The castles and forts of Ghana constitute treasures par excellence, a legacy of the historic past as much to modern Ghana and Africa as to the world at large. Though built on African soil, their authors came from Europe - Portuguese, Dutch, French, Britons, Brandenburg-Prussians, Danes and Swedes. For several centuries, European masters and native African servants lived and worked in them. The warehouses teemed with gold and ivory export products as well as African slaves destined for auction in the New World, there to become ancestors to future generations of black populations. Indeed, these historic buildings were no respectors of persons and extraordinary history was made once when one castle, Elmina, held prisoner an Asante King in all his splendour during the first stage of his forced exile from Ghana. Hence, not only modern Ghanaians, but also many millions in countries of the Western hemisphere and elsewhere constitute stake-holders with an interest in ensuring the preservation of these historic castles and forts.
Recognizing their unique place in world history, the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO has designated Ghana"s castles and forts as World Heritage Monuments.
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
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
The strategic location of Cape Coast having a sheltered beach in proximity to Elmina Castle made it a great attraction to the European nations. Hence, for nearly a century, there was a ding-dong competition among the Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, Swedes and English to gain control of Cape Coast. The Portuguese built the first trade lodge in 1555 and called the local settlement "Cabo Corso", meaning short cape, later corrupted to Cape Coast. The Swedes, led by Krusenstjerna, built a permanent fort in 1653 and called it Carolus burg after King Charles X of Sweden. During the next 11 years, the Danes, the local Fetu chief and the Dutch each in turn captured and held Carolusburg for a time. Finally, the English fleet led by Captain Holmes took Carolusburg. The fort remained in English hands till the late 19th century serving as the West African headquarters seat of the president of the Committee of Merchants and later as the seat of the British governor.
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. 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.