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Kilmainham Jail (Dublin County)
Member Name: SilkCutSilver
Kilmainham Jail (Dublin County)
Advantages: Fascinating history
Disadvantages: No access without tour
Kilmainham Gaol is one of the most remarkable "tourist attractions" in Ireland - and possibly even in the world. Most of us will never get the opportunity to see inside a prison and experience the conditions of a Victorian facility like this one, and the stories and fascinating characters which inhabited these walls are something which should not be missed.
Kilmainham Gaol is one of the largest uninhabited jails in Europe. It was opened in 1796 as one of the 'new jails' which opened following social research into prison reform. Previously to this date criminals were held in large rooms all together and each facility just became a school for crime. Kilmainham is built in the same principals and design as London prisons of the time such as Pentonville, with a central atrium and corridors with individual cells along them. (As my flatmate commented - just like Bad Girls!).
Kilmainham has been a set for many films and television shows in recent years, including the Tudors series. There are two parts to the prison - the first area you visit is the oldest part of the prison where men, women and children often slept in the corridors due to overcrowding. Here are cells which held some of the most famous men and women of Irish History - those involved in the 1916 rebellion.
The museum itself costs 6 euros and consists of a small musuem which explains the social history of the prison reform movement, the politics of the Irish/English "war" and a fascinating exhibition of the last letters and belongings of some of the most famous men and women who were executed here. The tour is the only way to view the prison, and our tour guide was wonderful. She reallu brought to life the stories of the people who were incarcerated here - often for small crimes like theft of food during the Famine. We attended the museum after the tour and I think this is the best way to do it as the stories of the men and women imprisoned really made the information relevant.
The museum is owned by the Office of Public Works but before this has obviously been previously in some disrepair as there is much graffiti, and the parts open to the public are minimal compared to it's size. There are also aspects which in my opinion have been unecessarily restored such as the cells have been painted, and the painting of the madonna and chold done by Grace Gifford while she had been a prisoner had flaked off the wall and been replaced with an image. There is no 'museum' ness about the jail, with information or exhibits, and even in the museum section it is hard to read some of the old letters as they are not 'translated' into text - you have to read the faded handwriting behind glass.
Kilmainham Gaol is something I would encourage everyone to visit, it is a truly fascinating experience, it's just a shame that one of Irelands National Monuments has fallen into such disrepair and had not been more sensitively treated.
Summary: Must visit
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