Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has unveiled a major restoration programme for Crumlin Road Gaol and announced plans to open the site to tourists and visitors. Some £1 million has been invested in improvements that include weatherproofing, health and safety repairs and restoration work. The façade of the Gaol has also been transformed, with security walls and fencing removed and the railings and main gates repaired.
The Minister commented: “The completion of this work represents a key milestone in the redevelopment of Crumlin Road Gaol. For the first time in a generation of the frontage of the Gaol has been opened up, making a very positive contribution to improving the appearance of the Crumlin Road. People can now appreciate the wonderful architecture of this listed building which was, of course designed by Sir Charles Lanyon.
“The old blast walls, razor wire and bullet-proof glass have all been dismantled. Their demise represents a tangible expression of the sort of positive change that Belfast has been enjoying for a number of years.”
The Gaol will close again for essential repairs and restoration after Christmas 2007.
Welcoming the proposed opening of the Gaol to visitors, Minister Gerry Kelly, said: “The pilot access scheme will see the opening of the former Gaol to visitors who have an interest in its history and its future.” Margaret Ritchie also confirmed that public consultation on a draft masterplan for the long-term development of the Gaol and the adjacent Girdwood site will take place in the near future. Ms Ritchie stated: “We need to deliver real social, economic and physical development for the community in north Belfast and the wider city. The draft masterplan helps illustrate what is possible on the site.
“It does not preclude any type of use, the site could accommodate leisure facilities, a tourist attraction or housing – including social housing.”