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Hangings and hauntings: The grisly history of Gwynedd Council’s HQ

07 Nov 2022 2 minute read
Gwynedd Council building in Caernarfon. Picture by Jaggery (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter

Gwynedd Council’s Caernarfon headquarters may now be a hub for local government activity – but the site has a far darker past.

While staff at the offices on Shirehall Street may now be dealing with planning applications or housing issues, some of those once working in the vicinity were taking lives.

The site was formerly where Caernarfon Jail stood, and a hanging tower formed part of the jail complex.

The Hanging Tower In Caernarfon. Photo Daily Post

Many men and woman were hanged at the tower, near the Anglesey Arms, for unforgivable crimes such as gruesome murders.

William Murphy hanged in Caernarfon in 1910

The last man to be executed was William Murphy and his ghost is said by some to still haunt the area.

Murphy was found guilty of strangling his mistress Gwen Ellen Jones on Christmas Day in 1909.

In one of North Wales’ most horrific murders she was found with her throat slit dumped in a ditch in Holyhead.

The former soldier was sentenced to death at Beaumaris Courthouse in February 1910 before being hung by Henry Pierrepoint in Caernarfon.

The 49-year-old former soldier has the dubious honour of being the last person to be hung in the town.

Caernarfon jail staff

Caernarfon Jail closed in 1921 and was later converted into offices and now forms part of Gwynedd Council’s headquarters complex.

Information and relics about the gruesome incident can still be seen at the council offices in Shirehall Street.

Excavations in the 1930s revealed the gravestone of William Murphy with just a simple WG inscription.

The old prison cells are still there and it is reputed that some people who have been there alone in years gone by have reported hearing strange laughing noises, objects being thrown and eerie sounds of an old fairground.

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