Dominica – Fort Shirley

Historical site in a beautiful location
Visitors are lucky to have access to incredible historic places that have stories like this one. Of course, over the years, construction was restored, since it was decommissioned in 1844, but the results are lovely and the major buildings are clean. It would have been better to have the incredible shaking events explained by a guide but we did not find any. The park was pretty vacant when we visited.
The events here go beyond the typical military British defense actions. In those days, the British territories best discouragement force to face potential invasions from outsiders was to build a fort. Though a major rebellious event happened here, it was from the inside and within the walls of the fortress. This incident takes us to a totally different aspect of the context of the time.

Fort Shirley’s construction started around 1768, while under the British presence. At its peak, about 600 men were living in the territory and around 50 buildings were built making it similar to an almost independant small village. The dominance of the Regiment installation kept the rivals afar. In April 1782, for 3 days, the Battle of the Saintes, a major naval battle was won by the British and thousands of French were killed, wounded or captured. This event happened within sight of the fort. It was an immense tragedy.

The conditions were not that trouble-free and territorial thirst kept the men under defense all the time. The British were short of hands so slaves were sent from Africa to serve the officers and to do hard handwork. One day, in April 1802, the Black Man converted their nicknames to an invasion code where they raised their forces to obtain more equity. They kept hostages and the garrison was under tension for 3 days. Tragically, many slaves were punished and killed for raising their voices. However, their actions during this time at Fort Shirley is one of the first recorded resurgences that freed the military slaves 5 years later.
The island of Dominica is not big but has dense forest and hills that can discourage any non-resident. When the British, the French and again, the British, took control of this isolated piece of land, they pushed and killed many natives of the island. A small group was able to escape and hid in a secluded area of the island that colonists did not find. The monarchy later gave them a territorial area but that was decades later.

The fort is located on the grounds of the Cabrits National Park. You will see here a contrast décor with other sectors on the island. The perfectly cut green grass and solid stone buildings are still standing even after the passage of major Hurricane Maria. While other ruins are now hidden under growing vegetation, some military constructions have been restored. The Officers’ Quarters is now used as a reception hall, excellent for wedding celebrations. If you have a chance to visit, I personally liked the painting on the second floor. The grounds can, without difficulty, accommodate outdoor gatherings. If you are curious to find ruins, walk on one of the park’s trails to maybe find one or more. The views from the fort of the island are gorgeous. The bay, the beach and the green hills give a distinct perceptive of the island.

The fort is located on the north part of the island close to Portsmouth town.

For the importance of the event in the history that occurred at this park, it is considered one of the most important historical sites on the island, if not the most.

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