Dublin Courts and Prisons

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The Sessions-house, in Green-street, opened for business in 1797, is ornamented in front with a central pediment and cornice supported by six engaged columns rising from a broad platform, to which is an ascent by a flight of steps extending along the whole front of the building, and on each side of the centre are the doors of entrance to the court-rooms; in another front, corresponding with this, in Halston-street, are the entrances to the apartments occupied by the agents during contested elections. The interior is spacious, lofty, and well arranged; the ceiling is supported by Ionic columns. In this building are held the court of quarter sessions, the court of oyer and terminer, the lord mayor's and sheriffs' court, and the recorder's court. The principal prison for malefactors of all classes is Newgate, situated near the sessions-house, in Green-street. It is a square building, flanked at each angle by a round tower with loop-hole windows. The interior is divided into two nearly equal portions by a broad passage with high walls on each side, having iron gates at intervals, through the gratings of which visitors may converse with the prisoners; the cells are neither sufficiently numerous nor large, nor is the prison well adapted for due classification. A chapel attached to it is attended by three chaplains; one of the Established Church, one of the R. C. and one of the Presbyterian religion.

The Sheriffs' Prison, in Green-street, was built in 1794, and occupies three sides of a quadrangle with an area in the centre, which is used as a ball-court; it is visited by the chaplains of Newgate and a medical inspector. The City Marshalsea, a brick building attached to the preceding, is designed for prisoners committed from the lord mayor's court for debts under £10, and from the court of conscience.

The Smithfield Penitentiary is appropriated to the confinement of juvenile convicts not exceeding 19 years of age; it is visited by three chaplains, and inspected by the divisional magistrates; an efficient classification is observed, and all the prisoners are regularly employed.

The Richmond Bridewell, on the Circular road, erected by the city at an expense of £40,000, is a spacious structure enclosed by walls flanked with towers at the angles, and is entered by a massive gateway; between the outer wall and the main building is a wide space, intended for a rope-walk; the interior consists of two spacious quadrangles, the sides of which are all occupied by buildings; the cells, which are on the first floor, open into corridors with entrances at each end; the rooms in the second floor are used as work-rooms; the male and female prisoners occupy distinct portions of the prison; the prisoners not sentenced to the tread-mill are employed in profitable labour, and a portion of their earnings is paid to them on their discharge; they are visited by a Protestant and a R. C. chaplain, a physician, surgeon, and apothecary. A great improvement in the city prisons is now in progress. Attached to the city are the manor or liberty of St. Sepulchre, belonging to the Archbishop of Dublin; the manor of Grangegorman or Glasnevin, belonging to the dean of Christ-Church; the manor of Thomas-Court and Donore, belonging to the Earl of Meath; and the liberty of the deanery of St. Patrick.

The Liberty of St. Sepulchre extends over a part of the city, including the parishes of St. Patrick, St. Nicholas Without, and St. Kevin; also over a large tract of the county of Dublin to the south-east of the city, as far as the Wicklow boundary, including a small portion of the latter county and of Kildare, bordering on that of Dublin. The court is held at Longlane, in the county of Dublin, before the archbishop's seneschal, and has a very extensive criminal as well as civil jurisdiction, but exercises only the latter: the court-house and prison for the whole archbishoprick are situated there. It has a civil bill jurisdiction to any amount, extended to the Dublin manor courts in 1826. At the record side the proceedings are either by action against the body, for sums under £20 by service and above it by arrest; or, for sums above £10, by attachment against the goods. The court at the record side sits every Tuesday and Friday; the civil bill court, generally on alternate Wednesdays, except in the law terms, when it stands adjourned. At this court, in which a jury is always impannelled and sworn, sums to any amount may be recovered at a trifling expense.

The jurisdiction of the Manor Court of Glasnevin is of great extent, comprising the baronies of Coolock, Castleknock, and Half-Rathdown, in the county of Dublin, and the lordship of St. Mary's abbey, which includes portions of the city and county. The seneschal sits in Dublin every Friday, and at Kingstown on alternate Fridays for the convenience of that town and the surrounding parishes within his jurisdiction. Causes are tried before a jury, and debts to any amount are recoverable at a small expense; from 900 to 1000 causes are heard annually. Thomas-Court and Donore Manor Court has a jurisdiction extending over the barony of Donore, and that part of the liberty of Thomas-Court which is within the city: the civil bill court, in which debts to any amount are recoverable, is held every Wednesday in the courthouse in Thomas-Court, a plain building erected in 1160; a record court is also held there every Wednesday and Saturday.

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