The County Gaol of Down was opened in 1796. Built and administered by the County Grand Jury of Down, the gaol housed prisoners convicted of a wide variety of offences.
During its period of operation (1796-1830) the gaol saw many changes in attitudes to crime and punishment. Georgian gaols had been notoriously unregulated and haphazard in their operation of prison legislation. As the eighteenth century gave way to the nineteenth the gaol became increasingly outmoded and unable to implement increasing bureaucracy and stricter attitudes to separating classes of criminals. The gaol closed in 1830.
Today visitors to the museum can see one of the most complete surviving Georgian gaols in Ireland. A floor of restored cells conjures up something of the atmosphere of over 200 years ago.