Conservation works at Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park completed

Monday, 24 August 2020
access_time 2 min read
© PercivalHanley

Conservation works to reinforce Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a World Heritage property in the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, have been completed.

The works were started in August 2019 with the deconstruction of sections of the fortress wall that were too weak. Care was taken to ensure that the stones were placed according to the original style of construction, and it was evident that the original wall was constructed in different periods, each with a different style. No Portland cement was used, and the mortar (lime) was mixed with sand and crushed aggregate from the local quarry. The conservation of the Orillon Bastion was completed at the end of November 2019.

Following an earthquake in 2013, an engineering assessment was undertaken, which revealed that a large section of the approximately 20ft tall original gravity stone retaining wall of the Orillon Bastion was showing significant cracks which could result in the collapse of a major section of the bastion’s curtain walls and the adjacent cemetery for non-commissioned officers, and lead to further destruction of the historic fabric of the site. It was therefore determined that urgent conservation works would need to be implemented through a conservation and capacity-building initiative. 

From August 2016 to September 2017, UNESCO assisted in the implementation of conservation works, which included a training workshop - facilitated by an ICOMOS military fortifications expert - on the Conservation and Management of Military Architecture-related World Heritage Properties of the Caribbean in November 2016, involving participants who manage military architecture throughout the Caribbean. Unfortunately, about two weeks after the workshop, a portion of the wall of the Orillon Bastion collapsed as a result of heavy rains, further undermining the structural deficiencies resulting from the earthquake.

In November 2018, before the recent works were begun, topographical, hydrological and archaeological surveys were undertaken by the University of Tennessee and Texas State University, which led experts to conclude that certain portions of the remaining wall would have to be taken down as they were weak and in danger of collapsing.

The present conservation works as well as the previous project 'Capacity Building assistance for the conservation and management of Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park' in 2016 were both implemented with the support of UNESCO through funding from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park was built in the seventeenth century and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999 as an outstanding British fortress, built by slave labour to exact standards during a peak period of European colonial expansion in the Caribbean, because of its strategic layout and construction. It is an exceptional and well-preserved example of 17th and 18th century British military architecture.

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park © PercivalHanley

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park © PercivalHanley