Heritage Ireland

The Prison Cell

Text & photographs by Aoife Kennedy

Sometimes it can come as bit of a surprise to our visitors that the friary has a prison cell. Prisons were actually quite a common feature of medieval monastic buildings. The friary and other sites like it were busy bustling communities, almost like small villages, and Ennis Friary was particularly busy as it also had a school attached to it. In order to ensure the smooth running of the friary the prison was built as a deterrent for bad behaviour. We don’t know the exact misdemeanours that would lead to someone being imprisoned in the cell but they would have probably included fighting, theft and even breaking the rules of the order.

The cell was mainly used as punishment in the form of isolation. It was a place for the perpetrator to sit and contemplate their mistakes and seek forgiveness for them as opposed to being physically punished, however, we have no idea as to how long they would have had to have stayed in the cell. Our cell is quite cosy in that it has a small fireplace and three tiny windows. In the late 16th century when the friary was taken over as a centre of English administration the sacristy of the friary was converted into Ennis town’s first courthouse. The prison cell was in use by the court not only as a place of detainment but also as a strong room for storing all the coin from taxes.

Unfortunately, due to health and safety issues the prison cell is closed to the public.

The prison cell at Ennis Friary
The prison cell at Ennis Friary
The prison cell fireplace
The prison cell fireplace
View of the graveyard from the prison cell
View of the graveyard from the prison cell
Wicker imprint on ceiling of the prison cell
Wicker imprint on ceiling of the prison cell
Exterior of the prison cell
Exterior of the prison cell
Doorway into the prison cell
Doorway into the prison cell
Prison cell nook
Prison cell nook
Prison cell's little window
Prison cell's little window
Latin cross & window
Latin cross & window
Prison cell double window view
Prison cell double window view
Prison cell entrance
Prison cell entrance

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