History and museums
Fort Charlotte is a British-colonial era fort, built on a hill overlooking the harbor of Kingstown, Saint Vincent. It is located in the parish of Saint Andrew. At the top of Edinboro road, on Berkshire Hill, just west of the town.
Standing at 600 feet above the sea level, it is the major early 19th-century fortification in Saint Vincent. The fort enjoys a panoramic view of the Leeward side of the island, including Kingstown, Young Island, the Caribbean, Bequia and the Grenadines. On a clear day, Grenada 90 miles to the south, can be seen (using binoculars, of course.)
Construction started in 1763 and was completed by 1806. In its heyday, it supported 600 troops and 34 guns. Some cannons are dated 1811.
It was built to defend against the French attack, Carib unrest, and slave rebellion. The British garrison was to use it for holding out against any French invading forces while the Royal Navy brought reinforcements from other islands. The British had learned a lesson when the French invaded the island at Calliaqua in 1779 thus proving that any likely attack on the island would come from any location, rather than directly on Kingstown itself or from the sea. Consequently, the fort was built as a redoubt accessed by a viaduct; with its cannon pointing inland.
The fort was named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George III.
At various times the fort was used as a poorhouse, Leper colony, and mental hospital. These institutions were housed in now ruined Barracks facing the Kingstown harbor, at the bottom of the hill. The fort served as the Vincentian prison. The main barracks building housed a women’s prison capable of holding 50 prisoners, commonly held up to 15 prisoners closed in mid-2015. The dry moat was used as the women prisoner’s exercise yard.
Some of the old barracks (the officers’ quarters) now house a small museum with a colorful painted history of the Black Caribs or Garifuna.
The fort is the home of the Fort Charlotte Light, which acts as a beacon for the entrance to Kingstown Bay, it gives off three white flashes every 20 seconds. The Coastguard radio station and harbor signal station are based here too.