BVI News

Gov’t in talks to acquire and restore the ‘Dungeon’

By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff

Minister for Natural Resources Vincent Wheatley said talks are underway to acquire and restore Fort Purcell.

The 17th-century fort, more commonly known as the Dungeon because of its underground cell, was once home to a garrison of soldiers who protected the island from intruders.

Today, overrun with bushes, the remnants of the old fort sits on 5.5 acres of land adjacent to the sea along the main road in Havers on Tortola.

“We want to expand the tourism product of the BVI. The Dungeon has a lot of historical significance, and we wanted to acquire the Dungeon to add to our tourism product,” Wheatley told BVI News at the weekend.

He said the owners, Old Fort Ltd, are willing to negotiate with government and the process is now in its infancy stage.

“Apart from the one building that you see, a lot of the buildings were blown down after the hurricane. So we are going to try to hire a historian to reconstruct the entire fort,” he added.

The minister said there were once thousands of military personnel stationed there.

“It’s more than just a building,” Wheatley said, adding that more information will be made available in the coming weeks.

Pleased by the news

In the meantime, cultural activist and former Speaker of the House Reuben Vanterpool told BVI News that he is pleased by the news.

“My first reaction is, ‘at last!’… It has been in the making for a long time, and it was talked about, as far as I know, decades ago. It is one of the bigger ruins we have, and it has a lot of possibilities, and it is recognized that there is much potential for preservation of history, which would be something beneficial to us.”

However, Vanterpool said he wants ruins like the Dungeon and William Thornton House in Sea Cows Bay not only to be restored but to also to be functional.

“Our concept of restoration has been, so far, just to put bricks and mortar together to put it back how it was. But, I want us to go a step further to the function of the place, how it functioned before, to give the visitor a good picture of how it used to be,” he said.

The late William Thornton was born at the Pleasant Valley House and later became the architect to prepare designs for the US Capitol.

When asked about the possibility of acquiring this property, Minister Wheatley said: “All those we would like to add to our tourism inventory, but there are land ownership issues.”

William Thornton House

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Was it also not a prison cell for holding our ancestors?

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    • Backward< says:

      I agree with you, this is long over due. Too much talk and many in the past has promised to have this done with no results. It will be great if you can keep your word and restore this land mark.

    • Albion says:

      There are a couple of mistakes in the article.

      Firstly, that small section is not a prison cell – it is a powder room. It was below ground with the doorway to the rear to prevent the risk of explosion if it was struck by cannon shot.

      Secondly, the name ‘Dungeon’ comes from a corruption of the originally Spanish word ‘Donjon’, meaning a walled fortification.

      But I am glad to hear that the site may be restored. Too bad that they are too late to save the painted murals in the main building. I remember them vividly as a child, but they have long since faded and are now pretty much invisible.

      Like 18
  2. Me again says:

    The Copper Mine Ruins belongs to Gov ; I have Not heard or seen any Restoration talks about this site , but we are going to acquire others : I applaud this motion BUT PLEASE do not leave Copper Mine out of the restoration project .

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    • @Me again says:

      Boy VG in one race w Tortola.

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    • Reporter says:

      Some work was done on the Copper Mine ruins a few years ago, but allocated moneys for the restoration ran out;due to the nature of the restoration and the fragility of the structure and the material constructed from.

      There is however, a new building, constructed on site; meant to house the paintings of the copper Mine and a place that can be used doubly as a business or for special functions.

      It is unfortunate that when we were flourishing with every project and wall every project costing over Million ans upwards we didn’t spend any of our Trust Companies Income on our tourism sites, beaches, Calwood’s Distillery; Bathrooms on all beaches etc. Instead it was Necessary to cross cross Singapore with planned trips to Nigeria and other states across Africa. All I can say is Wow. Yes, very true: “Where there’s no Vision the people perish

  3. Gordaguy2 says:

    Great idea – preserving and enhancing some of the lore and historically accurate sites from the days of the pirates would be a great tourist and local point of interest.

