Ghana: The Home Of World’s Historic Forts And Castles

Barack Obama and the late President Evans Attah Mills at the Christiansborg Castle

It is not an overstatement to say Ghana is one of the world’s biggest historic hubs for colonial forts and castles. Most of the forts are located along Ghana’s coastline.

Indeed, they didn’t only shape Ghana’s history but that of the world over four centuries as the focus of first the gold trade and then the slave trade.

They are a significant and emotive symbol of European-African encounters and of the starting point of the African diaspora.

The remains of these fortified trading-posts, erected between 1482 and 1786, can still be seen along the coast of Ghana between Keta and Beyin.

These mean a lot, not only to Ghanaians but also most people around the world, especially black people in the diaspora due to the history with slave trade. Many others around the world have been travelling down to visit these destinations in Ghana.

This week, NEWS-ONE brings to the attention of tourists who visit Ghana some destinations they must visit.

This is part of an initiative by the office of the Ministry of Tourism Arts & Culture to guide tourists to the best destinations in Ghana. They consist of three castles and 15 forts.

A view of the Cape Coast Castle

Cape Coast Castle 

The Cape Coast Castle is one of the most meaningful ways to dive into the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It used to be the final holding place for captive slaves before they made their journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Over the years, till date, the castle is used to educate tourists about the dark history of the slave trade.

The castle has seen many occupations by numerous foreign powers. In 1663, it was captured by the Dutch, then recaptured by the English in 1664 and again improved and enlarged in 1673. In 1681, it was attacked by the people of the town, and subsequently bombarded by the French fleet in 1703 and also in 1757. It was the object of the Anglo-Dutch rivalry and hostilities during that period. Its rebuilding in 1757 was undertaken by the Royal African Company, one of the three principal English trading companies formed to trade in the Gold Coast, among others.

During the slave trade, at any given time, 1,500 slaves were held in horrifying conditions inside. Men and women were held in separate dungeons, crammed in by the hundreds with nowhere to go to the bathroom or get fresh air.

They spent between six and 12 weeks in the castle before being shipped to ‘the new world’. Tourists are urged to visit castle to see where slaves were kept during those horrifying moments.

Side view of St. George d’Elmina Castle

 St. George’s d’Elmina Castle 

Renowned as the first major European construction in tropical Africa, St. George’s Castle, in the town of Elmina in the Central Region of Ghana, was founded by the Portuguese in 1482. The site of the castle was selected by Portuguese navigators, as it was advantageously located at the end of a narrow promontory, a stone’s throw away from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Benya River. The lee of the low headland provided an excellent natural harbour. St George’s Castle or Sao Jorge da Mina, after the patron-saint of Portugal, as the castle was known to the Portuguese, afforded the Portuguese a trade monopoly in the area with unrivalled access to the region’s gold. The Portuguese were ousted from Elmina in 1637 by the Dutch. The main Dutch trades were gold and slaves; they reconstructed the castle between 1770 and 1775. Until 1872, the castle served as the focal coordinating point for Dutch Gold Coast activities.

On April 6, 1872, the castle was ceded to the British. It is presently a historical museum. Next to the castle is a picturesque fishing harbour, and within walking distance are sites such as Fort Coenraadsburg (St. Jago), the Dutch cemetery and the ‘Posuban’ buildings of Elmina. The castle’s opening hours are 9:00am to 4:30pm daily.

 Christiansborg Castle 

The Christiansborg Castle is also known by many as the Osu Castle.  It used to be the seat of Ghana’s government until 2013 when the Office of the President was moved to the Jubilee House, also in Accra. The castle is located off the shores of the vibrant township of Osu in Accra and some meters away from the Independence Square. Built by the Danes around 1659, it is now being used as a presidential museum.

Close to the castle’s junction is the 28 February Christiansborg Crossroad shooting cenotaph. It’s a memorial to Sgt Adjetey, Cpl Attipoe and Pte Odartey Lamptey, ex-servicemen who were shot and killed in 1948 by one Superintendent Colin Imray of the colonial police, while they were marching to the Christiansborg Castle to present a petition to the British Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy. You definitely cannot miss a visit to the castle which holds a lot to the history of Ghana.

Fort Batenstein

Situated on the high hill behind Butre village in the Western Region of Ghana, the view of the Atlantic coastline from the bastions of Fort Batenstein is quite sensational. However, it was the promise of gold in the hinterland, and not simply the beauty of this ecological paradise that prompted the Dutch to construct this small trading fort in 1656.

The sheer steepness of the hill was the fort’s greatest defence against imminent attack. Amidst the verdant vegetation, clean air and the waters of the beach, life at Fort Batenstein must have been, and still is, idyllic.

Although its trading prospects never materialised, Fort Batenstein provided useful services. Ships underwent repair works in the still waters of its bay, using timber acquired from the forest of Ahantaland. Cotton, sugar and coffee plantations were also set up on the rich soils behind the fort, along River Butre. The British acquired the fort on 6th April 1872 and implemented a few basic structural adjustments.

The Fort Batenstein was consolidated between 2010 and 2011 with co-funding from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The fort is currently preserved as a ruin. Butre has a Town Tourism Development Committee, which offers guided tours to Fort Batenstein and the local area. The fort’s opening hours are 9:00am.

Fort Gross Friedericksburg

Located on Manfro Hill in Princestown in the Western Region of Ghana, the Brandenburg Africa Company, led by Benjamin Raule, under the patronage of the Frederick William of Brandenburg, built the luxurious Fort Gross Friedericksburg as their headquarters, between 1683 and 1684, desiring also ‘a place in the sun’ and the riches of the Gold Coast. It is the only fort in Ghana with Germanic authors. A farmyard lookalike, the fort had 32 cannons upon completion; and only a strong defence would have been a sufficient deterrent to assaults from the Dutch and British who resented further foreign intrusion into the area. This was especially so because as few Brandenburg ships arrived on the coast, the fort traded with merchants from all nations, becoming the hub for smugglers along the coast. Fort Gross Friedericksburg is currently a rest house. It can accommodate 10 people at a time. The fort’s opening hours are 9:00am to 4:30pm.

Fort Good Hope    

Fort Good Hope is strategically sited on a promontory near a cove, looking out on a tranquil beach lined with coconut palms in the town of Senya Beraku in the Central Region. The fort was erected in 1715 by the Dutch who were looking to tap into the gold, ivory and slave trade in the hinterland kingdom of Akyem.

The fort was initially a small triangular fort shielded by three bastions and a curtain wall. An apartment building is shielded by the south curtain wall. Inter-ethnic wars between the Asante, Akyem and Akwamu ethnic groups, among others, led to such huge increases in prisoners-of-war slaves, that in 1715 the fort was expanded to include large male and female slave prisons. In an official report of 1804, Fort Good Hope was aptly described as “one of the finest and most spacious forts on the coast.”

Fort Vernon, Prampram

The fishing community of Prampram in the Greater Accra Region is home to the ruins of Fort Vernon. A small English trading fort, Fort Vernon was built in 1742, out of some of the cheapest materials – rough stones and swish. It was abandoned approximately in 1816, whence it fell into ruins.

Restoration works were supposedly carried out in the 1970s, and the fort subsequently served as a rest house for a period of time.



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