Constructed 224 years ago when the English ruled Trinidad, Fort Picton stands guard over all around it from the hills of Laventille.
It’s the only Martello Tower in the Western Hemisphere—built to withstand a possible invasion during the French Revolution in 1797.
Martello Towers were circular buildings made of brick with 13-feet thick seaward facing walls and a cannon on their roofs. The towers were built to stand 30 feet high.
Gone are the days when this massive fort could be put to use but Fort Picton is now listed as one of T&T’s Heritage Sites.
David De Roche grew up on Picton Road, Laventille and in an interview with Guardian Media Ltd yesterday, said he has fond memories of playing on the fort as a child.
“Almost every child that grew up in this part of Picton used to come to the fort to hang out, Forestry (Division) used to maintain it in those days, so it was always nice and clean for us to come and play,” De Roche recalled.
But as the years progressed, De Roche said the upkeep of the site was abandoned and it eventually came to ruins. He said with no one to cut the bushes, the site was quickly overgrown. However, he said while many citizens do not know the significance or even the existence of Fort Picton, tourists continue to flock to the site.
“Before the pandemic, tourists used to come up here and it does be so embarrassing when they come up here, all they could do is read the sign, it have nothing else, the place overgrown with bush, nasty, no one to clean the rubbish,” he lamented.
Eight months ago, the situation prompted De Roche to get together with seven of his neighbours to clean and upkeep the site themselves. They cut the grass, removed the garbage and cleaned the outside of the building. They were also able to remove garbage and debris from inside the building.
With a donation of paint from ANSA Coatings, the residents were also able to spruce up the site and repaint pathways, a small building next to the tower and stone benches.
The group plans to do a small reopening of the site on Easter Monday. But there remains much more work to do inside the tower to accommodate visitors.
De Roche said the tower has an electrical supply but the lines and cables inside the tower are decayed. A staircase linking the three levels inside the tower collapsed some time ago and now De Roche and other residents use a ladder to access the upper levels during cleaning duties.
He is calling on the responsible bodies to come forward and renovate the tower so it could be used as a tourist attraction.
“The Government always speaking about tourism and this site is special to us in Laventille. We are hoping that anybody sees it and wants to preserve something historic like this can step in. We are not looking for any money, we want to preserve this structure,” De Roche said.
He said the building needs its roof rebuilt and the staircase around it needs to be repaired.
But he said the group cannot repair the roof themselves, as they were told by a historical body they are not authorised to do any repairs to the tower.
He provided a number for the body but calls to the number went unanswered yesterday.
De Roche said he hopes the fort will have an added benefit to Laventille by dispelling the negative stigma attached to the community.
He said Laventille has gotten a bad reputation over the years but times have changed.
“It’s been a while since you heard of any murders or shootings in Laventille. People say you can’t come in Laventille as an outsider but that is not true. Nobody will interfere with you,” he said.
De Roche can be contacted at 718-5178.