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Victoria Road prison tours fully booked 24 September 2008

Former Acting Prison Governor Tony HawkesINTEREST in the public tours of Victoria Road prison has been remarkable, with all the places getting snapped up within hours of being advertised.

The bookings hotline was inundated with calls throughout the day on Tuesday as people rushed to secure a look inside the walls of the Victorian facility. Every available session was taken and almost 1,750 members of the Manx public will now have the opportunity to visit the building which first opened in 1891.

Schools were quick off the mark and no fewer than 24 groups of children will experience one of the 90-minute tours being conducted by former Acting Prison Governor Tony Hawkes who retired in June 2007 after 34 years of service at Victoria Road.

Minister for Home Affairs Adrian Earnshaw MHK said:

‘Interest in the prison visits has been nothing short of phenomenal. The telephone didn’t stop ringing from the moment the bookings line was made public. Tony Hawkes is taking on a heroic schedule. He is starting at 9am some mornings and not finishing until 7pm in order to accommodate as many people as possible. I know that callers had to persevere to get through on Tuesday, but I’m sure they will consider that time well spent when they set foot inside the prison that served the Island for more than a century. I am particularly pleased that so many school groups are taking the chance to visit the site as Victoria Road played such an important part in the Island’s social history.'

The Department of Home Affairs decided to throw open the gates to the old prison after inmates and staff relocated to the new facility at Jurby last month. Places were advertised on a first-come first-served basis and were fully booked on the first day of being opened up to the public.

As many as five tours a day are taking place from Saturday, September 27 through until Sunday, October 12. No charge will be made, but donations in aid of Victim Support in the Isle of Man would be most welcome.

Minister for Education Anne Craine MHK said the Island’s school children were looking forward to being shown around the various areas of interest within the prison.

She added:

‘In granting this unique opportunity the Department of Home Affairs is providing pupils with a fascinating insight into the workings of a prison that was built during Victorian times and served the Island for nearly 120 years. It is no wonder these tours were eagerly snapped up by the schools and I’m sure the children will learn a great deal from listening to Mr Hawkes.’

Members of the public are advised not to call the bookings line as all the available slots have been filled. Anybody who has booked a place but is unable to attend is urged to contact the Department of Home Affairs as people on the reserve list will be invited to fill any vacant slots.

Those who are attending are asked to turn up at least 10 minutes before their designated start time and take notice of the health and safety advice provided. There will be opportunities to take photographs at certain points on the tours, but mobile phones should not be taken inside the prison.

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