Fortifications of Bangkok


The fortifications of Bangkok consist of several series of defensive structures built to protect the city during the late Ayutthaya to early Rattanakosin periods. The earliest structures were built when
Bangkok Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand Thailand ( th, ประเทศไทย), historically known as Siam, () officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern ...

was an outpost of Ayutthaya guarding entry to the
Chao Phraya River The Chao Phraya ( or ) ( th, wikt:เจ้าพระยา, แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา , or ) is the major river in Thailand, with its low alluvial plain forming the centre of the country. It flows through Bangkok and th ...
during the 15th–16th centuries. These were reinforced when the city became the site of the short-lived capital of
Thonburi __NOTOC__ Thonburi ( th, ธนบุรี) is an area of modern Bangkok Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand Thailand ( th, ประเทศไทย), historically known as Siam, () officially the Kingdom ...
after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. New
walls Walls may refer to: *The plural of wall A wall is a structure and a surface that defines an area; carries a load; provides security Security is freedom from, or resilience against, potential Potential generally refers to a currently unr ...

fort A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, g ...

s were built when the city of Rattanakosin replaced Thonburi in 1782, which were mostly removed and replaced in the second half of the 19th century in order to accommodate the expanding city. Today, four of the city's defensive forts remain, along with two short sections of the Rattanakosin city wall and one of the city gates.


Ayutthaya and Thonburi

As an important outpost guarding the Chao Phraya, Bangkok (then located on the west bank of the river) was protected by city walls. A pair of forts were located at the confluence of the old river channel and the new main channel excavated around 1538, straddling the new channel. Western maps of the late 17th century show the city wall in a rectangular shape, with the western fort as a
cavalier Cavalier () was first used by Roundhead Roundheads were the supporters of the Parliament of England during the English Civil War (1642–1651). Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against King Charles I of England and his supporte ...
raised over the southeast corner. Two smaller bastions protected the northwest and southwest corners. Around 1685–1687, the French-oriented King
Narai King Narai the Great ( th, สมเด็จพระนารายณ์มหาราช, , ) or Ramathibodi III ( th, รามาธิบดีที่ ๓ ) was the 27th monarch of Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya Kingdom, the 4th and ...
commissioned the construction of Western-style
bastion fort A bastion or bulwark is a structure projecting outward from the curtain wall Curtain wall may refer to: * Curtain wall (architecture), the outer skin of a modern building * Curtain wall (fortification), the outer wall of a castle or defensive w ...
s to replace them. Construction was overseen by French engineer de la Mare, but only the eastern fort had been completed when resentment of the French's growing influence led to the
Siamese revolution of 1688 The Siamese revolution of 1688 was a major popular upheaval in the Siamese Ayutthaya Kingdom (modern Thailand) which led to the overthrow of the pro-French Siamese king Narai. The Mandarin Phetracha, previously one of Narai's trusted military ad ...
. The French garrison holding the fort was
besieged by Siamese troops
besieged by Siamese troops
for four months before being allowed to retreat, and the fort was subsequently demolished during the reign of
Phetracha Phetracha (alternative spellings: ''Bedraja'', ''P'etraja'', ''Petraja'', ''Petratcha''; also called ''Phra Phetracha''; th, เพทราชา, ; 1632– 5 February 1703) was a monarch, king of the Ayutthaya kingdom in Thailand, usurping the ...
, who usurped the throne. Following the
fall of Ayutthaya Autumn, also known as fall in American English and Canadian English, is one of the four temperate seasons. Outside the tropics, autumn marks the transition from summer to winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisph ...
in 1767, the newly declared King
Taksin King Taksin the Great ( th, สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช, , ) or the King of Thonburi ( th, สมเด็จพระเจ้ากรุงธนบุรี, ; ; Teochew: Dên Chao; Vietnamese ...
established his capital at the site of Bangkok, to be known as the Thonburi Kingdom. He extended the city proper northward as far as Bangkok Noi Canal (part of the old river channel), and had a moat dug to protect the city's western flank. The city was also extended to the eastern bank, with a moat also creating an island on the eastern side. The city walls were rebuilt along the newly created moats. The old fort on the western bank of the river was renamed Wichaiprasit ( th, ป้อมวิไชยประสิทธิ์), and became part of the
Thonburi royal palace Thonburi Palace, also known in Thai as Phra Racha Wang Derm ( th, พระราชวังเดิม, , literally ''former palace''), is the former royal palace of King Taksin, who ruled the Siamese (Thailand, Thai) kingdom of Thonburi Kingdom ...

Early Rattanakosin

Taksin was overthrown in 1782, and the new King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (
Rama I Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok Maharaj (, 20 March 1737 – 7 September 1809), personal name Thongduang (), also known as Rama I, was the founder of the Rattanakosin Kingdom and the first Monarchy of Thailand, monarch of the reigning Chakri dynas ...

