Revamp of Hutchinson Square will be done in time for summer

Major work to improve Hutchinson Square in Douglas has now started

Major work to improve Hutchinson Square in Douglas has now started

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A £150,000 refurbishment of one of the capital’s urban squares is currently under way.

Work has recently started in Hutchinson Square, off Ballaquayle Road, which will see railings repaired or renewed and crumbling perimeter and retaining walls rebuilt.

At the same time, the council’s parks department has taken the opportunity to take digging equipment into the square ready to relandscape part of the gardens.

A separate scheme, costing £25,000 in the first stage, will see street lighting around the square improved.

Councillor David Ashford, whose Victoria ward includes Hutchinson Square, said the revamp was long overdue particularly as similar work had already been done in a number of Douglas’s other squares in the past couple of years.

‘I often feel we are a bit like the poor relation in Hutchinson Square,’ he said.

‘The work is long overdue. and it’s continuing a programme of refurbishments that have already been done in Derby Square and Woodbourne Square.’

Mr Ashford said the money for the revamp was coming from council reserves.

‘The square is on different levels and they are going to rebuild retaining walls. It covers a large area - bigger than Derby Square although it isn’t obvious at close range.

Douglas assistant borough engineer Alan Donnelly said the work was to be carried out in two phases and should be finished by June or July.

The first phase will see reconstruction of footpaths and the bulging retaining walls built from Manx stone will be supported with a membrane before being rebuilt.

He said the aim was to restore the square to look similar to how it did when first built. Two sun dials which originally stood in the gardens are to be replaced. The stone plinths remain but the bodies have had to be remade using archive photographs from Manx National Heritage.

Phase two of the work will involve the railings and gates and coping stones on the perimeter wall all being repaired. The bottom entrance with the curved steps is also to be widened.

Mr Donnelly said they had also been working with the Manx Museum in the hope of creating some displays to reflect the history of the square and its role as a wartime internment camp.

When completed, the finished square will have extra benches and the parks department are to revamp some of the flower beds.

Lighting around the perimieter of the square is to be moved to the square side of the road where the gardens will be better illuminated. The new lighting is to be low-energy LED streetlamps and some concealed lighting in the gardens will also be used, similar to what has been done in some of the other public gardens in the island.

In 1940 Hutchinson Square was used as an internment camp for people suspected of being Nazi sympathisers. Around 400 people were interned there though at its height numbers reached around 1,200.

By 1944, many internees were moved out and for the final year of the war the square was instead used as a German prisoner of war camp for some of the 5,000 POWs who arrived in the island that year.

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