The prison is expected to open to visitors by spring 2022.
The National Trust has officially become a tourism partner for Pentridge Prison. This historical prison in Coburg, which opened in 1851 and closed in 1997, was an infamous place in Victoria’s penal history. It housed prisoners such as Ronald Ryan, the last man legally hanged in Australia in 1967. The National Trust, which also looks after sites such as Old Melbourne Gaol and La Trobe’s Cottage, will help rejuvenate Pentridge Prison into an ideal tourist destination. Visitors will soon be able to explore the cell blocks and even stay the night. Pentridge Prison will open to visitors as soon as spring 2022, provided the pandemic subsides.
The tourist site will showcase almost 150 years of history. Three mysterious 19th century cell blocks, which have remained largely untouched since the prison closed in 1997, will be publicly accessible for the first time. Visitors will be able to stroll through the cell blocks of Divisions A, B and H and see the yards where prisoners did hard labour, such as rock-breaking.
Meanwhile, the Former Warders’ Residence will be converted into a Pentridge Visitor’s Centre. This centre may display relics such as a hangman’s noose or tennis balls that once contained drugs.
Intriguingly, visitors will also be able to stay the night.
“There is going to accommodation at the prison,” said Simon Ambrose, Chief Executive of Victoria’s National Trust, on 3AW. “Some of the cells are being converted to be an amazing experience, not quite what it would’ve been like in the 1890s, but something a bit more 21st century.”
According to Adina Hotels, who will oversee the project, converted prison cells from Division B will offer guests the “modern comforts of a hotel”. The project will blend contemporary architectural design with the building’s distinct heritage.
A function centre will also be added to the prison’s former chapel, making it ideal for events such as weddings.
Above all, Ambrose says the project will tell the prison’s story respectfully. Former prisoners won’t be made into heroes, but the reality of the life they faced will be shared.