An Island Fortress

An-Island-FortressFort Westmoreland I

In the 1770s, during the turmoil of the American War of Independence, Cork harbour replaced Kinsale as the principal Royal Navy base on the south coast. To strengthen the defences of the harbour a decision was taken to build a fort on Spike Island, it was named Fort Westmoreland and was completed by the 26th July, 1779.

Fort Westmoreland II

The British military quickly realised the strategic importance of Spike and decided to replace the old fort with a much larger structure. General Charles Vallancey and architect Michael Shanahan were responsible for the new fort and the foundation stone was laid on the 6th of June 1804. It consisted of six bastions connected by ramparts and surrounded by a dry moat. Outside the fort, artificial slopes known as glacis were constructed as an additional defensive measure. The main entrance is located on the north-western side of the fort. The fort was completed by 1860.

Within the fort were fixed gun positions, four barrack blocks, casemates (ie. shell proof barracks with vaulted roofs built against the ramparts), magazines, stores, a church and a hospital. The cannons were replaced by two six-inch guns in 1903 and these were mounted on No 3 Bastion.

During the Great War, Spike was the headquarters of the South Irish Coast Defence (S.I.C.D.) The military presence also spread outside the confines of the fort itself with officers’ quarters, chaplains’ quarters and other administrative buildings located on the west and north sides of the island. The families of some of the married soldiers lived in the cluster of houses near the pier on the north side of the island.

CrossRiverFerryAn Island Fortress