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Children's Prison

Before Victorian times there was no distinction between age groups when it came to crime and punishment, but during the 1850s when Spike Island's prison population had swollen to the largest in the world, people began to discuss the need for prisoner reform rather than Punishment.

Conditions would slowly improve for child convicts and by the time Spike Island's 19th century prison was built it was decided to at least seprate the children from the men.  But Spike Island time was still very hard time for the 100 children who were held in Spike's childrens dormitory.  Huge chains were hung from the ceiling and they supported several hammocks in which the children would sleep, having the scamper up the chains to their designated bunk. 

Sadly not all made it off the island with some succumbing to the conditions and many having arrived already weak from the famine conditions which had gripped Ireland in the late 1840s.

The building used to house the boys became the shell store for the fort, used to protect the ammunition from attackers projectiles.  Today the building houses a recreation of the cells of the transport hulks that once sat in Cork harbour and convict ships.  There are also videos installations telling the stories of 3 generations of prisoners.  Next to this is our John Mitchel room which tells the story of the nationalist for whom the fort is named.

While our social history rooms have many interviews with the former residents of the island and the adjoining Cork harbour room has old maps from the harbour and an interactive audio display where you can steer a ship into Cork Harbour and use the cannons on Spike to defend Cork from attack!​

This fascinating building with its tragic past and modern interpreation is not to be missed on a visit to Spike Island.