Cork City Gaol in Sunday’s Well was designed to replace the old Gaol at the North gate Bridge in the heart of the city. The old Gaol was nearly 100 years old, on a confined site, overcrowded & unhygienic.
The first site chosen was at Distillery Fields, on the North Mall in the City. However, this site was prone to flooding! The present site was probably selected due to enlightened thinking that hilly airy sites were best for preventing the spread of disease.
The first phase of construction involved quarrying red sandstone from a nearby hillside, constructing approach roads and the building of outside security walls.
Construction of the Gaol commenced in 1818 after Mrs Elizabeth Deane and her son, Thomas Deane, won the building contract.
Cork City Gaol opened in 1824 & was reported as being “the finest in 3 kingdoms”.
In 1870 the west wing was remodelled into a double-sided cell wing.
In 1878, under the General Prisons (Ireland) Act, the Gaol became an all-female prison.
In 1922/1923 male anti-treaty supporters were incarcerated in the Gaol.
The Gaol closed in August 1923 with all remaining prisoners either released or transferred to other Gaols.
From 1927 until the 1950s the top floor of the Governors house was used as a radio broadcasting station by Radio Eireann (now RTE).
For a time, the exterior grounds were used by The Department of Posts & Telegraphs for storage of equipment.
The Gaol complex was allowed to become totally derelict until its innovative restoration and reopening to the public as a visitor attraction in 1993.