Monday, February 25, 2013

Gibraltar of the Caribbean

Brimstone Hill Fortress

Ft. Brimstone was constructed by African slave labor over a period of almost 100 years back when the French and English were squabbling over control of the Caribbean.  It is strategically situated on the northwest corner of St. Kitts and from there you can see six islands including Saba, St. Martin and Montserrat.

The first cannon was hauled up the hill in 1690 by the British with the intent of capturing the French built Ft. Charles on the shore below.

After successfully recapturing Ft. Charles, the British quarried the local volcanic rock, produced cement using limestone kilns, and built walls that range from 6’ to 10’ thick.

By 1736, Ft. Brimstone had 49 cannons, many were the 24-pounders that were considered the most formidable weapon of their time.

The fort comprises 11 different areas sprawled over 40 acres on three levels.

The lower placements sit 100’ to 300’ below the citadel on the top.

The fortress looks impenetrable, but it was taken by the French in 1782.  Eight thousand French troops laid siege to the fort that was defended by 1,000 soldiers from the Royal Scots.  The battle lasted 30 days and bought valuable time for Britain’s Admiral Hood and Admiral Rodney to inflict heavy damage to the French fleet.

After the British surrendered, the French graciously allowed the British to march out with full military honors.

The Treaty of Versailles returned the fort to British control.  Ft. Brimstone remained an active British outpost until 1852 when it was abandoned.

The Society for the Preservation of Brimstone Hill was founded in 1965 and turned the overgrown ruins into a tourist attraction.  In 1973 H.R.H. Prince Charles re-opened the first restoration.  While we were visiting, archaeologists were busy digging near some ruins and were excited to find that the ruins were formerly a latrine.  They interrupted their labor when Pollie showed an interest and attempted to recruit her.  Should you be interested, contact Caribbean Volunteer Expedition at

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