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A Glance At Fort Louvel – Banjul

By Yunus S Saliu

In Banjul, one of the famous places you can visit anytime you are in the capital city is Fort Louvel situated at Short Street in Banjul. It is a colonial fort visited not only by the school children and tourists but everyone as far as you would like to increase and update your knowledge of history.

Fort Louvel, according to the history, in 1831, during the Barra war, the British troops at Fort Bullen were evacuated to Bathurst on St Mary’s Island. Then the British Governor sent messages to Sierra Leone and to the French at Goree Island for aid. Meanwhile, the King of Barra increased his forces but was contemplating attacking the British in Bathurst. In respect of this, many of the colonists in September 1831 took to their heels as they fled down to the Kombo mainland from Bathurst on the vessel named ‘La Bordelaise’ under the command of Lieutenant Louvel.

For security purposes or better reasons known to the colonists, a fort was decided to erect. Lieutenant Louvel then volunteered to supervise the building of the fort in Bathurst. He helped by adding local masons to some of his men to erect the fort and finish the post. So the fort as can be seen during your visit to Banjul was built on the highest point in the city of Banjul. It was surrounded by a painted wooden stockade that was extended from the old Military Hospital site near the riverfront into New Town. Among other things, four small cannons were installed there as well as a militia post that comprised local pensioners and former soldiers. In addition, these security measures allegedly deterred the King from impending attack.

History further revealed that in the late 19th century Fort Louvel was once again manned during the Soninke, marabout war in Kombo, particularly after the British waged war against Kombo Sillah. After the halt of the Kombo War, Fort Louvel was never manned again. It was abandoned until it was finally pulled down by the Public Works Department (PWD) hence it was claimed to be a public health hazard.
The famous Fort Louvel after World War II, the PWD, therefore, erected a concrete column with an iron cannon-ball on top as you can see the fort standing at Short Street, Banjul. Prior to the rehabilitation in 2011 after several years of abandonment, the monument was unfortunately in poor condition as the cement-plaster covered the concrete blocks were gradually broken and this warranted patching. It was noted during the rehabilitation that the plaque which should be attached to it is bronze, according to the source its whereabouts are unknown.

However, the fort’s renovation is meant to support the preservation of the monument and restore the location to a tourist destination and place of national pride. Because Fort Louvel is a site of several historical battles that were waged between Africans and the British. Following the history, the fort had deterred the King of Barra and his warriors from taking over Bathurst in the 1830s.

The renovation of the site among other things is for the preservation of the fort which will contribute to national development. More so, African-Americans whose ancestors originated from this region deserve to know their origin’s history as Fort Louvel holds a place in that historic record. As well as to open doors for ongoing preservation and restoration sites in The Gambia like Kuntah Kinteh’s Island, Fort Bullen which is said to have a link with this Fort Louvel. In addition, the fort creates an attractive historic site for tourists during their holiday visit to Banjul.


Yunus S Saliu

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