On the north-eastern hilltop of St. George’s, sits the island’s largest coastal artillery, Fort St. Catherine. Steeped in rich history and offering expansive ocean views, this parcel of land marks the beginning of the Imperial fortress colony of Bermuda. Here are 5 facts about this east end treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site to know before you visit!
- Fort St. Catherine is at the heart of Bermuda’s history and colonization. The site overlooks St. Catherine’s beach, where Admiral Sir George Somers shipwrecked the Sea Venture in 1609. Shortly after the original settlers arrived onto Bermuda’s shores, a smaller wooden fort was built by the island’s first governor, Richard Moore, in 1612. Today, an expansive stone fortification stands proudly in its place. The purpose of the forts eastern coastline position was very tactical in the sense that, foreign vessels who made their way into the main channel around St. George’s island had to travel nearer to shore due to the constraints of surrounding reefs. Incoming vessels could then be targeted with ease by 5 defending cannons that could release shells weighing up to 400 pounds.
- The evolution of Fort St. Catherine has seen at least five renovations in its time. At the end of the 19th century, The Royal Navy had secured Bermuda as a primary base in the Western Hemisphere which called for greater military protection. The British Royal Engineers made the last known additions to the fort which included the construction of concrete firing positions fitted with 18 tonne 10-inch rifled muzzle-loading (RML) guns. The fort fell into disuse by the first half of the 20th century and subsequently opened to the public as a museum and national park in 1951. Since then, the Department of Parks has completed modern refurbishments to increase signage and make areas more accessible for the public to enjoy.
- Previously, the grounds of the fort doubled as a centre stage for theatrical plays. In 1953, an open-air production of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, was performed here starring Academy Award-winning actor, Charlton Heston as the title role. The performance, directed by Burgess Meredith, involved a variety of daring theatrics. According to Heston’s biography, during the first performance of Macbeth in Bermuda, his tights caught fire causing serious burns to his legs.
- The interior of the fort boasts several informative exhibits, that each have something different to offer. The most memorable items on display include replicas of England’s crown jewels, antique weapons, and military artefacts such as uniforms. Making your way around the fort is truly a memorable and historical experience. Visitors will navigate dimly lit passageways, explore hidden chambers and climb to the top of lookout towers with rewarding ocean views.
- The fort is open to visitors on weekdays from 10 AM – 4 PM with admission rates of $7 for adults, $3 for children (aged 6-15), and those aged 5 and under can enter for free. St. Catherine’s Beach also known as Gates Bay Beach, which accompanies the land of the fort, is also open for the public to enjoy. The walls of the fort that line the coastline of the bay act as a great snorkelling spot where you will find coral habitats and residing marine life.