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Diocese of Antsiranana
(Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean)
FORT ADELAIDE IN HONOUR OF WILLIAM IV SPOUSE 1840
Photo No. : P100424-5

THECHAMPS DE MARS RACING HORSES TRACT AND BETTING STALLS
Photo No. : P100424-6

Photo No. : P100424-7

CVA RIGHT HAND SLOWLY MOBILE WITH THERAPY
Photo No. : P100424-9

 
BISHOP ROGER CHUNG PO CHUEN JAOMALAZA UNDERGOING CVA REHABILITATION SEES WITH RENEWED JOY FORT ADELAIDE ON THE CITADEL AND THE ACTIVE RACE COURSE OF THE CHAMPS DE MARS IN PORT LOUIS REMINDER OF THE BRITISH COLONIAL HERITAGE
 
ANTSIRANANA 100424-3
April 24, 2010

[Diocese of Antsiranana - Indian Ocean] The Citadel of Mauritius stands on a hill overlooking the capital, Port Louis. Its black stone walls are a familiar landmark which conceal the interior renovation work which has been underway since the early 1990s, and which aims to transform the abandoned fort into a site of recreation and tourism. The first stone of the Citadel was laid by the Governor of Mauritius, Sir W.M. Nicolay, on 8 December 1834 and its construction was completed, to all intents and purposes, in 1840. It was named Fort Adela´de in honour of the wife of the King of England, William IV.

Decay of the Completed Citadel
Even as the Citadel was still under construction, the circumstances of the colony had changed so significantly that its raison d'etre had melted away. In these circumstances, the British administrators of Mauritius were increasingly reluctant to divert money and workers towards its completion. Fort Adela´de was a fitting symbol of British strength, but the show of force which it represented was scarcely needed, and the great building slowly decayed over the following one and a half centuries.

The new climate of opinion which prevailed in Mauritius in the late 1830s, in contrast to the turbulence of the early years of that decade when the Citadel project was conceived, are well illustrated in a despatch of the Governor, Sir W.M. Nicolay, who, when asked to defend his failure to provide convicts for the construction of the fort, replied:

"I am aware that the Citadel was commenced as much with a view to the internal tranquillity of the island, as to its internal defence; and that it is consequently of great importance; but the circumstances under which that view was adopted, have undergone a great change since then. At the present critical period in the state of colonial society, it is not, in my opinion, so much a stronghold at headquarters that we require, as an uninterrupted communication to all parts of the island for the free march of troops whenever their services may be needed... Except for the purpose of external defence, or upon the breaking out of an extensive and combined rebellion, Fort Adela´de is not likely to be required; and as respects the latter, unity of action for such a purpose is scarcely to be feared in a society of free people, composed as is that of Mauritius, of almost all nations and languages of Europe, Asia and Africa, so long as their rights are respected, and protected under equitable laws."

The Governor was not as worried about the momentous transition from apprenticeship to freedom, which was due to occur in 1839, as Colville had been concerned about civil rebellion in 1832. Thus, even before its completion, Fort Adela´de was conceived of as a building which was not likely, if ever, to be put into service, despite its undoubted defensive capabilities.

On 4 November 1840, Major Savage, the new Commanding Royal Engineer, reported the completion of Fort Adela´de. It was then garrisoned by a detachment of H.M. 87th Royal Irish Fusiliers, consisting of 5 officers and 200 men. The fort had been completed within (by a few pounds) the total amount authorised by Parliament, which then stood at ú45,354.6.2".

A ship arrived from Bourbon a few days later, bringing a proclamation issued by the Governor of that colony, calling upon the inhabitants to arm and be prepared for a war with England. The Governor was no doubt reassured by the fact that, as he described it: "the Town of Port Louis is now completely commanded by Fort Adela´de, a strong irregular work of masonry recently finished in the interior". However, the fort now needed to be equipped with guns, provisions, water and ammunition, "it is capable of holding a garrison of about 200 men and I have ordered it to be provisioned for 100 men for about 3 months as the most secure depot we have". As the state of alert continued, in December 1840, Savage reported that a working party, "consisting of two officers, four non-commissioned officers and 96 privates have been employed, morning and evening, for the last month, in scarping the hill, and throwing up an earth work in front of the main gate, in order to cover it". The Governor further ordered that the four 24 pounder howitzers, together with two 9 ton brass field pieces should be mounted on traversing platforms on the terreplein over the casemates in the front face, and carpenters were consequently employed in making them. An additional expenditure of ú500 was sanctioned in Britain to cover the improvement in defences at Fort Adela´de
As the fear of war with France faded, so too did the military splendour of the Citadel. In 1851 the morning and evening cannon shorts were transferred from Caudan to the Citadel, but this was practically the only military function associated given to the fort prior to the Second World War. In 1938, Sir Bede Clifford, considered whether the building ought not to be transferred from the War Department to the Colonial Government. His despatch testifies to the neglect which Fort Adela´de had suffered during the intervening period:

The building is at present in a dilapidated condition and, unless immediate steps are taken to arrest further decay, the structure will soon become a ruin. In view of the picturesque character of the building and its historical associations, I am anxious that it should be preserved and reconditioned in so far as the latter process would not alter its original character. Use might also be made of the building for departmental purposes other than office accommodation, for which it is unsuitable.

Assuredly, the Citadel was transferred at some point to the civil authorities, but they evidently did not keep up their promises of repairs as the building continued to be neglected until recently, when some restoration work was undertaken with the view to giving the Citadel a new lease of life as a centre of tourism and recreation.