Rama I
) reestablished the capital as Rattanakosin, moving the city proper to the river's eastern bank. He had new outer moats dug, creating what is now known as
Rattanakosin Island Rattanakosin Island ( th, เกาะรัตนโกสินทร์, , ) is a historic area in the Phra Nakhon District Phra Nakhon ( th, พระนคร, ) is one of the Districts of Bangkok, 50 districts (''khet'') of Bangkok, Thail ...
. He had the new fortifications rebuilt along these new boundaries, using materials salvaged from Taksin's old city walls and the ruins of King Narai's old fort, as well as the ruins of Ayutthaya's fortifications. Rama I's city walls measured in length, encircling an area of . Fourteen defensive forts were built along the walls, and 63 gates provided access to the walled city. Each of the forts was named, and are as follows (from northernmost, in clockwise fashion): # Phra Sumen Fort (), at the mouth of Bang Lamphu Canal (northern section of the outer moat) # Yukhonthon Fort (), just north of
Wat Bowonniwet Wat Pavaranivesh Vihara Ratchawarawihan ( th, วัดบวรนิเวศวิหารราชวรวิหาร; , ) is a major Buddhism, Buddhist temple (''wat'') in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok, Thailand. Being the residence of Nya ...

Wat Bowonniwet
# Maha Prap Fort (), between what are now Phan Fa Lilat and Chaloem Wan Chat Bridges # Mahakan Fort (), now next to Phan Fa Lilat Bridge # Mu Thaluang Fort (), in front of the former Old Bangkok Remand Prison # Suea Thayan Fort (), just north of Sam Yot Gate and Damrong Sathit Bridge # Maha Chai Fort (), near what is now the intersection of Maha Chai and Yaowarat Roads # Chak Phet Fort (), just north of the mouth of Ong Ang Canal (southern section of the outer moat), near what is now Chak Phet Road # Phisuea Fort (), near what is now Pak Khlong Talat # Maha Roek Fort (), opposite Wichaiprasit Fort, now the location of Rajini School # Maha Yak Fort (), next to Wat Pho # Phra Chan Fort (), next to what is now Tha Phra Chan # Phra Athit Fort (), at what is now the end of Phra Athit Road # Isinthon Fort (), between Phra Athit and Phra Sumen Forts Of the 63 city gates, 16 were tower gates with pointed roofs. The rest were simple doors in the wall. All the gates bore enchantments warding off evil spirits, except for the gate known as Pratu Phi (, "Ghost Gate"), which was used to transport dead bodies out of the city. The Ghost Gate was left unenchanted in order to allow the spirits of the dead to pass. To prevent evil spirits entering, it was situated in the direct line of sight of the Emerald Buddha, enshrined on the other side of the city in the royal temple of Wat Phra Kaew. Rama I's fortifications were built to address traditional defence concerns, especially the lingering threat of a Burmese invasion that continued on for several decades. However, they never came into actual military use, as the Burmese threat ended following the Anglo-Burmese Wars and Britain's colonization of Burma.

1852 forts

By the mid-19th century, Rattanakosin's walled city had become overcrowded, and King Mongkut (Rama IV) ordered the construction of Phadung Krung Kasem Canal in order to expand the city limits. Eight new forts were built in 1852 to guard the new boundary: seven along the canal, and one on the opposite bank of the river to the canal's mouth. Defensive walls, outdated by then, were no longer built. The eight new forts received rhyming names. From south to north, they are: # Pong Patchamit Fort (), opposite the southern mouth of the canal on the western bank # Pit Patchanuek Fort (), next to the canal's southern mouth, on the eastern bank near what is now Samphanthawong District, Samphanthawong District Office. # Huek Hiam Han Fort (), a small fort used for firing gun salutes # Phlan Phairi Rap Fort (), in the area of what is now Hua Lamphong Market # Prap Sattru Phai Fort (), near what is now Nopphawong Bridge. It is the namesake of Pom Prap Sattru Phai District. # Thamlai Porapak Fort (), near what is now Chaturaphak Rangsarit Bridge # Hak Kamlang Datsakon Fort (), near what is now Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge # Maha Nakhon Raksa Fort (), next to the canal's northern mouth

Demolition and preservation

Bangkok underwent rapid modernization beginning in the late 19th century, and by the 1920s most of the city's original forts and walls had been demolished to make way for the construction of roads and buildings. During the reign of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII, 1925–1935), the Royal Society (Thailand), Royal Society resolved to preserve the two remaining original forts, Phra Sumen and Mahakan, for their historical value.คณะกรรมการจัดงานสมโภชน์กรุงรัตนโกสินทร์ 200 ปี. Reproduced in Today, Four of Bangkok's defensive forts remain, one of which is still in military use. Wichaiprasit Fort, the oldest, is now owned by the Royal Thai Navy. Phra Sumen Fort and Mahakan Fort are under the care of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), and part of Pong Patchamit Fort is preserved behind the Khlong San District Office. In addition, a section of the city wall is preserved in front of Wat Bowonniwet, and another section remains connected to Mahakan Fort. These structures, as well as the canals that formed the city moats, are listed as registered ancient monument (Thailand), ancient monuments.

