Brimstone Hill is on St. Kitts, one of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.
St. Kitts is a nickname for St. Christopher. Columbus, who visited and claimed the island for Spain in 1493, named it after his patron saint. Between 1538 and 1783, the British and the French fought repeatedly over this tiny bit of sugar-producing turf until the Brits finally won out for good.
All this hostility gave birth to the Fortress at Brimstone Hill, a military complex built on a steep hill at the westernmost point of the island overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The British placed the first cannon there in 1690 and, using African slave labor, continued to build up the site over the next hundred years, until it was so large and imposing, it was dubbed the Gibraltar of the West Indies.
In 1783, in Brimstone Hill’s last decisive battle, the French Admiral Comte Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse laid siege to the fort. After a month, heavily outnumbered, the British Admiral Hood surrendered. But then, less than a year afterwards, the French ceded it back to Britain in the Treaty of Paris. Nevertheless, the French Navy made another try for it in 1806. They failed. The British, secure in their possession of the island, abandoned the site in 1853.
My visits to this historic fort took place thirty-seven years apart. The only battle on the site in between my trips was the one for its survival. In 1973, the cannon were still there, as were roofless buildings, walls in disrepair, lots of vines and tropical weeds, and quite a few vicious insects. That very year, HRH Prince Charles also visited Brimstone Hill. Then, restoration began in earnest. In 1985, HRH QEII unveiled a plaque that declared the site a National Park. Then, in 1999 UNESCO named Brimstone Hill as a World Heritage Site. By our second visit in 2011, it was obvious that the good guys (the preservationists) had finally won.
Here’s more of what it looked like on January 11th of 2011, or as I like to write the date 1/11/11.
Annamaria - Monday
Annamaria - Monday