GHANA’S SLAVES CASTLES, FORTS AND LODGES
Throughout history, slavery has been a recurring theme and, although long past, the slave route now allows us to rediscover and remember events that reshaped the face of mankind. All over Ghana, vestiges of the past remain for the visitor to discover. There are relics, historic sites, national monuments and of course, our castles.
The forts and castles along the coast of Ghana, date back to the 15th century and were built and occupied at different times by European traders and adventurers from Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and Britain trading posts.
Several of them changed hands on numerous occasions in bloody battles or by treaty and all have a fascinating history. Today, some have been restored and have a variety of uses while others are in ruins. Most are, however, open to the public and are still serving a wide range of purposes.
Gold was the principal object of their visit. Slaves were a significant commodity when labour was required for the sugarcane and tobacco plantations in America and the West Indies. Hundreds of slaves were auctioned at the slave market and driven through tunnels to forts and castles to await shipment.
Countries that Built the Forts and Castles:
- Portugal 9%
- Holland 37%
- England 20%
- Sweden 7%
- Denmark 14%
- France 7%
- Brandenburg (Prussian Portion of Germany)6%
Periods of Construction
The history of the construction of the various castles, forts and lodges along the coast of Ghana covers a period of three centuries from 1482 to 1787. These are as follows:
- The period of Portuguese hegemony – 1470-1600
- Dutch and English penetration – 1600-40
- Keen competition between various companies – 1640-1710
- Relatively peaceful co-existence between companies – 1710-1800
- Early colonization – 1800-1900
Reasons for the Building of the Forts and Castles
- Defence – To protect the Europeans’ rich trade and the monopoly from being invaded. To explore a sea-route to West India and the Far East.
- To keep slaves and later transport them just as commonly as commercial products.
- To keep slaves, gold and ivory with a view to selling them.
- To drive competitors as far away as possible.
- To serve as living quarters for a permanent commercial and military staff fortified against enemies.
- To secure a foothold on the coast and to capture the lucrative Asian trade for Europe.
- To serve as accommodation that would enable a particular nation’s commercial and military staff to develop and expand their trade.
- Ghana is unique in West Africa; it is endowed with gold and rock series located near the coast.
- The geology of Ghana’ coast between Accra and Axim is characterized by a series of rocky ridges which jut seawards as small promontories. The rocky coast has a number of natural habours in the form of bays and coves.
- Each European nation tried to reserve exclusive trading rights for itself with the local rulers.
- To protect also the people on whose territory they were built against attacks by neighbouring African States.
- For geographical reasons, Ghana is the only area where there are substantial gold deposits. It is rocky, thus providing building materials and natural sound foundation and access from the interior to the sea is not interrupted by lagoons and mangrove swamps.
Relevance of the Forts and Castles:
- The forts and castles remain visible relics of how our ancestors were carried into slavery.
- They are memorials of the history of our country.
- They constitute important records with their unique architecture.
- They cast light on the triangular trade that bound the commercial regions of Europe, Africa and America.
- They are the remaining links of the coastal trade.
Why They Were Built On The Coast:
- To afford better transport facilities for importing goods and exporting slaves through the tunnels underneath the forts.
- The coast offered fresh air from the sea and was abundant.
- There was also the opportunity for sea bathing.
- The coast was also considered as a much healthier and safer place to live in.
- To facilitate easy communication with their government or principals in Europe and America.
- They could get relief more readily from passing vessels and could watch activities and movements of any trade rivals around and bring them “to book”.
- Geographically, Ghana’s coast is suitable for building forts because it is rocky, thus providing building materials and strong natural foundation such as harbours.
- To protect their occupants and their businesses against hostile European rivals and African intruders and enemies.
It is applied only to the biggest of the buildings, Elmina, Cape Coast and Christiansborg Castles. They cover a wider area and have a capacity for a much larger population.
It is applied to the larger fortified buildings.
Small trade factories, sometimes virtually unfortified. Of the latter, only few traces are left here and there. Sometimes they were simple mud huts with at best one or two canons to defend them.
Statistics on the Export of Slaves
The 18th century was the peak period of the Atlantic trade. The figures for the Cold Coast exports of slaves were:
1700 – 1740 = 230,000
1741 – 1770 = 220,000
1771 – 1800 = 227,000
Total = 677,000
It is estimated that the male/female ratio of the slaves exported from West Africa was 51.3% for males and 48.7% for females. The slaves exported were those between the ages of 16 and 30, that is, those in the reproductive age groups.