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  4. Dman says:

    Great move. Everytime you see a promotion for St. Croix there are shots of old ruins and forts. Don’t drop this effort and do more.

    Like 15
    • Yes says:

      I agree – great move and long overdue.
      We should never have to purchase property that rightly belongs to the territory. Such properties should never be privately owned just as the gov’t administration buildings cannot be owned.
      Also to be included should be a structure visible from the roadway leading to east end. This structure is said to be built by slaves.
      Good history lessons for our schools.

    • Rubber Duck says:

      People come to the BVI for the sand, the sun and the sea.

      They hope to find welcoming smiles, friendly people, nice accommodation and different and delicious food..

      No one comes or will come to look at piles of old stones. These are not European cathedrals or the Taj Mahal.

      Get the communications and the welcome right. That should be the government’s job.

      Like 1
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      • Jane says:

        I disagree, tourists do want historic sites to visit. BVI has to offer more than beaches to compete.

        • Rubber Duck says:

          No one goes to the Caribbean for historic buildings. Get real.

          There might be other reasons for preserving historic buildings here.

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  5. Explain says:

    So we are now going to purchase this land from the R***ys? As well as help there business ventures in tourism. When are they going to give back to the community that keeps them rich.

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    • Concerned says:

      With all the money they have already made off the Government (Prospect Reef) they should really donate the property. But wait they will most probably get a large sum of money for it and then manage it and making money off it double and triple.

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  6. LMB says:

    Lets ensure that the restoration are done exactly as the original builders did them so that we can get UNESCO certification as Heritage sites. the Last restorations we did were done using concrete as opposed to the original limestone. Because of that the site was unable to be registered as an international heritage site. Ask a question before beginning restoration willy-nilly.

    Like 21
  7. Notice says:

    It is important for the public to know that there was once a historical ruin above the Concrete Plant…it wasn’t until a few years back that the site was destroyed. I say this to say that the government should act now to preserve these sites because clearly they mean NOTHING to other people..

    Like 16
  8. E. Leonard says:

    Tourism is 1/2 of the economic twin pillars; financial services, the other. Though tourism contributes fewer government revenue than financial services, it generates more direct and indirect employment. The sea is a major attraction for both water-based and land-based tourists. However, the BVI needs to improve its current inventory of attractions and it must also increase the number of attractions to the maximum extent practical and possible.

    Often, when I meet and tell people I was from the BVI, some of the ones(mostly cruise visitors) that have visited the BVI would say: I have visited there and quickly move on to another conversation. The VI must work to change this view; the VI must wow visitors and make it a must see destination.

    Therefore, it is a smart move to acquire and to preserve/ renovate these two cultural and heritage assets sites —-Fort Purcell (Dungeon) and William Thornton home—-to increase attractions inventory. To maintain the authenticity and achieved international certification, the preservation work should be done with the original material as much as practical, ie, limestone vice cement. Agree with former Speaker of House Ruben Vanterpool that the sites must be functional sites.

  9. I. Einstein says:

    You would like to see me and other tourists return? Please train your immigration and customs people to be more friendly and efficient. These are likely to be the only locals that the tourists will ever see. All the other tourism sector workers seem to be from other islands.

  10. Rubber Duck says:

    The government has no clue how to run tourist attractions , or anything much else either.

    Look at Prospect Reef , The Brandywine fiasco, the current disgraceful despoiling of Long Bay Beef island , the conversion of Cane Garden into Coney Island or Benidorm, the jet skis etc etc etc.

    And tourists are not interested in piles of old stones either.

    More waste of public money and non jobs for the relatives.

    Like 2
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    • @Rubber Duck says:

      @Rubber Duck, go way. Go hide under a rock with the likes of Enoch Powell. If you hate the BVI so much, LIAT flies out every day, though it may be late in departing.

      Like 1
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