Armagh Gaol, Armagh
One of Northern Ireland's most important historic buildings that has been sitting vacant for the past 20 years.
Armagh Gaol consisted of three prisons – one for women, one for debtors and one for felons. Executions were common, taking place in the Gaol square, but were later moved behind the prison walls. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Gaol accommodated high-profile political prisoners. It closed in 1986 and now the impressive site is on the Built Heritage at Risk list.
To safeguard the Gaol’s future we are working in a cross-sector partnership. Our project partners are Armagh City and District Council, which owns the site, and Trevor Osborne Property Group, a developer with a track record in delivering successful reuse projects on jails, such as Oxford Castle. The community is also very supportive of a reuse project – in 2007 we held an initial open day at the Gaol, which was attended by over 700 people.
With Trevor Osborne and the Council we have put together a scheme to develop the Gaol into a luxury hotel, restaurants, an open air performance area and a heritage centre. A restoration project would have a hugely positive impact on the surrounding area, creating jobs and boosting the economy by attracting visitors. The development would also encourage further private investment and regeneration elsewhere in Armagh.
In 2010 we helped secure a first round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund and in 2011 we held a community consultation event to present our ideas to key stakeholders and the local community. People were again hugely supportive and we felt encouraged that this development would suit and benefit local residents. The attendees suggested several excellent ideas that we have incorporated into the plans.
We have now completed a conservation management plan, an action plan for the project and are working on a business plan to create a heritage centre at the site. We will soon start working on the second round application to Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to fund the project.