Fort of Sri-Poom, Chiang Mai

The Fort of Sri-Poom is an historical site in the old walled city area of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.

Fort of Sri-Poom in Chiang Mai
Fort of Sri-Poom in Chiang Mai

The Fort of Sri-Poom is in a public area which can be visited at any time of the day and there is no admission charge for entry. Access onto the fort itself is restricted to prevent damage to the now fragile structure.

About the Fort of Sri-Poom

The city of Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the new capital of the Northern Thai Kingdom of Lanna. An entirely new city was designed and built by the ruler of the time, King Mangrai.

Defensive Wall of a New City

A key feature of the design of the new city was a defensive wall and a moat around it. Unlike other walled cities in the region at the time, King Mangrai decided to build a rectangular defensive wall system, 2,000 metres long and 1,800 metres wide. An estimated 40,000 workers are believed to have been engaged in the construction of the wall and the moat with the work finished exceptionally quickly in a period of around 4 months.

The reason that extensive defences were believed to be required was because of perceived threats from Burma, which at the time was the predominant military force in South East Asia, and the more distant threat of invasion by the Mongols who had by that time conquered all of China, and most worryingly the part of China closest to the northern border with Thailand.

Positioning of the Forts

As part of the defensive system forts were built at each of the corners of the wall. As with any square or rectangular defensive wall, the corners are structurally weak points which, if undermined, can lead to large parts of the whole structure collapsing. The corner points are also good vantage points for firing projectiles at attackers as there are two lines of sight. The Sri-Poom Fort is the fortification on the north-eastern corner of the old city of Chiang Mai.

Section of city wall by the Fort of Sri-Poom
Section of city wall by the Fort of Sri-Poom
Redesign of the Defensive Wall

As it turned out these perceived threats, against which King Mangari built the defensive walls, were very real. The city of Chiang Mai fell to the Burmese in 1556 and was not retaken by Thai until 1775, and then lost again to the Burmese until 1791, at which point armies sent from the newly established capital in Bangkok pushed the Burmese invaders out of the north of Thailand for good.

The new ruler of Chiang Mai, General Chao Kawila, extensively redesigned and re-built the city walls, including the Fort of Sri-Poom, in the late 18th Century after the city was recaptured. From the 19th Century onward the newly formed Kingdom of Siam developed in strength and became much more successful in defending the territorial integrity of Thailand, in fact enlarging it by incorporating several once independent neighbouring kingdoms. This made the walls, and its forts, obsolete.

Maintenance of the Defensive wall

Lack of maintenance and theft of the brick used to construct the city’s defences meant that by the late 20th Century there was little left to see of the walls or its corner forts. Fortunately, from 1996 onward Chiang Mai’s city authorities and local groups started to take an active interest in preserving this part of the city’s history. As part of this preservation project sections of the wall, its gates and the Sri-Poom Fort were rebuilt. Much of the fort that is standing today has been rebuilt using the small number of original bricks which were found in the area along with new bricks made using traditional techniques and materials.

Location of the Fort of Sri-Poom

Google Map of the Fort of Sri-Poom

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