Whither Fort Charlotte?
Paul H. Williams, Hospitality Jamaica Writer
It is one of the vestiges of the British occupation of Jamaica, Fort Charlotte. Charlotte was the consort of King George III and the fortress was named for her.
Barracks to house 50 soldiers were also constructed.
Built in 1761, at one end of Lucea's Harbour, in Hanover, it was to protect the north northwest section of the island. The extremely thick walls are made of rectangular cut-stones, and consist of a series of arches.
Twenty-three embrasures (openings) were built in the fort. Cannons were mounted on 20 of them. Three more cannons, on traversing carriages, were added in 1807. No war on record was fought at Fort Charlotte, a section of which is on the campus of Rusea's High School.
Three of the cannons are still mounted in the main courtyard. They are undergoing various stages of weathering by the salt from the sea. Some amount of flaking is taking place. The remnant of the circular base of a platform that was constructed to rotate guns in several directions is still visible. The buttressed artillery store,also made of cut-stones, is in a very good state of preservation.
From this national heritage site there are great views of the sea, headland, mountains to the south, and the Lucea Harbour. It needs a storyboard to give visitors information on its evolution and history, and protection rails.
Over the years attempts have been made to turn Fort Charlotte into Lucea's tourism magnet, but the diamond in the rough is yet to sparkle under the Caribbean sun. Who is finally going to take her, wash the salt from her face, doll her up, and embraced her tightly? Not King George III. He is long dead.
In late 2014, the then mayor of Lucea, Wynter McIntosh, announced plans for the refurbishment of Fort Charlotte. Such plans were to be activated the following year.
During the latter part of last year, preliminary work to renovate the Hanover Parish Council-owned property started with the clearing of dilapidated structures, and the preparation of the area on which a parking lot was to be built. The project was funded by the Tourism Enhancement Funds and managed by the Tourism Product Development Company(TPDCo).
The Georgian style architecture was to be maintained in the construction of buildings, such as an amphitheatre, a museum, gift shops and restaurants. Guard rails and a ticket booth were also in the drafts. Throngs of visitors it was hoped would be overrunning the project in the first quarter of this year.
In August when Hospitality Jamaica visited there was no semblance of restorative work that was done, or being done. There was no piped water, electricity, and sanitary facilities, and the area designed a car park was still unpaved. A JUTA minivan brought about four white people, but in a jiffy they were gone.
Similar plans for restoration were made in 2001 when TPDco allocated $2 million towards that endeavour. A dispute between the Hanover Parish Council and the National Works Agencies, which had buildings on the property, prevented the implementation of the plans. What happened to that money?
And in 2011 there was another big buzz surrounding the revival of the moribund Charlotte. The hovering bald-pated Jamaican buzzards had their doubts. They had heard it before, and poor Charlotte did not hold her breath, and she still is not.
She is used to decades of abandonment and unfulfilled promises, and can only cry salty tears as she looks out to sea, reminiscing about her glory days.The soothing sea breeze that caresses her night and day is her only succour, whispering into her ears, hush, hush, sweet Charlotte.