Glendairy the ‘next big, big’ project
AN HISTORIC BUILDING that has been described as having the greatest potential of all has been earmarked for restoration almost a decade after it was abandoned.
That building is the more than 150-year-old, three-storied former prison at Glendairy, Station Hill, St Michael which, said the head of the task force charged with preserving such historic buildings, was not as badly damaged in the fire set by rioting inmates as many people assumed.
Senator Professor Henry Fraser, who was speaking to the DAILY?NATION as the Barbados National Trust hosted the opening of Guinea Plantation Great House, in St John, recently, said after the Task Force for the Preservation of Barbados’ Built Heritage had set the restoration of the Empire Theatre, Carnegie Library and Queen’s Park House in place, the committee would then be turning its attention to Glendairy Prisons.
“The big, big project is Glendairy Prison because that has fantastic potential. Glendairy Prison is a secret. Most Barbadians have never been there, fortunately, but it is magnificent and it has the greatest potential of all,” Fraser said.
The Independent senator, historian and former president of the Barbados National Trust said the expansive property is currently the subject of a 25-page document, which was being shared with other senators.
In that document, said Fraser, the plan was to turn Glendairy into a multi-faceted site “with a prison museum in the main building which is the male prison, art and craft shops and a wonderful expanded prison workshop for cabinet-making to push Barbadian mahogany furniture back as a world class art form which it was in the 18th century and 19th century”.
The document also foresees Glendairy as a conference centre or as a children’s playground.
“There are 14 acres on that site and five buildings. It would be a magnificent children’s playground, a family affair, as well as theatre – all kinds of things.”
He dismissed the idea that the cost associated with restoring Glendairy would be prohibitive.
The prison need not be restored to serve as a prison museum and in any event, there was a lot less damage than Barbadians realised, he said.
“What is not known in Barbados is that the extent of damage to the prison was restricted to a small portion of the main building and a portion of the mess hall and kitchen.
“That’s all that was damaged in the fire. The other three buildings were untouched and the only part of the magnificent main building, which is the size of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, that was damaged was the central stair hall, two rooms behind it on each floor and the shingle roof at the top of the building. It’s about three per cent of that building. People think Glendairy Prison was destroyed. Only a very tiny portion of Glendairy Prison was destroyed and for that we have a billion-dollar new prison.”
It was on March 29 and 30, 2005, that rioting inmates set the 1855 building on fire.
It had been built to relieve some of the pressure placed on the jail in the Old Town Hall, in Coleridge Street, Bridgetown.
Its distinctive arches, all 72 of them, are reminiscent of the façade of the barracks at the Barbados Defence Force’s headquarters at St Ann’s Fort, but Glendairy is taller than that building by a floor.