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Forts & Castles

Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana that flourished, north of the present day state, between the 4th and 11th centuries AD. However, the history of Ghana dates back even further to the great Sudanic empires of West Africa which controlled the trade in gold and salt to and from the trans-Saharan trade routes.

Later history brought European traders, and a period when many nations left their mark on what became known as the 'Gold Coast'. Great empires remained in Ghana, and the traditions of the Asante and the Fante continue even to the modern state of Ghana that emerged in 1957.

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. Relics, historic sites, national monuments, and of course, our castles and forts.

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, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and Britain to safeguard 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 some are in ruins. Most are open to the public. LIST OF ALL 32 FORTS AND CASTLES OF GHANA

1. ANKOBRA - Fort Eliza Cathargo
Built by the Dutch in 1702; only traces of ruins are now visible.

2. AXIM - Fort San Antonio
Portuguese trading post, in 1502. Destroyed by the townspeople in 1514. Second fort built by the Portuguese on present site in 1515. Taken in 1642 by the Dutch who subsequently rebuilt the internal structure. Captured by the English in 1664. Recaptured by the Dutch in 1665. Ceded to Britain in 1872. Restored in 1951-56.

3. BEYIN - Fort Appolonia
Dutch lodge in 1660. First English trading post in 1691. British fort built between 1750 and 1770. Abandoned in 1820, but re-occupied by Governor Maclean's expeditionary force in 1836 (to facilitate confrontation with King Kweku Ackah of Nzima, who was renowned for his stubborn opposition to increasing British intervention). Transferred to Dutch in 1868. Renamed Fort William III for King William III and occupied by the Dutch until 1872. Transferred to the English in 1872. Bombarded by the British in 1873. After the fort was abandoned, it fell into ruins. Reconstructed between 1962 and 1968.

4. PRINCESSTOWN - Groot-Friedrichsburg or Fort Hollandia
Danish lodge in 1658, fort built in 1682. Fort re-built in 1683, abandoned in 1716 and shortly afterwards occupied by local chief, John Conny, in 1717, who remained in occupation until 1725 when it was captured by the Dutch and renamed Fort Hollandia. It remained in the possession of the Dutch until 1872 when it was ceded to Britain.

5. TAKRAMA - Fort Sophie Louise
Lodge built by Brandenburgers in 1690. English fort in 1691. Abandoned in 1708, and sold to the Dutch in 1717.

6. AKWIDA - Fort Dorothea
Built by Brandenburgers, in 1685. Temporarily in Dutch hands in 1687-90. Given back to Brandenburgers, in 1698. Abandoned about 1709. In the hands of the Dutch, in 1712. Relinquished to the Brandenburgers in 1712. Sold to the Dutch, in 1718.

7. DIXCOVE - Fort Metal Cross
The fort on the bay (Dick's or Dickies Cove). Work commenced in 1683, but progress was impaired by continuous disputes between the English and the Brandenburgers. Building completed by the English, in 1691-97, possibly on the site of an earlier post. Besieged, in 1748-56 and abandoned, in 1826. Re-occupied in 1830. Transferred to the Dutch and renamed Metalen Kruis, in 1868. Ceded to Britain, in 1872. Restored in 1954-56.

8. BUTRI - Fort Batensteyn
Swedish post in 1650-52. Dutch fort built in 1656. Taken by the English, in 1665, abandoned in 1818-27, rebuilt by the Dutch, in 1828, relinquished by treaty and remained a Dutch possession until 1872, when it was transferred to the British.

9. SEKONDI - Fort Orange
Built by the Dutch probably in 1640. Seized by the Ahantas in 1694. Abandoned in 1840, but later re-occupied and rebuilt by the Dutch. The fort was ceded to the British in 1872.

10. SHAMA - Fort St. Sebastian
Built as a Dutch lodge in 1526. Portuguese fort built in 1590. Abandoned in 1600. Restored and altered by the Dutch in 1638, enlarged in 1640-42. Attacked by the English under Captain Robert Holme. Temporally in English hands, in 1664-65. The Dutch struck back under de Ruyter, re-occupied it the same year and rebuilt it in 1666. Abandoned it before 1870. Ceded to Britain in 1872. Restored in 1954-57.

11. KOMENDA - Fort Vredenburg
English trading post in 1663. Abandoned because of local hostilities. Built as a fort by the Dutch in 1688-89. Attacked by Komendas, in 1695. Taken and destroyed by the British, in 1782. Restored by the British in 1688-90. The Dutch, in 1785. Ceded to Britain, in 1872.

12. ELMINA - Fort St. Jorge
Elmina Castle
Just 10km west of Cape Coast is the township of Elmina, the first point of contact between the Europeans and the inhabitants of Ghana. A visit to Elmina Castle is both memorable and moving, for within these walls significant events took place which contributed to the shaping of the history of the world.

