Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions
Forts And Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central And Western Regions
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Cultural Ghana Africa Volta, Greater Accra, Central And Western Regions

The remains of fortified trading-posts established between 1482 and 1786 can still be seen along the coast of Ghana between Keta and Beyin. They were links in the trade routes established by the Portuguese in many areas of the world during their era of great maritime exploration.

Accra was first settled at the end of the 16th century when the Ga people migrated there. The site allowed them to engage in trade with the Europeans who had built forts nearby, the most important of these being James Fort and Ussher Fort. These early inhabitants also engaged in farming and lagoon fishing, with sea fishing taken up during the middle of the 18th century. During the slave trade Accra took on greater importance owing to the nearby forts, many of which were owned and controlled by the Dutch, a prominence that lasted until the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

In Accra, competition between the different European states was strong and having a fort at Accra was of great strategic value, as it lay at the end of an important inland trade route. The forts and castles were built and occupied at different times by European traders and adventurers from Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and Britain to safeguard trading posts. The castles defended the European merchants and their local allies and trading partners against competition;they were used as entrepôts for slaves and trade-goods, and they were the centres of European administration on the Gold Coast.

Ussher Fort is one of three European forts in Accra which have survived to the present day, the others being Christiansborg Castle (known locally as 'The Castle') and James Fort. It was built as Fort Crêvecoeur by the Dutch in 1649. In the 18th century Fort Crêvecoeur played an important role in the slave trade. Afterwards, its history remained closely linked to the history of what was formerly known as Dutch Accra, nowadays Ussher Town, just north of the fort. Fort Crêvecoeur was once more destroyed in 1862, when an earthquake hit Accra. Partly reconstructed, the fort was handed over to the British in 1868 and renamed Ussher Fort. Soon after, the British started using Ussher Fort, as well as the nearby James Fort, as a prison. They enlarged the fort considerably and the original Dutch fort is now almost indistinguishable. In 1993, the fort ceased to function as a prison, when it was taken over by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, who now uses part of the building as offices.

In 1652 the Swedes built a lodge in Accra that in 1660 was taken by the Dutch. In 1661 the Danes occupied the place and built a fort named Fort Christiansborg, located on a rock cliff near the African town of Osu. The fort was in Danish hands for some 200 years apart from a short Portuguese occupation. In 1680 a Portuguese ship arrived at the Danish fort and its Governor sold it to the Portuguese commander of the ship. The Portuguese renamed it Fort São Francisco Xavier and built a chapel. In 1683 the Danes from nearby Fort Fredriksborg reoccupied it and moved their headquarters there. The fort was square in plan, with four bastions. The Danes made several attempt to establish plantations near the fort and they also established in the early 1800s a hill-station and a plantation at Frederiksborg. In 1850 it was sold to the English.

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