Old Gaol, Roscommon

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The Old Gaol
County Roscommon
Grid reference: M87426465
Location: 53°37’54"N, 8°11’27"W
Town: Roscommon
Built 1745
By: Richard Cassells
Gaol house
Condition: Converted to shopping centre

The Old Gaol stands prominently in the town of Roscommon, in County Roscommon, and is arguably the most prominent building in the town after Harrison Hall, its frontage dominating the town square.

The Old Gaol faces the back Harrison Hall and now houses a modern shopping centre by the name of 'Stone Court': the façade is all that remains of the original structure.


The original building is thought to have been designed by Richard Cassells in 1736 (the architect of Powerscourt House) and built in 1745.

The gaol had the distinction of having at one point employed a woman as hangman; the only recorded instance in the British Isles. Known as ‘Lady Betty’, she was a criminal who had her sentence withdrawn on the provision that she perform, unpaid, the duties of hangman for the county. The gallows position can still be pointed out at one of the windows on the third storey, this being for the age when public executions were a popular spectacle.

In 1822 the building was taken over for use as a lunatic asylum. In 1833 it became a ‘Lazaretto’: a place where sufferers from leprosy were confined. It was also for a tmie a debtors' prison.

At some time after 1840, the building was converted to residential and commercial use.[1]

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