Cape Coast Castle, Ghana

About forty slave castles, trading posts and forts were built in Ghana, but the biggest of them is the Cape Coast Castle which today is one of the major tourist attractions in Cape Coast.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit the area known today as Cape Coast in 1471 which they called Cabo Corso (Short Cape). In 1482, the Portuguese built a trading post dedicated to São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mines) a few kilometers away in present-day Elmina, which eventually became Elmina Castle, a major slave depot in the human trade.

Cape Coast Castle overlooking the beach...

In 1555, the Portuguese built a trade lodge at the present site of the Cape Coast Castle, however it was the Swedes who constructed a permanent wooden structure for trade in timber and gold, and named it Fort Carolusborg in honor of King Charles X of Sweden in 1653. The Danes seized the fort in 1657 and it was reconstructed in stone before the Dutch got in on the act two years later.

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The local Fetu chief prevented a Dutch takeover until his death in 1663, but within a year the British too were on the scene and after a 4-day battle led by Captain Robert Holmes, the British took over the fort, which they renamed Cape Coast Castle. It took the British took over 60 years of fortification in stages to transform the edifice into the impregnable bastion it became.

At the height of the slave trade, Cape Coast Castle was the biggest storehouse along the Atlantic Coast, and apart from the slave dungeons and cells, it was the headquarters of the British colonial government, with spacious rooms upstairs for the governor and also had a church and school. The French bombarded the castle during the Seven-Year War which peaked in 1757, leaving it badly damaged and this led to an entire reconstruction by the British after 1760 with more durable materials.

Following the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the castle functioned as trading post and residence of the British Governor. It remained under the control of the British government until 1957, following the independence of Ghana. In 1979, Cape Coast Castle was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site a year after another slave building, Île de Gorée, Dakar became Africa’s first world heritage site.

Several important dignitaries have visited the Cape Coast Castle. In 2009, the US President and his family paid a visit to the castle and unveiled a plaque on July 11, 2009. More African-Americans visited Cape Coast castle in 2019 as part of the Year of Return, Ghana’s landmark commemoration of 400 years of the first slave ship to arrive the Americas from Africa. This led to several African-Americans relocating to settle and open businesses in Ghana.

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