Fort Batenstein – Butre (Ahanta)
Built in 1656 by the Dutch
It was originally a lodge built by the Swedes in 1650 and was soon abandoned until the Dutch built a fort there named Fort Batenstein. Butre was among the early historic settlements generated by the 17th century inter-European and inter-African conflicts.
Between 1830 and 1860, it was intermittently occupied by the Dutch until 6th April 1872, when they transferred it to the English by purchase together with other Dutch possessions. It was demilitarized and eventually fell into ruins.
Fort Apollonia – Beyin
Built between 1768 70 by the English
It was originally a fort built in 1660 by the Dutch. The English built the fort between 1768 and 1770. The name, Apollonia, was given by a Portuguese explorer who sighted the area on St. Apollonia’s day. The fort was abandoned by the English in 1819. It was temporarily occupied in 1835 by an English expeditionary force led by Governor Maclean to confront King Kwaku Akaa, the legendary tyrant of Nzema.
In 1868, it was transferred to the Dutch who partly built it, but abandoned it soon afterwards. In 1872, it was transferred back to the English by purchase together with other Dutch possessions. The fort remained a place of minor importance as it was often abandoned for long periods of time. It was the only English fort which, right from the beginning, was sturdily built. It was the last fort the British built.
Fort Dorothea – Akwida
Built in 1683 by the Brandenburgers
It was originally a lodge built by the Brandenburgers in 1683. The Dutch captured it in 1690, enlarged it and named it Dorothea. It was later given back to the Brandenburgers. The Dutch took it over again in the early 18th century.
Fort Witsen – Takoradi
Built in 1600 by the Dutch
Earlier accounts of the building of factories, lodges and forts in Takoradi date as far back as 1390, when the French allegedly built a factory there. This was subsequently followed by the Swedes until 1657 when the Danes captured it.
In 1600, the Dutch built Fort Witsen and it was captured by the English in 1664. It was recaptured by the Dutch who blew it up describing it as unsafe for Dutch settlement.
In 1685, the Brandenburgers too built a lodge there but abandoned it in 1708.
Fort British – Essikadu, British Sekondi
Built in 1645 by the English
On 1st June, 1698, it was plundered and burnt down. But before 1726, it was rebuilt. In 1782, it was captured and destroyed by the Dutch. In 1758, it was restored to the English in its damaged condition. The English abandoned it in 1820.
Fort Orange – Dutch Sekondi
Built in 1670 by the Dutch
In September 1694, it was plundered by one Ahanta group and destroyed. In 1698, a second group of Ahantas captured and damaged the English fort and the English had to rebuild it only for it to be recaptured by the French in 1779. Fort orange was ceded to Britain in 1872.
Fort Metal Cross – Dixcove (Infuma)
Built in 1698 by the English
It was designated as Dick’s Cove (Dixcove). The authority given to build this fort was between 1683 and 1690. There was a bone of contention between the English and the Brandernburgers. The English gained the upper hand in 1697. The English enjoyed an unbroken occupation of it until 1868 when they transferred it to the Dutch by exchange. The Dutch named it Fort Metal Kruis that is Brass Cross. It was named after one of the gunboats sent to quell an uprising caused by the local people.
In 1872, it was returned to the English after the Dutch agreed to leave the country and the name Metal Kruis anglicized as Metal Cross. Dixcove remained a thorn in the flesh of the Dutch, whose full control of the political affairs of the Ahanta area was disturbed by the British enclave.
Fort Vredenburg – Dutch Komenda
Built in 1689 by the Dutch
It was originally built as an English trading post. In 1782, it was captured by the English and much damage was done to it. In 1785, it was restored in its ruined condition to the Dutch who occupied it until 1872 and was later transferred to the English by purchase.
Fort Komenda – English Komenda
Built in 1708 by the English
It was originally used as a lodge which was later rebuilt into a fort and named fort Komenda. It was transferred to the Dutch in 1868 and was bombarded in the same month by the Dutch warship. In 1872, it was purchased by the English with other Dutch possessions.
Trading Post – French Komenda
Built between 1650 and 1670 by the Dutch
The French had a trading lodge in Komenda. In 1688, they established a factory there too but the Dutch pillaged and destroyed it in 1688 and 1689. The people in Komenda also drove them away.
