Revealing stories of prison life

Crumlin Road Gaol is among the locations featured in the new exhibition.
Crumlin Road Gaol is among the locations featured in the new exhibition.

Carrickfergus features in a new exhibition of historical records charting the development of prisons in Northern Ireland across almost three centuries.

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) display begins with the earliest 17th Century ‘Bridewells’ through to the late 20th Century ‘H Blocks’ at HMP Maze.

It touches on a wide range of important issues, from the experience of women in prison, the use of capital sentences, internment and political prisoners, living conditions and rehabilitation.

The exhibition covers some of the most prominent sites such as Armagh Gaol, Crumlin Road Gaol and the Maze/Long Kesh prison, but also some less well known locations including Omagh Gaol, Carrickfergus Gaol and Enniskillen Gaol, which dates back as far as the early 17th century.

Michael Willis, director of PRONI, said: “I am pleased to present this exhibition of historical prison records from the archive at PRONI. The diverse array of documents which PRONI holds encapsulates the experiences not only of the men and women who were imprisoned in those places throughout our history, but also reflects the experiences of the prison staff who served there.

“Many of the records are being published for the first time and as the exhibition travels across a range of sites it provides an opportunity for visitors to engage with a wide range of archives and the stories they reveal.”

Austin Treacy, director of Prisons with the Northern Ireland Prison Service, said: “This is a unique and rare insight into the prison system in Northern Ireland and how it has evolved down through the years.”

The exhibition will be hosted by local libraries.