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Public tours of Victoria Road Prison 22 September 2008

Former Acting Prison Governor Tony HawkesTHE gates to Victoria Road prison are being thrown open to the Manx public for the first time in 117 years.

The Douglas jail is currently lying empty after inmates and staff relocated to the new facility at Jurby last month. In response to overwhelming interest, the Department of Home Affairs is offering people the chance to take a look inside Victoria Road.

Former Acting Prison Governor Tony Hawkes will conduct a series of 90-minute tours and provide an insight into life within the walls of the building which first opened in 1891. Visitors will be taken through the prison gates and shown various areas of interest including the different wings, the search room, segregation unit and cells.

Minister for Home Affairs Adrian Earnshaw MHK said:

‘Victoria Road will soon be consigned to a place in the history books so these tours are a fantastic opportunity to see inside the prison that served the Island for more than a century. The building boasts a rich and fascinating history and I’m sure that former governor Hawkes will bring those stories to life in an entertaining and informative manner. When the department opened up Jurby prison for public visits earlier this year the response was incredible so my advice on this occasion is to book early to avoid disappointment.’

The tours get under way at 9am on Saturday, September 27 and continue on a daily basis until Sunday, October 12. Anybody interested in booking a place should telephone 678686 between 9am and 5pm from Tuesday, September 23 to Friday, September 26. A variety of time slots are available each day, including a limited number of early evenings, and places will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.

A maximum of 30 people can be accommodated during any one session and group bookings will be accepted wherever possible. The tours are not suitable for children under the age of 10 and those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

A lot of walking and climbing of stairs will be involved so unfortunately the visits are not recommended for anybody with a physical impairment or health problem. No charge will be made, but donations in aid of Victim Support in the Isle of Man would be most welcome.

Mr Hawkes, who retired in June 2007 after 34 years of service at Victoria Road, said:

‘The prison in Douglas played an important role in Island life for a very long time and I hope the tours will give people a flavour of how conditions, attitudes and cultures have evolved down the years.’

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