On this day 185 years ago (15th December 1833) James Irwin was buried in the ‘New Burying Ground’, today known as Clifton Street Cemetery. He died aged 68 of cancer.

James was born c.1765 in Wellbrook, County Tyrone and moved to the town of Belfast where he resided with his family at Great Patrick Street. The burial register records his occupation as Inspector of the House of Correction.

The House of Correction had been erected in 1817, on Howard Street, near the upper end of Chichester Street. The ominous inscription above the door warned “Within amend, without beware.” By 1822 the House of Correction was located on Henrietta Street and was described in Pigot’s 1824 Directory as “a good brick building… [which] possesses excellent regulations.”

The complex was made up of a house for the Governor, a chapel and numerous “cells and apartments for the confinement or reformation of convicts.” There was also a hall for the use of the Quarter Sessions. Those confined within the institution were put to work. If you had a trade outside you would be expected to carry it on in inside the House of Correction, for those who had no trade they would be required to undertake unskilled jobs including chopping logs for firewood or picking oakum.

After James’s death his wife Caroline moved to Dundalk, dying there herself on 23rd November 1861. Caroline was brought back to Belfast and interred alongside her husband in Clifton Street Cemetery. The couple were survived by at least three children, including a son in Indiana.

(The above image of a fire brigade outside the House of Correction shows how imposing it was. Image credit: NMNI)