Conservation works at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
The UNESCO World Heritage Site in the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, is built in the seventeenth century and inscribed as World Heritage in 1999 as an ‘outstanding British fortress, built by slave labour to exact standards during a peak period of European colonial expansion in the Caribbean, because of its strategic layout and construction, and is an exceptional and well preserved example of 17th and 18th century British military architecture.
Following an earthquake in 2013, an engineering assessment was undertaken, which revealed that a large section of the approximately 20ft tall original gravity stone retaining wall of the Orillon Bastion was showing significant cracks which could result in the collapse of a major section of the bastion’s curtain walls, the non-commissioned officers’ cemetery adjacent, and lead to further destruction of the historic fabric of the site. It was therefore determined that urgent conservation works would need to be implemented, delivered through a conservation and capacity-building initiative.
From August 2016 – September 2017, UNESCO assisted in the implementation of conservation works, which included a training workshop – facilitated by an ICOMOS military fortifications expert – on the Conservation and Management of Military Architecture-related World Heritage Properties of the Caribbean in November 2016, involving participants who manage military architecture throughout the Caribbean. Unfortunately, about 2 weeks after the workshop, a portion of the wall of the Orillon Bastion collapsed as a result of heavy rains further undermining the structural deficiencies already existing from the earthquake.
Restoration works were undertaken from August 2019 by Parvenir Restoration and Maintenance Company Limited out of Trinidad and Tobago, which began with the deconstruction of sections of the wall that were too weak. Care was taken to ensure that the stones were placed according to the original style of construction, and it was evident that the original wall was constructed in different periods, each with a different style. No Portland cement was used, and the mortar (lime) was mixed with sand and crushed aggregate from the local quarry.
This capacity-building conservation initiative was implemented with the support of UNESCO through funding from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust.