Cape Coast Castle-A Piece Of African History
The coast of Ghana has ancient castles and forts. These castles and forts mark the beginning of the slaves' perilous journey during the era of the slave trade. These fortresses were the last memory slaves had of their homeland before being shipped off across the Atlantic, never to return again.
Between 1482 and 1786, clusters of castles and forts were erected along the 500 km-long coastline of Ghana between Keta in the East and Beyin in the west. Back then, Ghana was called the Gold Coast due to its vast quantities of gold, and these strongholds served as fortified trading posts offering protection from other foreign settlers and threats from the African population.
One of the most famous castles in Ghana is the Cape Coast Castle. It began as a trade lodge constructed by the Portuguese in 1555. In 1653, following Sweden's conquest of the Cape Coast, the Swedish Africa Company constructed a permanent wooden fortress for trade in timber and gold. A decade later, the fort was reconstructed in stone when the Danes seized power from the Swedish.
The fort then passed through different hands before being conquered by the British in 1664. Over the years the fort was increasingly used for the developing slave trade, which came to a peak in the 18th century. By 1700, the fort had been transformed into a castle and also served as the headquarters of the British colonial governor.
Up to 1,000 male and 500 female slaves were shackled and crammed in the castle's poorly ventilated dungeons, with no space to lie down and very little light. Without water or sanitation, the floor of the dungeon was littered with human waste and many captives fell seriously ill. The men were separated from the women, and the captors regularly raped the helpless women. The castle also featured confinement cells -small pitch-black spaces for prisoners who revolted or were seen as rebellious. Once the slaves set foot in the castle, they could spend up to three months in captivity under these dreadful conditions before being shipped off to the New World.
The castle also had some extravagant chambers, devoid of the stench and misery of the dungeons, only a couple of meters below. For example, the British governor and officers' quarters were spacious and airy, with beautiful parquet floors and scenic views of the blue waters of Atlantic. There was also a chapel in the castle enclosure for the officers, traders and their families as they went about their normal day-to-day life completely detached from the unfathomable human suffering they were consciously inflicting.
The castle's involvement with slavery eventually stopped as a result of Britain's ban on the slave trade. Cape Coast Castle went back to its previous function as an essential site for (non-human) commodity trade, after which it was turned into an army training facility. In 1957, when Ghana became the first African state to regain independence from British colonial rule, the ownership of the Cape Coast Castle was transferred to the new government and subsequently to the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board. The castle is currently a well-visited museum and historical site.
The castle's opening hours are 9:00am to 4:30pm daily.
Entrance fees are as follows:
Pupils from Primary to JHS 3-GH¢ 0.30
SHS Students-GH¢ 0.50
Tertiary Students with ID-GH¢ 1.00
Ghanaian Adults-GH¢ 2.00
Foreign Children-USD 2.00
Foreign Students with ID-USD 4.00
Adult Foreigners-USD 7.00.
*USD equivalent in Ghana cedis are acceptable
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