Great Fort George on Monk’s Hill is Antigua and Barbuda’s largest colonial fortification. Enclosing more than 33,000 square meters, the purpose of this fort was to provide the island plantocracy with a place of last retreat in case of an attack. Starting in 1689, work continued for decades, raising the green stone walls to its full height.
While the fortification was never used for its intended purpose, Great George Fort was continuously occupied from 1689 until the 1920s. After the 1830s the site was no longer used as a military garrison, but instead functioned as one of the key signal stations connecting English and Falmouth Harbours with the rest of the island. A timekeeper was permanently stationed there, with the duty of dropping the ball at noon. Before establishing time zones and standard time keeping practices, time was kept locally. Every day just before noon, a black ball would be raised on the flagpole. At noon, the ball was dropped, signaling the time for the whole island.
Today, the fortification provides some of the best views of the entire island. While the fortification itself is a ruin, history continues to seep out of the walls.
While impressive, military engineers in the 18th century saw Great George Fort as poorly constructed. Daniel Parke, Governor-in-Chief, even went so far as to declare in 1709 that the fort resembled a garden folly—a purposely built garden ornament popular in English parks at the time.