7 Wonders of St Helena – High Knoll Fort, a Military Marvel
Voted once again by St Helena as one of her 7 Wonders, High Knoll Fort stands high above Jamestown, but cannot be seen from the town. It is a massive structure and a wonderful example of military defensive structures of its time. The fort is open 24/7 free of charge and the views from different aspects of the fort across the island are magnificent and well worth the effort of walking around it.
The commencement of work is often attributed to Governor Brooke in 1790. However the major construction is likely to date from 1798.
The tower sat unused but manned by a small garrison throughout the early 19th century. The island intended to drive all the sheep and cattle on the island into the gap between the Forts at High Knoll and Ladder Hill in the event of an attack.
The tower never saw enemy action but did play a major part in the 1811 mutiny. The mutinous troops demanded ‘full rations of spirit’ and threatened serious consequences if refused. 250 men managed to seize a high ranking officer but were captured before they reached Plantation House. Six of the ringleaders were hung at High Knoll, and the rooms in the barrack blocks were used as a prison for the rebels.
By the 1850s the buildings to the north were now occupied as a school and housing for slaves freed from captivity by the West Africa Squadron and many of the other buildings on the site were falling into ruin.
The following sixteen years from 1857 saw a number of periods of construction, up to 1874 when the date stone in the main gate was laid. Much of the work was probably undertaken in the 1860s and some of the ditches use 18th century structures.
By 1900 the fort was out of date as a defensive structure but was still useful as a remote and secure prison. The more recalcitrant Boer Prisoners of War, Transvaal Rebels and some of the Officers were held in the fort to keep them separate from the prison camps on Deadwood.
There were some changes made to the Fort during the Second World War, including repairs to the parapets, but little else has changed since the major building in the latter 19th century.