In 1471, a Portuguese expedition arrived, led by Don Diego d' Azambuja. Because of the vast amount of gold and ivory, they found here, they called the area "Mina de Ouro" - the gold mine. Elmina soon became the centre of a thriving trade in gold, ivory and slaves, which were exchanged for cloth, beads, brass bracelets and other goods brought by the Portuguese.

In 1482, the Portuguese built St. George's Castle (Elmina Castle). This vast rectangular 97,000sq ft fortification is the earliest known European structure in the tropics.

As the immensely profitable trade in gold and slaves at Elmina increased, it began to attract the attention of other European nations, and a struggle for control of the Castle ensued. Finally, in 1637, after two previously unsuccessful attempts, the Dutch captured Elmina Castle and remained in control for the next 274 years.

A guided tour is offered daily. Admission fee is charged. The Castle also has a gift shop for the sale of books and souvenirs on the history of the castle.

Fort St. Jago is within walking distance of Elmina Castle. It is from this vantage point that the Dutch launched their successful land attack on Elmina Castle. Unlike other area forts, St. Jago was not used for trading activities. Its primary purpose was to provide military protection to the Castle and to serve as a disciplinary institution for European convicts and malcontents.

Bring your camera along, for this little Fort and the hill on which it stands also provides an excellent view of Elmina township and the Castle.

Portuguese reached Elmina (Del Mina) in 1471. Built by Portuguese, in 1482. First European fort on the Gold Coast, improved before 1500. Temporary French occupation in 1582. Exterior rebuilt between 1580 and 1589. Dutch attempt to capture the castle failed in 1625. Taken by the Dutch, in 1637, and thereafter remained their headquarters on the Gold Coast. Internal rebuilding done. Besieged twice and assaulted by local people in 1680-81. Bombarded by the English in 1781. Ceded to Britain, in 1872.

13. ELMINA - Fort St. Jago (Cobnraadsburg)
Chapel built between 1555 and 1558 by the Portuguese. Turned into a lodge and watch tower. Hill taken by the Dutch and converted into a lodge built in 1637. Built into a fort in 1652-62 by the Dutch when they took Elmina Castle. Enlarged in 1671. Besieged by the local people for ten months in 1681. Attacked by the English in 1781, ceded to Britain, in 1872. Restored in 1956-60.

14. ELMINA - Watchtower
Presumably Dutch but of unknown date, restored in 1956

15. CAPE COAST - Cape Coast Castle
Most historians believe that Cape Coast Castle was originally built as a small trading lodge which was subsequently added to and enlarged until it became a fortification. In 1637 the lodge was occupied by the Dutch. Then, in 1652, it was captured by the Swedes, who name it Fort Carolusburg. For a time, both the local people and various European powers fought for and gained possession of the fort. Finally, in 1664, after a four-day battle, the fort was captured by the British and re-named Cape Coast Castle. The Castle served as the seat of the British administration in the then Gold Coast (Ghana) until the administration was moved to Christianborg Castle in Accra on March 19,1877.

Like most ancient fortifications in Ghana, Cape Coast Castle played a significant role in the gold and slave trades. Also, as a result of the European influence here, two significant contributions were made that a re still evident today: the arrival of Christianity in the country, and the establishment of the first formal education system through Castle Schools.

A guided tour of the Cape Coast Castle will acquaint you with its many interesting features including Dalzel Tower, the graves of Governor George Maclean and his wife Leticia Landon, the slave dungeons, Palaver Hall, and the cannons and mortars used in the Castle's defence.

Guided tours of Cape Coast Castle are available from 8:30am - 4:30pm daily. The general admission fee includes a guided tour. There is also a nominal charge for taking photographs or for using a video camera.

West African Historical Museum
The Museum is located inside Cape Coast Castle and contains a growing collection of art and cultural objects from various parts of West Africa, for example ceremonial drums, old muskets, shackles from the slave trade and ancient pottery. The price of admission is included in your castle entry fee.

Built as a lodge by the Dutch in 1630 on an abandoned lodge built earlier by the Portuguese. Abandoned by the Dutch and occupied by Swedes. English trading post by 1649. Swedes began to build the castle (Carolsburg) in 1652, taken over by the Danes in 1657. Occupied by "Dey" of Fetu between 1660 and 1663. Re-occupied by Swedes in 1663; in Dutch hands by 1664-65. Captured by the English in 1665 and remained their headquarters on the coast until 1877. Strengthened and greatly enlarged by English in 1673-1694. Attacked by French in 1703 and 1757.Extensively rebuilt before 1757-80.

16. CAPE COAST - Fort Victoria
Built by the English in 1702 and known as Phipp's Tower from 1711. Rebuilt in 1837 and renamed Fort Victoria.

17. CAPE COAST - Fort William
Built by the British in 1819-20, and called Smith's Tower. Rebuilt in 1830-31 and renamed Fort William. Lighthouse installed in 1835.

