- Originally the Thompson's Building was known as "The Old Carlow Gaol".
- The Gate pictured, which now leads to the Shopping Mall, was
originally the main gate to the Gaol..
- Donated by "Carloman"
"The Old Carlow Gaol"
Originally the Thompson's Building was known as "The Old Carlow Gaol".
The Gate, which now leads to the Shopping Mall, was originally the
main gate to this place. This new gaol
replaced the old County Bridewell, which still stood at the end of
Bridewell Lane and where most of the United Irishmen were imprisoned in
1798. The remains of the 1798 gaol are across the road from the
impressive gate approximately where the
toyshop and the apartment complex are now.
Map of Carlow Gaol
The premises consisted of Governor's House (4 stories), which still
exists inside the shopping mall, Matron's House (2 stories), female
prison of 30 cells, male prison of 35 cells, (all demolished now) all
surrounded by a 20ft. wall. The gaol was built of limestone coped with
granite with a fine cut granite entrance (the gate in Question).
The Gaol also had two gatekeepers’ apartments,
stables, straw and coach houses and a walled-in garden of about half an
acre. The Gaol was later an engineering works and is currently a
Shopping Centre. The Governor's house is now incorporated into a
restaurant in the centre of the development. The granite entrance is
still in use and features stags/animal heads which were salvaged from
the 1930’s fire at Duckett’s Grove, Carlow.
The Gate to the gaol was used for public hangings. On August 6th, 1822, Michael and Hugh Finnegan, father and son, and
William Nolan were hanged for robbery and burglary in the house of
Patrick Farrell, Grangeford, on April 18th, 1822. The execution took
place in front of the gaol where Rev. W. Fitzgerald, P.P, attended the
unfortunate men. Finnegan the elder had fifty acres of land, 30 cows and
a well-appointed set of farming implements so there was no reason why he
should resort to violence. The last person to be publicly hanged, was a woman called Lucy Sly who had murdered her husband.
The condemned cells were to the left of the present gate entrance. The Tread Mill and Debtors' Prison were on the Barrack Street side.
The prisoners worked the treadmill to pump water from a well for use in
the gaol. During reconstruction work in 1840/1853, part of the
Old Carlow Wall was discovered in Potato Market near the gaol.
Before the shopping Mall was built the Gaol housed Thomas Thompson
and Sons engineering works. When Thompson's were there all the old
cellblocks were still there and on occasion when putting in foundations
for machines the bodies of several persons executed there would be
The Gaol was last extended in 1853. An account of this work was found
written on a door taken down on October 18th, 1955 (102 years later) at
The Gaol was closed in 1897 and then sold to Thomas Thompson. He was a member of
the Society of Friends who came from England in 1870. He founded an
engineering firm which specialised in repairing and the manufacturing
of machinery, chiefly threshing sets, portable and later steam.
He named the Gaol “Hanover Works”, which operated well into the early
During the first world war the Hanover Works became a munitions factory,
making ammunition cases and Bristol Fighter Wings. After the war
Thompson's reverted to building work. The Bishop Foley Schools (built
with the cut stone from Duckett's Grove Mansion), Carlow Sugar Beet
Factory, St. Clare's, Church Graiguecullen, to mention only three of
their contributions to Carlow town.
Inspectors-General of Prisons In Ireland 1837
Major Palmer, Inspector of Prisons, visited Carlow Gaol
on December 20th 1837. He expressed his pleasure with
everything he saw. There was then a total of 66 prisoners in
the Gaol and 22485 prisoners were fed in the year at a cost
of 2 and 7/8 pence per prisoner per day. During the Great
Famine of 1847, it was better to be in Gaol than in the
‘Union’. Breakfast consisted of 1lb. Of brown bread and 1
pint of sweet milk, lunch was 8ozs of oatmeal ’stirabout’
and 1 pint of buttermilk at weekends
The ghost of Lucy Sly, the last woman hung in the Gaol,
is said to haunt the building and the staff have experienced
many strange and unexplained occurrences over the years,
from mysterious lights appearing to voices being heard.
Leinster Paranormal have, over the years , conducted a
number of investigations and have collected an amount of
strange and unexplainable recordings. Indeed, the national
Television Station featured the Gaol in a programme on the
paranormal in Ireland, you can watch this on our website
The word Gaol is an Irish word meaning “jail”. Carlow
gaol was built in 1800 and operated as a jail until 1897
when it was closed and sold to Thomas Thompson. He then
founded an engineering firm, and renamed the Gaol “Hanover
Works” which operated into the early 1990’s. When the
foundations were being laid for the engineering works the
bodies of several people executed there were discovered, as
it was common practice at the time to bury the bodies of the
executed on jail grounds.
The Gate to the gaol, which is now the enterance to
Superquinn Shopping Centre, was used for public hangings and
the condemned cells were to the left of the present gate
entrance. The Tread Mill and Debtors’ Prison were on the
Barrack Street side. The prisoners worked the treadmill to
pump water from a well for use in the gaol. During
reconstruction work in 1840/1853, part of the Old Carlow
Wall was discovered in Potato Market near the gaol.
If you look closely at the window over the gate you will
see a horizontal slot that has been filled with mortar below
the window. This was where a wooden platform with a trapdoor
was pushed out. The trapdoor is now in Carlow Museun.
Public Executions in Carlow.
The Carlow Morning Post, August 22nd 1822.
Michael Finnegan, Hugh Finnegan (father and son) and
William Nolan were launched into eternity at about 3.30 p.m.
on August 20th. The execution took place in front of the
Carlow Gaol where the unfortunate gentlemen were attended by
Rev. W. Fitzgerald. They acknowledged the justice of their
sentences and were apparently resigned to their fate. The
sheriff having postponed the execution until after the
arrival of the Dublin Coach. Not less than 20,000 persons
assembled to witness the execution – more than half were of
the fair sex- and there remained in town several hundreds of
both sexes who returned home to their respective dwellings
in a state of drunkenness. They and the other members of the
gang had been convicted of burglary and robbery from the
house of Patrick Farrell, Grangeford on April 18th 1822.
In 1830, Michael Graig, his offence was stealing a
tablecloth, was hung, as was Michael Kelly for having in his
possession, two stolen pigs
On the night of November 9th 1834 Lucy Sly's abusive
husband Walter arrived home drunk and retired to his bed. Saying nothing
Lucy placed a hatchet in the lap of her young lover John Dempsey a
labourer on the farm. John readily accepted the invitation and slew
The lovers were tried in the Deighton Hall, Carlow,
found guilty and both were launched off together from the gibbet of
Carlow gaol (above), on March 30th. 1835.
At the trial no one spoke in favour of Lucy.