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Jails

One of the principle streets in Ennis, 'Jail Street', now O'Connell Street, got its name from the jail in the town. The first jail in the town was built in 1591.
According to Maurice Craig, the architectural historian, 'The older guidebooks always put jails and almshouses in the same chapter: logical enough since those fortunate enough to escape the one may well find themselves in the other'. Contrary to this generalisation however (perhaps because Ennis never had an almshouse) we find in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary (1837) that the County Gaol is treated between the courthouse and the Constabulary barracks. This juxtapositioning is, equally, appropriate. Lewis describes the gaol as follows:
"The county gaol, situated on the south side of the town, is an extensive modern building on the radiating principle, with detached prisons for females and debtors, lately erected in front: it contains 10 day rooms and airing yards, 73 sleeping cells and 12 other bedrooms and has a treadmill. The total expense of the establishment, for 1835 was 2,522-7-10."
Ennis in the 19th Century, - Tim Kelly

Ennis Gaol

The presence of a courthouse necessitated the provision of a gaol. As long as the courts were held in the friary, it was the obvious place for the gaol, and the lease of the friary to James Naylande in 1585 specifically required him to provide a gaol there for the use of the courts. It appears, however, that a gaol was built outside of the friary before the end of the sixteenth century.

According to the Parliamentary Gazeteer of Ireland:
the County Gaol is a thoroughly commodious and well-conducted establishment, - well adapted in at once extent, disposition, and management, for the exhibition of the penitentiary system in a first class prison. A very large addition was recently made to it, consisting of one building in front to the old gaol, containing various accommodations, and three buildings on the other sides of the old gaol, erected principally upon the principle of separate confinement. The entire prison, as now constituted, contains 123 single cells, 40 of which are large and fitted in every respect for the separate system, 8 day-rooms, 11 yards, a good chapel and hospital, a public kitchen and laundry, and a few solitary cells for refractory prisoners. During 1841, the average and the maximum number of prisoners was respectively 125 and 132; the total number, including debtors, was 720; the number of recommittals was 49; and the total expense was 2,383 16s. 71/2d.
The Parliamentary Gazeteer of Ireland - 1845

At the southern end of the town, on the road to Clarecastle, is a most interesting structure. It is most probably the County Jail which was located in this part of the town. The jail is depicted straddling the roadway. It is a massive building with tall chimneys on the gables. A large archway in its centre allows traffic to enter the town. The arch was probably to facilitate the secure conveyance of prisoners to the exercise grounds on the opposite side of the street. The jail was strategically sited on the southern approach to Ennis and the arch may also have had the defensive function of guarding the southern entry to the town.

Reports of Inspector - General of Prisons
Clare County Gaol, at Ennis Statuatable Inspector, 18 August, 1876.

Number of Individual Prisoners (exclusive of Debtors), and Number of Times each had been committed during the following periods, distinguishing Adults from Juveniles.

Number of timescommitted 1875 1876, to day of inspection.
. Juveniles Adults Juveniles Adults
.
M. F. M. F. M. F. M. F.
Once within the year,

9

**

158

32

2

**

103

19

Twice "

2

**

46

12

1

**

23

5

Thrice " ** **

6

7

** **

5

2

4 times " ** **

5

1

** **

2

3

5 times " ** ** **

1

** ** **

1

6 times " ** ** **

1

** **

1

1

8 times " ** **

1

1

** ** ** **
Total

11

**

216

55

3

**

134

31

No. of above weren’t in Gaol before 1st Jan 1876

8

**

145

31

2

**

82

13

Number of Punsihments for Prison Offences

 
.From 1st Jan to 31st Dec, 1875. From 1st Jan 1876 today of inspection.
. Male Female Male Female
By Magisterial authority

3

**

**

**

Dark or refractory cells,

35

17

36

14

Stoppage of diet,

113

15

92

7

Other punishments,

1

**

1

1

Total.

152

32

129

22

The following is an extract from an account of the Inspector Generals Report on Prisons in 1876:
One punishment cell is provided for females, which is heated, darkened, and furnished with a bell, but there is no properly fitted punishment cell for males. And I find that the Governor is in the habit of inflicting minor punishments, such as stoppage of diet, which no doubt he does from motives of humanity, but I am bound to point out that he can only inflict such punishments as are authorized by the 15th rule of the 109th sec. of the Prisons Act.

History of the Old Ground Hotel

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