Crumlin Road Prison. What a place! A rather splendid Victorian prison designed by legendry Architect Charles Lanyon kicked the last bad boys out in 1996, since then, it and the Court House across the road have fallen into disrepair and ruin, but after several years of bickering like only Belfast City Council can do they have come up with a plan to turn it into a tourist attraction and as a pilot program they have been running tours of the recently refurbished C Wing, the tours are running until December after which it will be fully closed for major renovations, and after 30 years of ‘political’ prisoners smearing shit on the walls and setting fire to the roofs you can bet your law abiding asses that it needs it. Indeed it is being fully restored to its original Victorian state, which conveniently means that the whole ‘troubles’ thing can be avoided and there won’t be any shrines to terrorists. Pity that because I would like to see shit covered walls and the showers where they buggered each other senseless.
I was on one of those wee tours today and it was super cool, although I think I was the only person on the group who have never been inside The Crum before, all the middle aged men already seemed familiar with the layout and seemed to know a lot more than the tour guide, plus had better stories, I didn’t ask about what happened in the showers… Anyway, on the tour you get to see the tunnel that runs under the Crumlin Road from courthouse to gaol, believe me its terrifying! It’s pitch black, damp and rather long and I was reliably informed that in Victorian times rats a plenty ran about down here, it’s also supposedly haunted, it sure looked like the sort of place that would be haunted and there is NO FUCKING WAY I would want to be down there at night on my own. An frightening introduction to the Victorian penal system.
Now the sensible option for The Tourist Board and Belfast City Council would have been to convert both the court house and the gaol like the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham, a truly frightening and horrific day out, but nooooooo. They have decided that the court would be a better 4 star hotel. Who the hell wants to stay in a hotel on the Crumlin Road? Here we have a lovely view of The Carlisle Circus Interface, I can just see visiting business parties going for a stroll round the lower Shankill now. Unbelievable.
Like all good Victorian Prisons it has several cool and interesting rooms, there is a beating room, basically a big room with plenty of space to swing a cat-o-nine-tails, apparently this is where the expression ‘you couldn’t swing a cat in here comes from. A must see in any old prison is the hanging room, the last dude got the rope in 1961, quite shocking that, and you get to see this hanging room, plus the hangmans rope (all hangmen apparently had their own ropes) after that its down into the room where the body dropped too, again its allegedly haunted, well it is rather creepy. Not only that but you get to see the coffins that where used, horrible cast iron things that the deceased was dumped into, along with quick lime before being buried in the prison yard, being shown the burial ground was another tour ‘highlight’
It doesn’t last too long, but it is free and is only a pilot, this should be great once the other wings are converted and made safe, looks like Belfast might finally get a decent tourist attraction!
I didn’t see any Victorian weights benches.
I also forgot my camera.