Fort Paté

Article and pictures by Jeroen van der Werf, all rights reserved.

Fort Paté is a small oval battery on an island in the middle of the river Gironde, just big enough to hold the soldiers who defend it. It was built between 1685 and 1693 as part of the verrou de Blaye, a system of three forts built to seal the river against enemy ships.

The fort was situated so as to support the river batteries at Blaye on the right bank and Fort Médoc on the left bank. The island used to be flooded at very high tides and has varied in size considerably over the years. To prevent the fort from sinking into the muddy ground a special foundation had to be made.

The engineer François Ferry, advised by Vauban, was responsible for the construction of the fort. He constructed a grid of wooden piling, which rests upon wooden stakes, forming a raft. The fort itself was then built on top of this raft.

A similar wooden grid was laid around the island in order to stabilise it. In around 1705, the fort had sunk about two meters into the mud. Although the lower embrasures'were useless the rest of the fort was still useful.

In 1730 the island had to be stabilised again because its size had been reduced considerably by the currents of the river. The technique used to make the foundation for the battery is quite common in the region; Brouage, Fort Chapus and the Corderie Royal in Rochefort all have similar foundations.

Visiting Fort Paté

Fort Paté cannot currently be visited, since the island is privately owned. It was designated as a conservation area in 2006 and is protected from development. If the island goes up for sale, the local government have a pre-emptive right to buy it, so it is possible that the fort will be visitable in the future.

Article and pictures by Jeroen van der Werf, all rights reserved.

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