Present structures

Wichaiprasit Fort

Wichaiprasit Fort () is now part of the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters. The fort, along with the royal palace of Thonburi, had been given for the establishment of the Royal Thai Naval Academy in 1903, and became home to the Navy's headquarters after the academy relocated in 1946. A gaff-rigged flagpole was erected in 1971, and has since been used to fly the Naval Ensign. The fort has been used ceremonially for the firing of gun salutes since 1979, when Memorial Bridge was permanently lowered, preventing warships from sailing upriver to perform the task.

Phra Sumen Fort

Phra Sumen Fort is the northernmost of Rattanakosin's original forts, located at the mouth of Khlong Rop Krung (the moat) where it meets the river, today the corner of Phra Sumen and Phra Athit Roads (). The octagonal fort is built of masonry on a -deep spread footing foundation. It is in diameter, and has a height of measured to top of the ''bai sema, sema''-shaped battlements of the upper level. The fort has rectangular battlements on the lower level, and is topped by a roofed heptagonal tower, which collapsed sometime during the reigns of kings Rama V to Rama VII and was rebuilt in 1981 to celebrate the bicentennial of the city's foundation. The surrounding area was subsequently developed into Santichaiprakan Park, which opened in 2000.

Mahakan Fort

Mahakan Fort is the easternmost fort of Rattanakosin's walls, now situated next to Phan Fa Lilat Bridge of Ratchadamnoen Avenue and the junction of Khlong Maha Nak (the beginning of Saen Saep Canal) and Khlong Rop Krung (). The fort, also octagonal in shape and in three levels, has a diameter of and a height of , measured to the roof of the octagonal tower. Mahakan Fort has rectangular battlements on both its lower and upper levels, while the connected -long section of the city walls features ''sema''-shaped battlements. The fort and walls were also restored in 1981 for the city's bicentennial. Near Mahakan Fort, between the city wall and the canal, lies an old community whose wooden houses serve as an example of historic vernacular architecture. The community has been engaged in a decades-long struggle against eviction by the BMA, which intends to develop the area as a public park. Although agreements had been made in the 2000s to preserve and develop the neighbourhood as a living museum, the deals later broke down, and the BMA began demolishing houses whose owners accepted compensation in 2016. Other residents are still resisting eviction as of 2017, and there are still hopes that some of the buildings will be preserved. As of April 2018, all remaining residents have been evicted, and plans are underway to tear the remaining buildings down. However, the Mahakan Fort Community’s Facebook page has announced an initiative to create an online database about the Mahakan Fort community, and is crowdsourcing information about the site. In July 2018, BMA was completely developed surrounding area of Mahakan Fort to become a public park and the fort exhibition.

City wall in front of Wat Bowonniwet

Another section of the city wall, in length, along with a tower gate, remains in front of Wat Bowonniwet (). The wall here is thick and high. Also featuring ''sema''-shaped battlements, steps beside the gate provided access to the top of the wall. The gate's pointed roof, which had earlier collapsed, was rebuilt in 1981 using photographic evidence from the reign of King Rama V.

Pong Patchamit Fort

Pong Patchamit Fort is the only remaining of those built in 1852–1854 to guard Phadung Krung Kasem Canal. In contrast to the earlier forts which were towers in the city wall, these were large star-shaped forts similar to those of Western design. Pong Patchamit Fort is situated on the west bank of the river, today in Khlong San District (). It guarded the river together with the opposite Pit Patchanuek Fort, and fired gun salutes welcoming royal envoys during the time of King Mongkut. During King Chulalongkorn's reign, the Marine Department began flying signal flags from a pole installed at the fort. Today, only a small section of the fort remains (an estimated area of out of the original ). While official requests to scrap the fort for materials were documented as early as 1907, these were initially rejected, and it is unknown when the partial demolition took place. The site remains under the authority of the Marine Department, while the Khlong San District Office building now occupies part of the fort's former area.

See also

* History of Bangkok



External links

* * {{Commons category-inline, City wall remnants in Bangkok Fortifications in Thailand History of Bangkok Buildings and structures in Bangkok