Why were Forts necessary?
Small colonies like St. Kitts always were in danger of being taken by the enemy especially during wartime. There had to be a protective force on island at all times to guard both people and property. Many of these forces were voluntary, as in the Militia but during the Colonial years, the British Government sent out troops of soldiers who occupied the forts.
Names of the Forts
There were four forts in Basseterre stretching along the Bay front and thus providing security for the whole town. They were not all constructed at one time nor were they all standing at the same time. Today there is little left of any of them.
Location of the Forts
From West to East, there was Fort Thomas previously known as Bluff Point, Fort Londonderry, Fort Pine and Fort Smith. Few remains of these forts still exist. The most obvious reminder is the street named for the forts; Fort Street.
Costs of construction
Huge sums of money coming from both the Biritish Government and locally were used to construct these forts.
Besides the troops sent out by the Kings and Queens of England, there were local “volunteers” who raised troops called the Militia. Each estate had to “volunteer” one man and a horse and the trappings for the horse. The Militia added support to HM’s troops when needed.
Fort Thomas or Bluff Point
When Fort Thomas or Fort Bluff was in its heyday, it was armed with eight 24 pound guns facing the sea. Its elevation at the time was 53 feet above sea level.
Of all the forts which were located in Basseterre, this one is the most well known today as it has become the venue for many different events. Originally after its use as a fort it was used as a quarantine hospital for the troops which fell ill. It is located in what is known as the Fortlands named for their vicinity to the fort itself. The lands at one time were all cane fields. In the 20th century Fort Thomas was the site for a Holiday Inn, the well known chain of inns. After that it became known as the Fort Thomas Hotel for a few years. More recently it was the original home of the St. Kitts Music Festival until that venue was moved to Warner Park. It is presently being used as the “home” of part of the Defense Force, ironically coming full circle to house a military type group.
This fort stood on the site of the first French fort on the island and was located centrally on the Bay Road between Brownbill Street to Fort Street. Some of its walls remain, as well as part of the magazine. A magazine is where the ammunition was stored. There is also another small area of stone construction which may have been either ordinance storage or cook house. A study of the remains is yet to be done.
There is no evidence left of this fort today. It was located near to where the Sol oil storage facility is located today. When it was operational it held two 24 pound guns and was only 6.5 feet above sea level approximately the same level as Fort Londonderry near to it.
This fort was located in Bird Rock on the premises now known as the Lighthouse. There are still a few reminders of it left today. If you look carefully through the fence you can see some of the stonework left from this fort.