Fort Elise Cathargo – Ankobra
Built between 1650 and 1670 by the Dutch
In 1711, the lodge was abandoned and in 1712 it was burnt down. The Dutch had a prosperous gold mining trade there, but they did not maintain it for long. The Portuguese later won over in order to protect their mining enterprise. It was later abandoned because of an earthquake which occurred soon afterwards in a nearby town. There was the hostility of the local inhabitants whose superstitious beliefs made them misinterpret the earthquake as due to the presence of the Portuguese on their land at Egwira. The Portuguese later rebuilt it to protect their mining enterprise.
Fort Groot Friedrichsburg / Fort Hollandia – Princess Town
Built in 1683 by the Brandenburgers
It was originally a temporary defence post in 1681 but it was turned into a fort in 1682. It was abandoned in 1708 and the local chief took possession of it. in 1720, the Dutch unsuccessfully attacked it but five years later they succeeded in capturing it and renamed it Fort Hollandia.
Fort Duma – Egwira
Built in 1623 by the Portuguese
It was shattered by an earthquake in 1636, the Dutch rebuilt it in 1694 but later abandoned it.
Fort Sophie Louise – Takrama
Built in 1691 by the Brandenburgers
The Brandenburgers built it as a lodge in 1960 and later converted it into a fort. They later abandoned it in 1708 when they closed down their trade.it was taken over by the Dutch in 1717 but they soon abandoned it.
Fort San Sebastian – Shama
Built in 1691 by the Brandenburgers
It was originally built as a lodge in 1526. It was abandoned in 1600, was bombarded and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1640. It was taken by the English in 1664 and retaken by the Dutch in the same year. In 1872, it was transferred to the English by purchase. It was not until 1957 that it was rehabilitated and restored to its Dutch period status.
Fort St. Anthony (San Antonio) – Axim
Built in 1515 by the Portuguese
It was originally built in 1503 but was later abandoned. It was captured by the Dutch in 1642, captured again by the English in 1664 and recaptured by the Dutch in 1665.
Cape Coast Castle – Cape Coast
Built in 1555 by the Swedes
The strategic location of Cape Coast, having a sheltered beach in proximity to the Elmina Castle, made it a great attraction to the European nations. There were therefore competitors. The Castle was originally built as a lodge by the Dutch in1653 on an abandoned lodge built by the Portuguese in 1555 and named it after the local settlement, Cabo Corso, meaning short Cape, later corrupted to Cape Coast. The Swedes built a permanent fort which after was known as fort Carolusburg, named after King Charles of Sweden. The fort reverted to the English in 1665 who transformed it into a Castle, rehabilitated and gave it its present form.
Fort William – Cape Coast
Built in 1820 by the English
It was originally named Smith Tower. Prior to 1833, it was converted into a lighthouse and renamed fort William in 1837.
Fort Victoria – Cape Coast
Built in 1821 by the English
It was originally called Phipps Tower, named after the English Governor, Phipps who built it. At a later date, it was renamed fort Victoria after Queen Victoria of Great Britain when it was rebuilt as a small but strong fort in 1837. There were rumors a few decades ago that it was haunted by dwarfs. This has not been proved.
However, it was the last and most westerly of the three defence works which were built those days to protect the Cape Coast.
Fort Fredericksburg / Fort Royal – Amanful
Built in 1658 by the Danes
It was built by the Danes and named Fort Fredericksburg. It was purchased by the English in 1658 and renamed Fort royal. The English rebuilt it in 1699 but subsequently abandoned it.
Queen Anne’s Point – Cape Coast
Built in 1720 b the Dutch
The Dutch had prior to 1692, built a lodge on a hill in the eastern part of Cape Coast but soon abandoned it. In 1720 the English also built a small fort which they named Queen Anne’s point after Queen Anne of England but they subsequently abandoned it.
Fort McCarthy – Cape Coast
Built in 1822 by the Dutch
It was originally built as a lodge but was allowed to deteriorate.
Fort Frederick – (Cornor’s Hill) Cape Coast
Built in 1863 by the English
It was originally the English Naval Brigade who built it as a redoubt. The fort was called Fort Frederick.
