Fort Charles (Jamaica)

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Fort Charles
Port Royal, Jamaica
Fort Charles is located in Jamaica
Fort Charles
Fort Charles
Coordinates17°56′06″N 76°50′33″W / 17.935048°N 76.842475°W / 17.935048; -76.842475
Site information
OwnerGovernment of Jamaica
Open to
the public
Site history
In useNo

Fort Charles was built between 1650 and 1660, the first fort constructed in Port Royal, Jamaica.[1]


The fort was originally called Fort Cromwell but subsequently renamed.[1]

In 1667 it had 36 guns while in 1765 it had 104 guns and a garrison of 500 men.[1]

It was damaged by both the 1692 Jamaica earthquake and the 1907 Kingston earthquake which later resulted in the tilting of the Giddy House, now a minor tourist attraction.


Fort Charles is located in the small town of Port Royal, (Kingston) Jamaica. The town was founded on a natural harbor in which Fort Charles stands at the entrance to. According to Donny L. Hamilton, the fort was situated at the tip of the sand spit separating the Kingston Harbor for the Caribbean.[2] The fort is almost completely surrounded by water.


Fort Charles was built in 1655.[2] In 1654, Jamaica was under Spanish control and Spain was at war with England. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sent an expedition to invade the Spanish island Hispaniola. When the expedition failed, its leaders did not want to return home in shame. They turned their attention to capturing Jamaica, which was poorly defended. The buccaneer Henry Morgan was a member of the invading force led by Penn and Venables. By May 1655, the English gained control of the island, and began construction of Fort Cromwell to defend their new acquisition.


Fort Charles was built in the shape of a ship. According to Don Philpott, the fort is very well preserved with its rows of semi-circular gun ports.[3] Inside of every other row on the outer wall of the fort are cannons lined adjacently. According to Amitabh Sharma, “The red-bricked asymmetrical fortification once stood guard, warding off intruders and intimidating them with a battery of high caliber guns that were strategically mounted in the periphery” (page 2).[4]


Fort Charles was said to have a few names. Passage Fort and Fort Cromwell were among those few.[2] Fort Charles was the first of six forts to be built manned by a garrison in Jamaica. Fort Charles was the last name the fort received in honor of the restoration of the British Monarchy in King Charles II to the English throne.

The Fort today[edit]

Today, Fort Charles is still standing tall. After the numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the fort did undergo some natural changes.[5] The set up of the lined cannons on the outside wall is fairly the same. The only thing that differs from before the earthquake in 1692 is that there is now a museum located inside of the fort.


  1. ^ a b c "Fort Charles". Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c 3. Hamilton, Donny L. "Background History of Port Royal." Background History of Port Royal. Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University, 2000. Web. 03 May 2015.
  3. ^ Philpott, Don (2000). Fort Charles. Jamaica, Ashbourne: Landmark.
  4. ^ Sharma, Amitabh (24 November 2013). Port Royal: Fortified Heritage. The Gleaner. Gleaner Company. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  5. ^ The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (20 July 1998). "Port Royal". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 21 April 2015.