Carrickfergus Museum

Crime and Punishment - Carrickfergus Gaol

A Most Proper Verdict text with old photo of young boys standing against a gaol wall.

"A most proper verdict”: Exploring attitudes to crime and punishment in 19th century Mid and East Antrim

This exhibition looks at the experiences of ordinary people and focuses on crimes that offer insights into social and moral attitudes of the time.

By examining how particular behaviour was viewed and punished at a local level, we can get a sense of the outlook of lawmakers, judges, the police and the wider public. While some similarities might be seen in the 21st century, crimes and punishments show us how much the justice system and society has changed.

Attempts were made in the 19th century to end criminality and shape offenders into law-abiding citizens by both punishing and reforming them. Thousands of suspects were brought before courts for trial. Many were transferred to the county gaol, situated in Carrickfergus before the opening of Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast in the 1840s.

Following a community engagement project delivered by Carrickfergus Museum, in partnership with the Carrickfergus and District Historical Society and Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative, the exhibition uses Carrickfergus Courthouse and Gaol as a case study.

This exhibition has been developed by Council's Museum & Heritage Service in collaboration with the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, and the McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast.

This publication was funded by the Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative and the National Lottery Heritage Fund Northern Ireland.