Elmina Castle (Fort San Jorge da Mina)
Built between 1482 and 1486
It was the first European fort in the Gold Coast. It was named Fort San Jorge Da Mina on account of the rich gold deposits discovered in the area. It was captured by the Dutch in 1637 and was subsequently improved upon by them. It was purchased by the English in 1872 together with other Dutch possessions in the country.
For 155 years it was the seat of the Portuguese government in this country and for 135 years the seat of the Dutch authority as well.
Fort Coenraadsburg / Fort Saint Jago – Elmina
Built in 1637 and the Dutch
It was built in the 1660’s as a redoubt on top of St. Jago Hill but was later transformed into a strong fort called Coenraadsburg.
It was besieged by the people of Elmina and attacked by the English in 1781 and in 1872 it was purchased with other Dutch possessions by the English.
Fort Beekestein – Elmina (Near the lagoon)
Built by the Dutch and there is no specific date for its establishment
The fort was built to protect Elmina Castle and the town against attacks.
Fort De Veer – Elmina
Built between 1810 1811 by the Dutch
It was built on the shores of the western part of Elmina Castle as a redoubt. It was built at the foot of St. Jago Hill but gradually, Elmina New Town encroached on it.
Fort Java – Elmina
Built between 1855 by the Dutch
Formerly known as Cattoenbergh, Java was named after the most important island of the Dutch East Indies. Many of the African recruits of the Dutch East Indies Army settled there after their return from service in the colony.
Fort Nagtglas – Elmina
Built in 1868 by the Dutch
It was named after Governor Nagtglas to protect the town of Elmina during ethnic wars.
Fort Schomerns – Elmina
Built in the 1820s by the Dutch
It was reconstructed and reinforced in 1843 and was named after the Governor of those days/ Schomerns. It was formerly known as Coebergh.
Fort Tantumkwerrl – Tantum (Otuam)
Built in the 1720s by the English
It was originally built as a lodge in 1720 and was extended in the same year as a fort. It was abandoned in the early 1820.
Amok-u (Near saltpond)
Built between 1787 and 1807 by the French
After the French Revolution, French ships only rarely anchored at Amoku. In 1793, the new French Republic declared war on England and the Dutch. During a second war against the English, the fort was attacked by Africans in the pay of the British and the French factor blew up its fort and some of the enemies. Some Frenchmen however, continued to stay at Amoku and in 1807 the town was attacked by the Ashanti’s.
Historians alleged that prior to the building of the fort, the people of Amoku asked for more and more customary gifts by declaring that a stone in the centre of the fort was a “FETISH” which made the French run into customary expenses.
Fort Nassau – Moree
Built in 1624 by the Dutch
It was originally built in 1598 and 1624 and named after the stadholders of Nassau. It was captured by the English and recaptured the following year by the Dutch. It was captured by the English in 1782, and was restored to the Dutch in 1785; the Dutch however, abandoned itin 1816. The English took it over in 1868.
A Lodge – Egya
Built in 1663 by the English
In the middle of 1663 the Dutch captured it but during the same year it was blown up by the English themselves in an attempt to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Dutch again. It was later abandoned.
Anashan Lodge – Anashan (Modern Biriwa)
Built in 1663 by the English
In 16654 it was captured by the Dutch. It was restored to the English in 1666 but was abandoned in 1685.
The Portuguese sought to revive their interest in the central part of the Coastal District. They therefore built a small redoubt at Anashan in 1679. This was however, abandoned in less than ten years.
A Lodge – Winneba
Built in 1694 by the English
It was bombarded in 1812 but was rebuilt in 1844 and subsequently abandoned and neglected. It was later destroyed by the English Commodore in revenge for the cruel murder of an English commandant of the fort by the people of the town.
The fort did not show itself only more resistance to Ashanti attack. Shortly afterwards, one of the British sergeants of the fort was accused of refusing to return a sum of gold which had been given to him for safekeeping. The Commandant was also held responsible and was killed.
Fort Amsterdam – Cormantin/Kormantse (Abandze)
Built in 1638 by the English
Initially, the English built a rather small fortified lodge between 1631 and 1664 which was gradually enlarged. In 1640, the lodge was destroyed by fire and was later converted into a fort. In 1665, it was captured by the Dutch and reconstructed. It was renamed Fort Amsterdam after the Dutch capital city.
In 1811 the Anomabu people, allies of the English, attacked and destroyed the fort. It was never reoccupied and was left in ruins.
