Since England took Jamaica from Spain back in 1655, the need to build forts became greater due to the continuous threat of invasion.
Fort Haldane is one of the island’s most famous forts. Located in St. Mary parish at Port Maria, the fort was erected in 1759. It was built to protect Port Maria harbor from Spanish enemies, but also served to keep the working classes and slaves under control. The fort was named after General George Haldane, the island's governor at the time. Guns were strategically stationed on a hill overlooking the sea, which provides a fantastic view of Port Maria.
As an artillery and ballistics expert, Governor Haldane was actively involved during the fort’s construction. Haldane was good friends with renowned English scientist and military engineer Benjamin Robins, whom he asked to help with the placement of the cannons. Robins decided that the whole port could be protected by two accurate cannons stationed 1,000 feet above sea level. The cannons were placed on turntables and could be swung nearly 180 degrees from side to side. They were also mounted on a track to permit cannon recoil.
Situated next to Fort Haldane is Firefly Estate, the original home of the infamous pirate Sir Henry Morgan, who used the property as a lookout more than a century before the fort was built. The estate later became the vacation home of Sir Noel Coward.
The fort was important during Tacky’s War, a bloody uprising of African slaves in 1760. Led by a man known as "Tacky", a small group of slaves from the area killed their masters and headed to Fort Haldane where they defeated the guards, stealing guns and several gun powder barrels. They fought for five months along with many other slaves, but Tacky was killed during a fierce battle, and the slaves were eventually defeated by the much stronger British Army.
Fort Haldane was in active service between 1759 and 1780, at which point it was severely damaged by a hurricane. The threat of attack along Jamaica’s northern coast had decreased considerably by 1780, so the fort was abandoned.
Today, all that is left of the fort are the two cannons and the remains of several outbuildings. However, it is still frequently visited by tourists who take an interest in the colonial history of Jamaica.