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With up to five men, women or children confined to a cell, and with prisoners ranging from petty thieves to rapists and political offenders, Kilmainham Gaol was to be avoided at all costs. Located in Dublin, this famous Irish gaol opened its doors back in 1796 as the ‘New Gaol’ and remained in active service up until the 1920s.
Renowned for housing (and executing) Irish revolutionaries, with people such as Charles Parnell once held captive within, Kilmainham Gaol has been perhaps justly been described as the ‘Irish Bastille’. Indeed, as a museum, it now charts a significant period of Irish history, most notably, the Easter Rising of 1916. However, it also tells the more sweeping story of how Ireland emerged as a modern nation between the 1780s to the 1920s.
As one of the largest unoccupied gaols in Europe, Kilmainham Gaol has witnessed some of the most heroic and tragic events in Irish history. Public hangings once took place outside its doors and, although this stopped in the 1800s, a small hanging cell was nevertheless built inside in 1891.
Children as young as seven were detained within the gaol, while adult prisoners were often sent to Australia. Decommissioned by the Irish Free State in 1924, the building was ultimately preserved as a museum during the 1960s, and opened as such in 1971.