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Restored forts could be tourism magnet, says heritage leader

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Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Restored historic forts in the East End could attract visitors to the island while educating locals about the island’s history.

Peter Barrett, president of the St George’s Foundation, said that while a significant amount of restoration work remained, the island’s forts represented a largely untapped resource.

Walking through Fort Albert in St George’s, Mr Barrett said: “Bermuda’s never really capitalised on it because money has been too easy coming in from other things like traditional tourism and international business.

“Most Bermudians when they see something like this see something that’s expensive to keep up. It has taken a crisis in tourism for people to start to think about how we could grow tourism.

“Now people are trying to think about what the Unesco World Heritage Status means and how it can help Bermuda. There’s no reason why we can’t have paid people here at the fort running a kitchen and being here to show tourists around.”

He recalled a visit to Scotland in which he encountered a group of Chinese tourists who had come to visit a small, dilapidated castle.

“I thought that all of these people had travelled from China to see that? They should be in Bermuda,” Mr Barrett said. “They would love this. They would go crazy over this.

“Their Visa and Mastercard works just as well here as it does in Scotland. They are not here for one simple reason – there’s no awareness.

“When you look at the quantity of Unesco World Heritage Sites in Bermuda, the concentration that we have in the parish of St George’s alone, it’s probably the most remarkable concentration in the world.”

Peter Barrett, president of the St George’s Foundation, on the roof of the keep at Fort Albert. (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

In addition to ongoing clean-up work at Fort Victoria, the island’s largest fortification, the St George’s Foundation has launched efforts to revitalise the nearby Fort Albert.

“The plan is to clean it up so that locals and tourists and all of mankind can come here during opening hours and enjoy this Unesco World Heritage Site,” he said.

“There’s an enormous amount of work that is needed to be done. Both moats need to be cleaned out, and everywhere around the fort there’s a tremendous amount of foliage.

“In the walls of this keep there are a lot of ficus and other invasives like casuarina, so it’s a huge, huge project, but we will get it done.

“We are going to have to fundraise – we have been fundraising – to do the work. We are going to need heavy equipment to do both moats.”

Trees and debris litter the moat surrounding the keep at Fort Albert.(Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

Fort Albert was originally completed in 1843 to complement and support Fort Victoria and was named after Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.

Unusually, almost all the stone used to build the fort was quarried at the site through the creation of the moat as at the time of its construction most hard stone was needed to build Dockyard.

The fort was renovated between 1865 and 1876 to replace cannons with more advanced rifled muzzle-loading guns but was abandoned by the early 1900s.

The RMLs that had once been housed at the fort were moved to Fort St Catherine in the 1970s after the decision was made to turn that fort into an attraction.

Mr Barrett said: “For some reason I don’t understand they decided it was easier to take the two big guns from Fort Victoria and these four guns here to Fort St Catherine rather than to pick up the original RMLs that were just thrown over the side during the war.”

The site was later modified to host a nightclub as part of the Club Med Hotel property, but was abandoned again when the hotel closed in 1989.

Mr Barrett added: “I really wish I had the opportunity to have come here when it was a nightclub. It would be awesome if someone had film and I can’t help but to think it is out there.”

Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Since then, Mr Barrett said the site had become overgrown and used as an illegal dumping site.

“People saw that some of the things ripped out of the kitchen had been left in the courtyard,” he said. “I imagine the intention was to at some point remove it but when people saw the debris they decided to dump more stuff.

“In the moat you can see more stuff being dumped. There’s a scuba tank and a fire extinguisher down there.”

Mr Barrett said the clean-up of the fort had already made some headway, and highlighted the contributions of students from Somersfield Academy.

“We had a huge turnout of about 30 kids at Fort Victoria for three days, and the experience for them was positive, so they decided to allocate their days of giving here at the east side, but much smaller groups,” he said. “They have cleared all this up and cut all this back.”

Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Light enters the keep at Fort Hamilton. (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)
Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Fort Albert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 13, 2023 at 7:53 am (Updated February 13, 2023 at 7:53 am)

Restored forts could be tourism magnet, says heritage leader

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