Brimstone Hill Fortress UNESCO World Heritage Site
Inscribed by UNESCO in 1999 as a World Heritage Site, Brimstone Hill Fortress is a site of “outstanding universal value” due to its historical, cultural and architectural significance and a monument to the ingenuity of the British Military engineers who designed and supervised its construction and to the skill, strength and endurance of the enslaved Africans who built and maintained it.
The scale and magnificence of the Fortress is testimony to the actual and symbolic importance of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) during the 17th and 18th centuries. The first Caribbean island to be permanently settled by both the English and the French (who shared the island between 1627 and 1713), St. Christopher, known as Liamuiga (Fertile Island) by the welcoming native Amerindians, proved successful and provided a model and springboard for English and French colonialism in the Caribbean and elsewhere. From this island, which came to be known as the “Mother Colony of the West Indies”, other settlements were established and, for a brief time, administered.
The islands of the Caribbean, including St. Christopher, were the producers of great wealth for much of Europe and therefore well worth defending. As a result many forts were built throughout the islands.
Brimstone Hill is one of the best and grandest examples of such fortresses. The Fortress was developed to defend and protect this valuable sugar-rich island. Because of its formidable defences it became known as “The Gibraltar of the West Indies”.
The Fortress in general is of singular importance as being the remains of a large, complete military community of the 18th Century and Napoleanic periods, unaltered by later developments. As such it is a veritable time capsule of international significance. Brimstone Hill Fortress, then, is indicative of the signal role of the island to the early development of colonialism: it is a memorial to slavery, but also a monument, in the “New World” to the work of two geographically separated and culturally distinct peoples of the “Old World”; and it provides a window through which international history and cross-cultural influences may be understood.
Brimstone Hill is nearly 800 feet high with steep precipitous slopes. These slopes had to be tamed by the disciplines of engineering and architecture and at the risk and probable loss of human lives. Level sites for bastions had to be prepared, retaining walls at different levels had to be built on sheer surfaces; and through the whole complex, a roadway and pathways had to be laid out. The system of water collection, distribution and storage (capable of at least 250,000 gallons) is itself a marvel of engineering.
The walls of the structures are predominantly of stone, laboriously and skilfully fashioned from the hard volcanic rock of which the hill is composed. The mortar to cement the stones was produced onsite from the limestone which covers much of the middle and lower slopes. The Fortress is virtually a man-made outgrowth of a natural hill.
The physical location of the Fortress presents attractive and breathtaking panoramic vistas of forested mountains, cultivated fields, the historical town of Sandy Point below and neighbouring Dutch, English and French islands across the Caribbean Sea. It is a perfect setting for enjoying the beauties of nature and reflecting upon the turbulent history of these Caribbean Islands.
No visit to St. Kitts is complete without a visit to this marvellous World Heritage Site. Visit the Orientation Centre and watch an informative video of the history and legacy of the Fortress, then visit the Fort George Citadel and its museum rooms to read and absorb the captivating history. Be sure to make a stop at the Gift Shop where you can choose from an array of items including local crafts and the largest collection of historical Caribbean maps and prints on the island.
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is open every day from 9:30a.m. to 5:30p.m.