18. CAPE COAST - Fort McCarthy
Built by the British in 1822.

19. CAPE COAST - Morie Fort Nassau
Dutch post, in 1598. Dutch fort built in 1612, enlarged in 1620s and 1630s. Name conferred, in 1637. Temporarily in English hands in 1664-45. Re-captured by the Dutch, in 1665. Captured by the English again in 1782. Returned to the Dutch by treaty, in 1785. Transferred to Britain, in 1868.
Lodge successively occupied by the Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Dutch (again), English and Dutch
1782. (again), in 1640-65.

20. ANOMABU - Fort William
Built by the Dutch in 1640. Captured by the Swedes in the early 1950s. Captured by the Danes under Sir Henry Carlof, in 1657. Recaptured by the Dutch in 1660. Capitulated to the Dutch under De Ruyter in 1665. Rebuilt by the English as Fort Charles in 1679. Occupied by the Anomabus, in 1701. Abandoned by the English in 1730. Present fort (now wrongly called Fort William) built by the British, in 1753-56. Bombarded by French in 1794. Attacked by the Anomabus in 1801. Attacked by Ashantis on 15th June 1806. Purchased by the English in 1872. Restored in 1954.

21. KORMANTSE - Fort Amsterdam
Dutch trading post in 1598. Dutch post established by 1618 and abandoned later. Dutch lodge built in 1631, fort rebuilt by the English in 1638-45. Taken by Dutch and named Fort Amsterdam, in 1665.
Enlarged and improved, in 1681-82. Temporarily in British hands in 1782-5. Restored to the Dutch in 1782. Taken and plundered by Ashantis in 1806. Attacked and destroyed by Anomabus, in 1811.
1783. Abandoned. Reoccupied by Dutch for ten years. Transferred to Britain in 1868.

22. AMOKU - (Near Ankafal, Saltpond)
French post built in 1786. Abandoned in 1801.

English post intermittently occupied from 1662. English Fort built in 1724. Abandoned in 1820. Rebuilt in 1843 but shortly afterwards abandoned.

24. APAM - Fort Leydsaemheyt (Fort Patience)
Built by the Dutch in 1697-1702. Temporarily in British hands in 1782-5. Restored to the Dutch in 1785. Occupied by Akim, in 1811. Transferred to Britain, in 1868.

25. SENYA BERAKU - Fort Goedehoop (Good Hope)
Dutch Fort established in 1667. English post in 1704. Dutch began to build fort, in 1706. Temporarily in British hands in 1782-85. Dutch regained it by treaty in 1785-1805. Transferred to Britain, in 1868.

26. ACCRA - Fort James
It is likely that there was a Portuguese lodge in the middle of the 16th century (probably by 1576). First English post in 1650-53. English post re-established, in 1672. Raised to status of fort, in 1679. Damaged by earthquake, in 1862.

27. ACCRA - Fort Crevecoer (Ussher Fort)
Dutch post built in 1642. Enlarged and named Fort Crevecoeur, in 1652. Temporarily in British hands, in 1782. Returned to the Dutch in 1785. Abandoned in 1816. Damaged by earthquake, in 1862. Transferred to British, rebuilt and renamed Ussher Fort, in 1868.

28. ACCRA - Christianborg Castle
A Portuguese fortified house, in 1500. Taken by Swedes in 1645. Swedish lodge built in 1652. Taken by Danes in 1657. Enlarged and named Christianborg after King Christian V of Denmark, in 1659. Temporarily in Dutch hands in 1660. Site ceded to Danes by King of Accra, in 1661. Temporarily in Portuguese hands and called S. Francis Xavier, in 1679-83. Reoccupied by Danes, in 1683. Taken by the Akwamus, in 1693. Redeemed by the Danes for £600, in 1694. Enlarged between 1730 and 1780. Bought by Britain in 1850. Damaged by earthquake in 1862 after which it was used as a lunatic asylum. Rebuilt and used as residence of the British Governor of Gold Coast, in 1877-1957. Residence of Prime Minister of Ghana and renamed Government House, Osu, in 1957. Became the official residence of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, First President of Ghana in 1960 and has since remained the Seat of Government. Frequently rebuilt with additions in recent years. Not open to the public.

29. TESHIE - Fort Augustaborg
Dutch post in 1730-1740s. Danish small fort in 1787. Bought by Britain, in 1850.

30. PRAMPRAM - Fort Yernon
British post in 1740, but later ruined by Danes and abandoned. British fort built in 1806. Abandoned, in 1820. Reoccupied in 1831-44.

31. ADA - Fort Kongesten
Portuguese trading place, in the 16th century. Danish post, in 1650. Present fort begun to be built in 1784. Fort taken by Ashantis, in 1811.

32. KETA - Fort Prinsenstein
Danish post established in 1714. Dutch post established, in 1719, about 200-300 yards from the sea. Dutch post backed by the Akwamus, in 1731. Abandoned shortly afterwards. Taken by the Dutch in 1734. Dutch fort attacked by Dahomeans and blown up by Dutch, in 1737. Danish post re-established in 1737. Danes began to build present fort, in 1784. Bought by Britain in 1850.
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