Richmond Hill was a very strategic location in Grenada’s history because it gave an overview of the entire harbor and town of St George’s. This is why the British had some defensive structures on the hill when the French attacked to retake the island in 1779. The mistake the British made was to expect an assault on the hill from the harbor side and the French chose to attack from the interior side and won the battle quickly.
Realizing they would have never taken the island without taking Richmond Hill first, the French set about to build a more substantial fort, which faced away from the harbor gaining the name “The Backwards Facing Fort”. Eventual the fort would be called Fort Frederick and is a bastion style fort that is essentially a solid stone and earth mound onto of a walled flat area. The large cannons would have sat on the top level and smaller cannons and arms on the lower level. Inside the “building” there are cisterns, tunnels, and storage rooms, but not much else. This fort does not take that long to explore.
After having controlled Grenada for only four years, the French had to give it back to the British in 1783 due to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Upon British inspection of the French fort, it was determined this new fort would never survive an actual battle and so less than half a mile away Fort Matthew was built in 1790. This new fort was bigger and represented a new style of design including a dry moat with draw bridge, barracks, guard towers, tunnels, powder rooms, etc. Once the importance of the fortification passed it was turned into a mental institution in 1880 and almost 100 years even later into the headquarters of the People’s Revolutionary Government and was bombed during the 1983 US led invasion to liberate the island from communist.
Walking around Fort Matthew take quite a bit longer than Frederick and is pretty cool to see even though it is in a ruined state. I thought ruined two story building was interesting as was the back wall of rooms that must have been left from the mental institute time. Although it was exploring the underground tunnels that I found the most fascinating, if not painful. Of course that is because the tunnels are shorter than I am and parts are dark. I ended up walking right into a section of tunnel that lowers by four inches and almost knocked myself out and landed me on my butt. 🙂
With all of that said, now a days the best reason to visit both forts is for the amazing views over the town and harbor. You can get up there from St George’s by taking a taxi or bus #3.