There were cheers and tears as the doors of Kingston prison closed today for the final time.
Around 120 staff marched out of the prison shortly after midday, following the official decommissioning of HMP Kingston by the government.
The prison officers and other staff were greeted by friends and family waiting behind a cordon and were able to take them on a tour of the listed building.
The last governor of HMP Kingston Ian Young said all but two of the staff had been redeployed to other prisons, including Winchester, Ford, Haslar Immigration Removal Centre and Send women’s prison, near Guildford.
He said was an extremely emotional day for all the staff.
He added: ‘It’s been extremely emotional since the second week of January when we found out we’d be subject to prison closure.’
He paid tribute to all the staff and the care they took of the 205 prisoners serving life sentences there.
He said: ‘We were one of the top six prisons in the country so it’s been very difficult for the staff to understand why we were chosen to close.’
The government announced six prisons would close as costs to house prisoners in ageing building escalated and plans were put in place to build a super-prison somewhere in England or Wales.
One of those who attended the ceremony was former governor Muriel Allen MBE, who was the first female governor in England when she took the role at Kingston in 1982.
She said: ‘The reason it was so successful was because it was a small prison.
‘There was a great relationship between the staff and the life sentence prisoners, which was important for the men because they were going to be here for years and years.
‘The prison also had the support of the local community, from the libraries and education service, even to the drama club.
‘We were also proud members of the North End amateur football club league – but of course we could never go to away matches!
‘It was a privilege to serve here.’