• Historic Walking Tour of Downpatrick
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The ‘New’ Gaol

The ‘New’ Gaol



This is all that remains of the New Gaol, opened in 1830 to replace the Old Gaol, on the former site of a windmill. The lead letters GAOL, from the name above the entrance, can be seen in the Museum today. This gaol was under the management of the Grand Jury until 1878, when it was taken over by the Government as a Convict prison, until closure in 1891.

Notable prisoners here were William Johnston of Ballykilbeg, imprisoned here for two months in February 1868 for leading an illegal march on 12 July 1867 and James FitzHarris, the coach-driver of the Phoenix Park Murders in Dublin, in 1882.

A tunnel led from the gaol to the Courthouse to ensure that prisoners could be moved between buildings securely. The gaol buildings were largely demolished in the 1920s, except for the gatehouse which still stands today. In 1929 the complex was re-opened as Down High School.

If you wish to see a 19th century chapel and the site of a medieval gateway to the town, carry on round the wall of the gaol and down Bridge Street. When you are a little way past the wall of the New Gaol, now Down High School, you will see the small Union Prayer Meeting Chapel on your left.

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