910 Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park – 1999

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is an outstanding, well-preserved example of 17th- and 18th-century military architecture in a Caribbean context. Designed by the British and built by African slave labour, the fortress is testimony to European colonial expansion, the African slave trade and the emergence of new societies in the Caribbean.

Brief Synthesis

is a remarkable example of European military engineering dating from the 17th and 18th centuries in a Caribbean context. Located on the Island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) the country's largest island, the fortress was built to African slave labour to the exacting standards of the British military to protect the coastline from a sea attack and to provide a safe refuge for the island's citizens. The engineers, who designed the fort, made use of the natural topography of this double-peaked, steep volcanic hill rising 230 metres.

St. Christopher (St. Kitts) as the first West Indian Island to be colonized by Europeans, specifically the French and English, was the scene of many battles in the struggle for dominance in this region. The earliest use of Brimstone Hill for European military purposes was in 1690 when the British installed a canon to drive out the French. The fortress evolved over the next century and served until 1853 when the British military abandoned it and dismantled many of the buildings.

The principal structures of the fortress are situated on different levels of the upper third of the hill and were constructed in dressed stone (basalt) blocks with a rubble core. Local limestone was used as a decorative element for quoins and for facing round doorways and embrasures. Quarries on the middle and lower slopes of the hill provided much of the stone. The heart of the fortress, Fort George also known as the Citadel, dominates one of the twin peeks. Completed towards the end of the 1700s, this is the earliest surviving example of the “Polygonal System” of fortress design. The entire site covers approximately 15 hectares surrounded by a 1.6 km (1 mile) buffer zone.

Criterion (iii):

Brimstone Hill is an outstanding British fortress, built by slave labour to exact standards during a peak period of European colonial expansion in the Caribbean.

Criterion (iv):

Because of its strategic layout and construction, Brimstone Hill Fortress is an exceptional and well preserved example of 17th and 18th century British military architecture



The property is defined by a boundary at base of the hill and as such includes all the various parts of the fortress. Although some buildings were demolished when the site was abandoned by the British in 1853, most of the significant structures dating from the close of the 18th century are intact and visible. Many others are in ruins and are stabilized. The various structures and infrastructure including bastions, barracks, cisterns, retaining walls, roadways and pathways occupying different levels, form part of an integrated complex which illustrate various periods of fortress design and construction and speak to the historical forces which led to its erection. No threats to integrity have been identified.


As a historic military defensive ensemble, the fortress possesses a high level of authenticity. Its strategic siting on a hill to protect the coastline is still evident. Stabilization, restoration and reconstruction projects, carried out since 1965, have involved the discreet use of modern materials, usually in combination with traditional materials. Portland cement has been used for the preparation of mortars, but mixed with lime in recommended proportions. New stone used in reconstructions has been worked according to traditional techniques. Where wood has been used for reconstructions and original timbers are unavailable, care has been taken to apply authentic dimensions and wood-working techniques.

In recent years some concessions have been made to contemporary technologies, in the interest of strength and durability and the overarching imperative of maintaining structural integrity. Interventions are however not apparent, and great attention is paid to authenticity of form and design.

Some original buildings have been reconstructed for tourist use such as the visitor's centre housed in the reconstructed Commissariat Building (opened in 1992). Other facilities such as the Prince of Wales Bastion Conference and Banquet Centre (1997) have been added to the site.

Protection and management requirements

The National Conservation and Environment Protection Act (1987) of St. Christopher and Nevis declared Brimstone Hill a National Park (hence protected) and gave the Society (BHFNPS) administrative responsibility. The non-governmental BHFNPS is registered as a not-for-profit company with a Council of Management that includes elected representatives of its members and two Government appointees.

The General Manager for the site, appointed by the Council of the BHFNPS, is supported by an Operations Manager, a Park Manager and sixteen other members of staff. A local security firm provides two personnel every day. Experts in conservation and museum development are engaged as needs arise. The BHFNPS enjoys excellent relationships with the Tourism Authority and Ministry, the Hotel and Tourism Association, local tour operators and the St. Christopher National Trust. It also engages with the National Planning Authority, the Public Works Department and the Police.

Protection of the site is further assured by the National Physical Development Act (2000) which also defines a buffer zone of 1.6 km around the base of the hill. Monitoring of the site is an ongoing process. The Management Team, comprising the three managers and administrative supervisor, meets every three months.

A programme of stabilization and restoration is continuous. In fulfilling the responsibility of providing access to the site and information of the its value to all, some structures and spaces have been deployed to facilitate interpretation and provide visitor amenities. Others are used to present or illustrate their original functions. The gradual restoration of various buildings and development have been based on studies and plans such as a 1983  feasibility study supported by the US National Parks Service and two 1989 studies of the restoration of the site and its potential for tourist development.

An overall development plan is augmented from time to time by specific projects as presented by the General Manager and approved by Council, as well as by Recommendations of contracted experts. There are guidelines in place for disaster preparedness and mitigation. A more comprehensive Disaster Plan is contemplated.

There a two significant threats: one social, the other physical. In recent years crime has become a major social problem and Brimstone Hill, like other properties, is vulnerable to attack. Assault upon or injury to visitors could impact disastrously upon the viability of the BHFNPS which depends heavily upon visitation to the site. A strategic plan is being discussed with the local security forces.

Potentially, the most damaging impacts, not only in financial viability, but also on the National Park itself, can result from rock falls and land slippage. Much of the hillside is steep and rocky – including that section from the edge of the citadel overlooking the entrance/exit road below. Sustained heavy rainfall and severe earthquake could send earth or rocks tumbling below. Fortunately, that area is well sheltered and the thick vegetation affords some protection. The long term strategy would be to relocate the road. This would itself affect the integrity of the site. Meanwhile, the area is monitored periodically, especially after sustained heavy rains when, on occasion, the Park is closed to the public.

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