Castle Harbour is an expansive harbour sitting between Hamilton Parish and St. David’s. The harbour holds an important history of its own, providing an integral trade route in the early days of the colony through its main channel, Castle Roads. Here are a few fascinating facts about Castle Harbour and its history.
- Once called Southampton Port, Castle Harbour was renamed when the surrounding islands became fortified in order to protect its entrance, an invaluable shipping route in the 17th century called Castle Roads.
- The word “roads” was once synonymous with waterway, hence how the channel received its name. The channel leading into St. George’s Harbour was only navigable by smaller ships, and thus, Castle Roads became the primary passage for larger vessels at the time. As such, Castle Harbour also became an essential anchorage in its prime.
- With an increase in traffic, Castle Roads became an indispensable trade route for the people of St. George. Removed from the defenses which protected St. George’s Harbour, Castle Harbour was deemed in need of its own defense. Castle Roads was thus heavily fortified with four forts: King’s Castle, Charles Fort, Southampton Fort and Devonshire Redoubt. These forts are known collectively as the Castle Islands Fortifications, spanning a slew of small islands at the southernmost point of the harbour, remnants of which can still be seen today, most notably on Castle Island.
- Castle Island was previously known as King’s Island, with King’s Castle Fort dating back to 1612. This fort is believed to be the oldest standing British fort in Bermuda, erected by the first governor of Bermuda, Richard Moore. In present day, this fort is regarded as the oldest stone fort in the Western Hemisphere.
- In 1614, a garrisoned King’s Castle defended Bermuda against Spain’s sole attack on the island. With only two shots being fired, the Spanish vessel conceded. Unbeknownst to the Spanish, however, was the fact that the King’s Castle artillery held only enough ammunition to fire once more.
- During the Second World War, the fort at Castle Island was used by Bermuda’s military defenses, with soldiers inhabiting the island and fort in tents. The harbour was used as an anchorage for Royal Naval ships, as well.
- Castle Harbour was once the foreground of the iconic Castle Harbour Hotel, operational from 1931 to 1999. The pillared pool overlooked stunning vistas of the harbour, as did the golf course.
- Nowadays, Castle Island’s fortifications are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, grouped with other historic forts like Fort St. Catherine under the title, “Historic Town of St. George and Related Fortifications”.