Fort Goedehoop (Good Hope) – Senya Beraku
Built in 1705 by the Dutch
It was formerly a lodge built in 1667 which was later turned into a fort. The Dutch abandoned it in 1816 and was reverted to the English in 1868. The name “Good Hope” was as a result of great expectations that the Dutch had in the area. Their expectations of a gold boom was, however, in vain; the gold trade at Senya Beraku never became prosperous. With the expansion of the trade in slavery due to the increase in prisoners, the fort’s size was doubled.
Fort Leydsaemhey (Patience) – Apam
Built between 1696-1702 by the Dutch
It was taken by the English in 1782 but restored to the Dutch in 1785 and abandoned by them. Due to threats against the Dutch and controversies, the construction of the fort took nearly five years, which made the Dutch decide to call it “Patience”. In 1868, the Dutch transferred the fort to the British. It was similarly resuscitated by the British and was repaired.
Fort William – Anomabo
Built in 1673 by the English
In 1640, a lodge was built by the Dutch. This changed hands from the Dutch to the Swedes, then to the Danes, back to the Dutch and finally to the English between 1673 and 1674. The English built an entirely new fort and was named after King William. The fort was bombarded by the French in 1794, attacked and besieged by the Ashantis in 1806, a day after which it was capitulated.
Lodge – Legu (Dogo)
Built in 1556 by the Portuguese
The English and Danes built lodges in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively.
GREATER ACCRA REGION
Christiansborg Castle (Christians fortress) – Accra (Osu)
Built in 1661 by the Danes
It was originally a Portuguese fortified house in 1500. The Swedes also built a lodge there in 1652. In 1661, the Danes built the castle and named it Christianborg (Christians Fortress) on the land given by the local chief Okaikoi in 1679. The castle was sold to the Portuguese who renamed it St. Francis Xavier and was occupied by the first resident Governor. In 1683, the castle was resold to one Don Diego Azambuja for two years seven months. The Danes used it as their headquarters.
In 1693, a notable Akwamu trader, Asameni, took over the castle and assumed the governorship of it. In 1694, he sold it back to the Danes, taking with him the keys which later became part of the Akwamu stool property. In 1850, all Danish possessions in the Gold Coast were sold to Britain and they left the country. After 1876, the British colonial government took residence in the castle and later abandoned it between 1890 and 1901. In 1902, the castle was reverted to its status as the seat of government.
The castle is currently the seat of the Government of Ghana and it is referred to as The Castle.
James Fort – James Town
Built in 1673 by the English
It was named after King James I of England.
Ussher Fort – James Town
Built in 1649 by the Dutch
It was originally built as a Dutch post in 1642 and known as Fort Crevecoeur on the site of an earlier lodge. It was largely destroyed in 1863 by an earthquake and was partly reconstructed. It was later handed over to the English in 1868 after the departure of the Dutch and renamed Ussher Fort after the British administrator who had been instrumental in the exchange of territories of that year.
Fort Vernon – Prampram
Built in 1784 by the English
It was an English fort which was abandoned in 1816. It was the last fort built by the English.
Fort Augustaborg – Teshie
Built in 1787 by the Danes
It was originally built as a lodge by the Danes and later converted into a fort. It was purchased by the English but was not occupied by them.
Fort Kongenstein – Ada
Built in 1783 by the Danes
The fort was built by the Danes and was purchased by the English in 1850. It was one of the fortified forts built by the Danes. It was frequently exposed to attacks.
Fort friedensborg – Old Ningo
Built in 1738 by the Danes
The British bought it in 1850 with other Danish possessions. When the Ningos were attacked, the townspeople sought refuge in the fort but it was too small to protect them and many outside were massacred.
Fort Prinzenstein – Keta
Built in 1780 by the Danes
It was a Dutch fort which was built in 1734 and known as Fort Singlelenburgh. It was blown up in 1737 and later became the property of the Danes who rebuilt and named it Fort Prinzenstein in 1784. It later reverted to the English in 1850 and was abandoned in 1856.
Research : K. G. Baiden
(A research consultant)
Fort and Castles : Albert Van Dantzig
Forts and Castles : Dr. Ephson
Castles and Forts of Ghana : Prof. Kwasi J. Anquandah
Photographs : Thierry Secretan
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