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Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Barracks

Ballycultra Town building 19

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These are original buildings. This terrace of early 1800s houses came from Castle Street, Antrim town, County Antrim. It was dismantled and moved to the Folk Museum in 1995.

During the late 1800s part of the building had housed the Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks for Antrim town and the local area. At this time there were few purpose built police stations and many barracks were located in suitable domestic buildings.

As the Museum did not have a police barracks, it was decided to interpret part of the terrace as a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Barracks of the early 1900s. The first floor of the building contains an exhibition covering the history of policing, the legal system and courts in Ireland.

Although there were full time police forces in Ireland from the late 1700s, it was Thomas Drummond, the Under Secretary for Ireland, 1836−40, who laid down the character of the police force. Drummond was a reformer, he was determined that the police force in Ireland should reflect the population and by 1860s some 70% of recruits were Catholic and 30% Protestant.

In 1867 the force was granted the title ‘Royal’. As the Royal Irish Constabulary the force continued until it was disbanded in 1922, when the country was partitioned.

For policemen, working in barracks in a small town like Antrim could be dull at times, not least on account of the official paperwork required to document the completion of a range of ordinary police duties. The policemen who lived in the barracks were constantly on call but to them the barracks was both a workplace and a home.

Note the austere atmosphere of the building which would have been typical in a police barracks.