Why Were Castles Built Along the Coast of Ghana?

Many people are surprised when they hear castles built in Ghana and asking themselves, why were these castles built along the coast of this country?

Picture by Cdigitals on Pixabay

The castles built along the coast of Ghana were the major trading centres of timber, gold, ivory and slaves between Western Africa and Europe and the US. Portuguese, Dutch and British built them between the 15th and 19th centuries on the coast for easy access to the fleet.

In case you want to find out more, below, we dive deep into stories behind these colonial buildings.

What is the oldest castle in Ghana?

St. George’s Castle, commonly known as Elmina Castle, is the oldest in Ghana.

The Portuguese built this stunning castle in 1482 as a slave-trading post and was the first post built in the Gulf of Guinea. 

Today it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a tourist attraction full of historical tours.

How many castles were built along the coast of Ghana?

Ghana has a whopping amount of castles and forts! It’s believed there are 40 in total and 32 of which UNESCO has documented. 

Fort Good Hope (Fort Goedehoop)

Fortresses Good Hope in Ghana
picture by
Macabe5387

The smiling coast i.e. the Gold Coast had its last fort built there in 1667. This was known as Fort Good Hope in Senya Beraku. 

The Dutch built it in with the permission of the Queen of Agona. They erected it to use it for gold trading but later used it for slave trading.

They also changed the shape of the fort from triangular to square to double its size. 

The fort had four bastions, garrisons and halls for officers, kitchens, a female and male prison, stores, granary and powder magazine room. 

The fort located near a cove is now a major tourist attraction site.

Cape Coast Castle

picture by David Stanley on Flickr.com

Cape Coast Castle is the most famous Ghanaian castle and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 The Portuguese established a trading post in 1955 and named it Cabo Corso. The Swedes built the castle in 1650 after getting permission from the King of Fetu. 

Although they made it for trade in timber and gold, they later used it for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Through Cape Coast Castle, Christianity and the formal education system was introduced to Ghana. 

 It also serves as the regional headquarters of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board.

Fort Patience (Fort Leysaemhyt)

The fort is named Fort Patience, as it took five years for the Dutch to complete it in 1697. 

Located in Apam in the Central Region of Ghana, with nominal trading opportunities, the Dutch had to be threatened by Acron King frequently to build the fort.

Although initially built to serve as a stone trading lodge, the fort turned into a defensive fortress offering a commanding view of Apam’s harbour to the north, and the Gulf Of Guinea coast to the south, east, and west. 

The fort looks neglected, and some organizations are demanding to take some steps to save it from further deterioration.

Fort Amsterdam (Fort Cormantin)

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fort Amsterdam, was built as a Dutch trading post in 1598. 

Fort Amsterdam in Ghana
Picture by Olivier Blaise on Flickr.com

Later the British rebuilt the fort between 1638-45, and it was the largest fortification of the time. The British named it.

The fort’s southeast bastion was hollow and had grated ventilation in the roof, which served as the slave prison.

Fort St. Jago (Fort Conraadsburg)

Fort St. Jago (Fort Conraadsburg) In Ghana
Picture by David Stanley on Flickr.com

Fort St. Jago was originally a fortified chapel that the Portuguese built between 1555 and 1558.

 Because of its vantage point, the Dutch turned it into a watchtower to launch an attack on Elmina Castle in 1637. 

The fort was constructed with the purpose to protect Fort Elmina and later served as a prison and disciplinary institution for European convicts and unlawful officers. The fort is in good shape and is open for visitors.

Fort Batenstein

Fort Batenstein In Ghana
Picture by Shahadusadik on Wikipedia

Despite the literal translation of Batenstein being “profit fort”, the area didn’t have trading prospects. 

The Dutch built the fort in 1656 to impede Swedish traders from establishing any trading posts along the gold coast.

The fort stands on a steep hill overlooking Butre Bay which was its most excellent natural defence.

 Later, they started a sawmill at the fort, which became useful in repair and maintenance work for ships.

 Butler offers a guided tour to Fort Batenstein, where you can enjoy the magnificent views from its bastions.

Fort San Sebastián

Fort San Sebastián in Ghana
Picture by inyathi on Flickr.com

Fort San Sebastián is the third oldest fort in Ghana. Before that, the Dutch had built a lodge in the location around. 

The Portuguese converted the lodge and erected a fortress in 1590, with a primary purpose to suppress British traders from entering the Gold Coast.

 It also served as a prison to hold the kidnapped Africans before they were transported to North America as slaves.

The fort was restored by 1957 and is open to visitors. It is located in Sharma and is accessible from the coastal road. 

Anton Wilhelm Amo, the first black university professor, noted philosopher, and teacher, is interred in the fort’s graveyard.

Fort Metal Cross

Fort Metal Cross In Ghana
Picture by AMAZING GHANA on Flickr.com

The British started constructing the fort in 1683 in Dixcove, Ghana, and it was initially called Fort Dixcove

It took around 14 years to complete the fort, which would serve as a post for gold and slave trading.

The fort served as a slave prison for the slave trade. They also started a service station to repair ships and timber supply.

It is one of the most well-preserved forts and offers a guided tour to its visitors.  

English Fort (Fort Vredenburg)

Fort Vredenburg was built in 1689 on the left bank of the Komenda River on the Gold Coast. 

Before that, the British had used the area as their trading post but were forced to abandon it due to local hostilities.

Numerous wars broke out in the Komenda River area, and the constant chaos resulted in transitioning from the gold trade to the slave trade.

 The fort was partly destroyed in the Komenda wars and now exists as preserved ruins.

Fort Saint Anthony

Located near the town of Axim, Fort Saint Antonio was the second fort built by the Portuguese.

 Although they had made a trading list by 1503, it wasn’t until 1515 that they erected this massive fort by the Ankobra River with two significant bastions.

 The fort’s location allowed it to tap into gold-rich lands and become the main slave trading post.

The fort was able to withstand attacks at different periods, and its panelling is considered an archaeological forte. 

The government owns the property and is open to visitors.

Elmina Castle (St. George’s Castle / Fort St. Jorge)

Elmira Castle In Ghana

Elmina Castle was the first castle built on the Gold Coast, present-day Ghana.

The place was rich with resources and a major mining spot for gold. Elmina became a thriving place for the gold and ivory trade and later for the slave trade.

Elmina thus became the entry point for Europeans to what was then referred to as the Gold Coast. The fort now belongs to the government of Ghana, and it is open for tourists.

Final Thoughts 

Ghana is not yet a major destination for tourists around the globe. 

However, we can see it growing soon as more and more castles enthusiasts will find out what’s waiting for them at the Gold Coast.

We hope this article was valuable to you and find what you were looking for, don’t forget there is a lot of history and travel information related to the Castles worldwide in our blog section and castle finder page.

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