, The Gaol became an all female prison which it remained until male anti-treaty supporters were incarcerated in 1922/1923

The Gaol closed in August 1923 with all remaining prisoners either released or transferred to other Gaols.

The Women’s Gaol

To the older generation around Sunday’s Well the place with the “big high walls” is often referred to as the “Women’s Gaol”. This is because in the early years its use was for a time confined to female prisoners. It became the “Women’s Gaol” in 1878 and on that particular day the men were marched out of Sunday’s Well Prison and over to the County Gaol off Western Road, while the women were marched in the opposite direction into Sunday’s Well. When the prison was originally built in the 1820’s it housed both male and female prisoners, whose crimes were committed within the city boundary. Anyone committing a crime outside that boundary were committed to the County Gaol, across the river from the City Gaol, of which only the preserved facade now remains, where University College Cork now stands. During the latter years of British occupation, a number of harmless female convicts were detained in the Women’s Gaol, and these were often taken for walks along the Blarney Road under the supervision of their wardresses. Republican women prisoners during the war of independence and the civil war were also imprisoned there. These included many leading members of Cumann na mBan, the prominent patriotic northside lady, Mary Bowles, and possibly the greatest Republican woman of them all, Countess Constance Markievicz. She became the first woman to be elected to the British Parliament in 1918, and was also Minister for Labour in the first Dail in 1919.   

6CK Broadcasting;

The top floor of the Governors house was used as a radio broadcasting station by the national radio station- Radio Eireann (now RTE) from 1927 until the 1950’s.

From 1923 to 1993, apart from the foregoing, and some storage use of the exterior grounds by the Dept, Posts & Telegraphs, The Gaol complex was allowed to become totally derelict until its innovative restoration and reopening to the public as a visitor attraction in 1993.

The Great Escape

A spectacular escape was made from the Women’s Gaol in November 1923. Its inmates then were not those suggested by the name, but a collection of hardened I.R.A. veterans who were singled out on specific charges and were dealt with later, at the convenience of the Government. Among other charges, this group were caught boring a tunnel, had being on hunger strike and were sent to the Women’

School Tours:

Available all year round
A little info about the activity / event: A visit to Cork City Gaol provides students with valuable sources for projects, with emphasis on social history & culture, 19th Century crime, punishment & social history.
What it costs (from): €5 Children, €7 students over 18 years old
Age Groups Catered for: All age groups.

Call us to find out more or visit our website link above

EASTER FUN:

Annual Easter Egg hunt will take place on Monday 17th April from 9.30 until 17.00. Find all the eggs and win a prize.
What it costs (from): €5 per child, €8 Adult, €7 student/ senior or €25 Family ticket of 2 adults and up to 4 children
Age Groups Catered for: 3 years to 12 years

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Opening hours

April to September 9.30-17.00

October to March 10.00-16.00