Fort Charlotte


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On Berkshire Hill, just west of town, and over 600 feet above the bay, is Fort Charlotte. Named after King George III’s wife Duchess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz  , the fortification was constructed in 1806. In its heyday, it supported 600 troops and 34 guns. Some of the old barracks now house a museum with the colorful history of the Black Caribs depicted on its walls.



Huge, cracked blocks glued together by old concrete make up the ancient walls of Fort Charlotte. Rusted, lofty gates and a long, mossy pebble stone courtyard welcome guests. Tour guides accompany visitors down into the deep, dark dungeons of the fort. Down flights of rickety stairs they go, showing the visitors the tiny jail cells where prisoners were held. The fort is also the home of the St. Vincent Signal Station which provides a 24 hour radio (VHF) monitoring system.


There does not seem to be a definitive date when the construction of the Fort started. In an account by Bryan Edwards of Sir William Young’s visit to Berkshire Hill St.Vincent, it seems to suggest that the fort existed or was in a state of construction at least in 1792.


Bryan Edwards writes of Sir William Young’s visit to the fortifications:  “Friday January 6th 1792: I visited Berkshire Hill and went over the fortifications. The hill itself is a rock, and, from its precipices, is scarcely assailable; where it is so, parts have been cut away, and, take art and nature together, the place may be deemed impregnable. The point above hath been flatted off, so as to admit room on its surface for most commodious barracks for a complete regiment, stores, reservoirs, etc and all bomb-proof.”

Another source states the following: “At the top of a winding road on the north side of Kingstown, Fort Charlotte (tel. 784/456-1165) was built on Johnson Point around the time of the American Revolution (late seventeen hundreds). The ruins aren't much -- the reason to come here is the view. The fort sits atop a steep promontory some 192m (630 ft.) above the sea. From its citadel, you'll have a sweeping view of the leeward shores to the north, Kingstown to the south, and The Grenadines beyond. On a clear day, you can even see Grenada. Three cannons used to fight off French troops are still in place and there's a series of oil murals depicting the history of black Caribs. Admission is free, and the fort is open daily 6am to 6pm”.

Today, Fort Charlotte is also used as a ‘real prison’ and in 2001 a report indicated that there were 348 male prisoners and in a separate section (I wonder why) there were 13 female inmates.  Capital punishment is carried out here and if you are a little squeamish don’t read the rest of this article.


A few miles outside our port of Kingstown we sailed under the shadow of Fort Charlotte, named for the wife of King George III. Its spiky gray mass dominated the rugged cliffs and the tiny settlement nearly a thousand feet below.

"It has been attacked many times," Don Carlos Jack said.

He provided us a running commentary on the history of the island and it ways. Neither Napoleon's navies nor the implacable black Caribs had much success against the fort, he explained. Now the gray stone monolith doubled as a prison and occasional tourist attraction. The death penalty was enforced in these parts, and the last soul to be hanged at the fort was a Vincentian woman who had butchered her husband, his lover, and the lover's several children. Don Carlos Jack pointed to a platform where the gallows had been erected and the hanging carried out.

"It was a terrible crime," Don Carlos Jack said. "They say she was a Carib. So the fort is still good for something."

"You think it is good to hang people?"

"Take life. Lose life. Balance. They say she kicked at the end of the rope for a long time."