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Fort Shirley

Date de soumission : 05/02/2015
Critères: (ii)(iv)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Dominica National Commission for UNESCO
Coordonnées N 15.36 W 61.20
Ref.: 6020
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Description

Fort Shirley is part of the Cabrits National Park in the north of Dominica and can be considered Dominica’s most important historic site and was the scene of the famous revolt of the 8th West India Regiment in 1802 when African slave soldiers took over the garrison for three days in protest over conditions there and the fear of being sent to work in the canefields. Their action resulted in all slave soldiers in the British Empire being made free in 1807.

Fort Shirley succeeded as being a deterrent to attack Dominica on a number of occasions particularly during the French invasions of Dominica in 1795 and 1805. The most important naval battle in the Caribbean – the battle of the Saints which took place on April 12th 1782 was fought within sight of the ramparts.

The British undertook most of the construction of the Fort but the French made significant additions during their occupation of Dominica from 1778 – 1784. Together they amassed a garrison comprising one fort, seven gun batteries, seven cisterns, powder magazines, ordnance storehouses, bakeries, iron forge, barracks and other officers’ quarters to house and provide for over 600 men on regular duty along with their support staff of artisans and slaves.

With the end of hostilities between Britain and France, the garrison became obsolete and was finally abandoned in 1854. It remained in the hands of the British Admiralty until 1901 when it was transferred to the government of the colony and remained designated as Crown Land. Occasionally it was used as a quarantine and agricultural station.

From 1982 Dominican historian and anthropologist, Dr. Lennox Honychurch, has devoted much time and effort in restoring sections of Fort Shirley. The parts which have been restored are the Officers’ Quarters, the Soldiers’Barracks, Powder Magazine, Ordnance Store, Guard House and Ramparts.

The restored Officer’s Quarters has already become a venue for receptions, conferences, lectures and similar activities. Walking trails have been opened up along the military roads that linked all sections of the garrison. Fort Shirley now has a multi-purpose use as both a tourism site as well as an active centre for visitors and nationals.

The Cabrits National Park, which includes Fort Shirley, was established as a National Park in 1986 under the National Parks Act of 1975.

Fort Shirley is also part of a group of Eastern Caribbean Coastal Fortifications – structures which are tangible symbols of a European desire to defend the smaller islands for their valuable commodities. They were constructed by skilled slave labour. Their construction shows recognition of the principal role the sea played in the respective islands’ existence.

Coastal Fortifications were initially erected to ward off heavily armed buccaneers. They evolved into interlocking gun platforms that provided militias a fighting chance against invading regular forces. They are one of the most tangible examples of the wealth produced in the Windward Islands and their respective coloniser’s attempts to protect their trade.

Historical data and observations suggest that the period from 1745 until 1815 the West Indies was one of the most important regions in the world due to the value of the cash crops grown there. Envious of Britain’s expanding empire; other colonial powers, particularly France and Spain sought more control of the mercantile economy. This struggle for maritime supremacy saw Britain at war for fifty-one (51) of the seventy-one (71) years between 1745 and 1815 during which time the Windward Islands became a primary transatlantic theatre of operations.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle

The history of Fort Shirley, which includes the mutiny of the African slave soldiers, makes it one of the most intriguing of historical accounts at any fort. The revolt of the 8th West India Regiment took place in 1802 when African slave soldiers took over the garrison for three days in protest over conditions there and the fear of being sent to work in the canefields. Their action resulted in all slave soldiers in the British Empire being emancipated in 1807.

The land and sea area surrounding Fort Shirley is considered worthy of maintenance as an historic area of great importance. First it was inhabited by the Kalinago indigenous people of Dominica, who at one time had settlements all over the island. There were many exchanges between the Kalinago people and the Europeans. The Kalinago would trade goods with the Europeans who would stop at Prince Rupert’s Bay to replenish some of their supplies including fresh drinking water and wood. African slaves were also brought into Dominica through Prince Rupert’s Bay and some of them were recruited to form the 8th West India Regiment.

