Fort James Antigua – Largely Forgotten, Though Still Worth a Look
As titanic strongholds emblematic of the Caribbean’s tumultuous colonial past go, Fort James Antigua leaves a bit to be desired. It’s small. Few remnants of its heyday remain. This is no Citadelle Laferrière, El Morro, or Fort Saint Louis. At the same time, though, it’s very much worth seeking out. And not just for its history either.
Fort James Antigua was built by the British, though not altogether that quickly. Construction started in 1706. Most of the buildings, though, didn’t spring up until 1739. During this period, the Union Jack could be found flying over battlefields encompassing eight different wars. Not all of them included the Caribbean, of course. Still, you’d think the British would have a tad more urgency what with all the warring they were doing.
Anyway, the fort is named for King James II of England. It sits atop a promontory at the entrance to St. Johns Harbour. In this way, it was meant to defend Antigua’s capital from a sea invasion.
At its height, Fort James housed 75 men. Its primary defenses were 36 cannons, a few of which still remain at the site. Much of the notable history of Fort James Antigua lives on in those cannons, though not for military reasons.
During the 19th century, the fort’s cannons would fire in salute of warships entering St. Johns Harbour. They’d also fire to signal sunrise and sunset.
Today, the cannons, like the rest of Fort James, lay quiet. Largely neglected, the fort is more secondary attraction to beautiful views of the surrounding Antigua seascape.