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Key from Galway Gaol

Museum Reg: Comerford House Collection
Location: Display

Key to a rear door of Galway Gaol which was located at Nun’s Island, where the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas now stands. In the 19th century, Galway had both town and county courthouses and gaols. Both courthouses were located at Newtownsmith. The county courthouse, known today as Galway Courthouse, was opened in 1815 and is still in operation. The town courthouse, now the Town Hall Theatre, stood opposite. In the early 19th century two new prisons were built on Nun’s Island. Prior to that the county gaol was located in Blake’s Castle on Quay Street, with the town gaol on Mainguard Street. In 1810 prisoners were transferred to the new town gaol and the following year prisoners were moved to the new county gaol. The Salmon Weir Bridge was built between 1818 and 1819 to connect the courthouses with their respective gaols. The two prisons merged around 1870. Among Galway gaol’s most famous inmates were British poet and anti-imperialist, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, and Irish nationalists and land agitators, John Dillon and William O’Brien. The gaol was closed in 1939 and the following year Galway County Council, agreed to hand the building over to Rev. Dr. Browne, Bishop of Galway, “for a nominal sum of £10”. Opened in 1965, the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas now stands on the site of the former gaol.


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