Fort Shirley is located on Dominica which forms part of the Eastern Caribbean Islands archipelago which includes Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Martinique, Commonwealth of Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Eustatius, Dutch Sint Maarten, French Saint Martin and the British Virgin Islands.

The chain of islands with each having its own unique traits and architectural design of coastal fortifications provide a window into the military, social and economic history of the region, and of the western world, during a specific period of time. Apart from Dominica’s Fort Shirley other examples are Fort George in Grenada, Fort Duvernette in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Fort Rodney in Saint Lucia, Charles Fort in St. Kitts and Nevis and Fort Amsterdam in Dutch Sint Maarten.

The Amerindians, Tainos, Kalinago migrating from South America upwards to the Leeward Islands moved in and out of the islands with ease for thousands of years BC during which they exchanged goods and services on a barter basis. The network of routes connecting the chain of islands with each other was further developed into sophisticated mercantile routes  by the Europeans in a profitable circular model coined by Geoffrey Till  as a virtuous maritime circle based on maritime trade, maritime resources, naval strength and maritime supremacy.

Fort Shirley is part of the Cabrits National Park which is protected under Dominica’s National Parks Act of 1975. Fort Shirley is managed by the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and the on-site manager is historian and anthropologist Dr. Lennox Honychurch.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

Construction on Fort Shirley in Dominica began in 1765. It took many years for the construction work to be completed and there were many stages in the construction phase. Most of the construction work was carried out in the 1790’s. The Fort was designed by British Royal Engineers and the main British Officers involved were Fraser and Bruce. Fraser was also instrumental in designing other forts in the Eastern Caribbean. The style of architecture is Georgian.

Fort Shirley is a very important archaeological and architectural site and cultural landscape surrounded by a very attractive and spectacular marine environment. The Fort is located within the Cabrits National Park which is made up of impressive terrestrial, historical and marine elements. It is an area which had strong indigenous Kalinago presence and influence.

The existing infrastructure on Fort Shirley indicates that the Fort was once like a self-contained little town. The history of the Fort, which includes the mutiny of the African slave soldiers, makes it a very unique and compelling story. Restoration work has been taking place at Fort Shirley from 1982. The parts which have been restored so far are the Officers’ Quarters, the Soldiers’ Barracks, Powder Magazine, Ordnance Store, Guard House and Ramparts.

The Fort is located within a volcanic crater. The crater was utilised as part of the defence strategy of the British. The Fort was part of a network of defence along the Lesser Antilles in the international conflicts between Britain and France in the 18th and 19th centuries. This network of defence included Forts in St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dutch Sint Maarten.

The Fort has grown to become a major national heritage site in Dominica. The Dominican population recognises the value and significance of the Fort. The government of Dominica has continually financed restoration work at the Fort since 2007. There was also restoration work which preceded 2007 and which was funded mainly by the European Union Eco-Tourism Development Programme.

Fort Shirley is part of the Cabrits National Park which is protected under Dominica’s National Parks Act of 1975. Fort Shirley is managed by the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and the on-site manager is historian and anthropologist Dr. Lennox Honychurch.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

Fort Shirley and the Cabrits National Park share the similarities with other major fortifications of the Caribbean in that it is a defence system protecting a port city and serving as a garrison for colonial forces.

Such a defence complex is comparable to other World Heritage sites in the Caribbean region such as El Morro Fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Ann’s Garrison in Bridgetown, Barbados and Brimstone Hill Fortress in St. Kitts.

The Fort Shirley and Cabrits National Park site is unique in its historical context as the location of the revolt of the 8th West Indian Regiment. This event had repercussions around the world in that it resulted in the emancipation of all slave soldiers in the British Empire in 1807.

Other reasons which make the property stand out is its spectacular location overlooking Prince Rupert’s Bay and Douglas Bay on the North-Western coast of Dominica. This location includes outstanding natural features such as a protected marine zone covering 1000 acres of coral reefs and turtle grass beds. The 313-acre headland is covered in vegetation which is classified as coastal Dry Scrub Woodland.