Freedom Park is a memorial and leisure park area in the middle of downtown Lagos, which was born from the ruins of Her Majesty’s Broad Street Prison. Erstwhile cells for hapless prisoners are now marketplaces, and today the kitchen serves appetising meals rather than the fare meted out to the inmates of yesteryear. It was designed by the Architect Theo Lawson (born 1959). The park was constructed to preserve the history and cultural heritage of Nigerians. Monuments in the park record Lagos’s colonial heritage and the history of Her Majesty’s Broad Street prisons. It was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its Independence in October 2010. The park serves as a National Memorial, an historical landmark, a cultural site, and an arts and recreation centre. Today Freedom Park has become a venue for diverse social events and recreational entertainment – art, theatre, music and dancing. More than 300 people visit each day, some of them artists and writers.
Broad Street Prison was established after Britain made Lagos a Colony in 1861. The initial prison structure was built in 1882 with mud walls and grass thatch but did not last long because of sabotage from colonial government opponents. The government’s expense of £16,000 in 1882, shows their priority on law and order versus other initiatives such as education, which was £700. The Colonial report for 1898 indicates that 676 males, 26 females, and 11 juveniles were imprisoned at Broad Street Prison that year. Broad Street Prison was pulled down in 1979 and was reduced to a dumping ground until the 1990s when plans were drawn up to transform the site into the present Freedom Park.
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