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HIstory Timeline

Oral tradition holds that an inland group migrating to the coast established the hilltop town of Kormantin. their arrival preceded that of the Fante nation which came to surround them.

AD 1400

The Portuguese build Elmina Castle 20 miles west of Kormantin, establishing the first permanent European trading center on the “Gold Coast.”


Englishman William Towerson trades textiles and ironware for gold with residents of Kormantin in spite of Portugal’s claim to the whole coast. He was chased away by an arriving armada from Lisbon.


PortuguAL sends two war galleys to attack a French ship trading at Kormantin. The French ship is hammered by cannon fire which killed or wounded 22 of the crew; the rest abandoned ship and fled ashore. The captured ship was taken back to Elmina Castle, where it was salvaged for parts.

April 1582 

Dutch trading vessels encroach on Portugal’s gold trade and barter extensively at villages from Axim to Accra. The small under-supplied garrison at Elmina is virtually powerless to stop them.


The king of Sebou invites Dutch traders to build a permanent trading lodge at Mouri. The small stone fort the erect becomes the first Dutch outpost in West Africa.


England’s King James I charters the Company of Adventurers of London Trading to the Ports of Africa, a private joint-stock enterprise better known as the Guinea Company.

 The Guinea Company gained exclusive trading privileges in West Africa, but initially concentrated on the redwood trade in Gambia and searching for gold in Sierra Leone.  One of the first English-language descriptions of West Africa, Richard Jobson’s The Golden Trade (London, 1623), reported on the Guinea Company’s failed efforts to locate inland sources of African gold.

War breaks out between the Sebou and the Fante. Dutch soldiers assist the Sebou in battle, fueling the Fante’s enduring hatred.


Dutch West India Company is created. it takes over all forts, lodges and trading operations in West Africa. Private Dutch traders are prohibited.

June 1621

During the Battle of Elmina, A large Dutch army fails to capture the Portuguese castle, thanks largely to a clever ambush that African Elmina warriors staged.

October 25, 1625

London Merchant Nicholas Crispe takes over the Guinea Company and obtains a new charter Granting exclusive trade rights to the African coast between Cabo Blanco and the Cape of Good Hope.

Crispe decisively shifts the company’s focus to the Gold Coast and recruits two highly experience but disgruntled ex-Dutch West India Company factors, Arent de Groot and Jeremias Nuyts, to open English trade with coastal communities they already knew well.

Under Arent de Groot’s leadership, the English Guinea Company establishes a trading lodge at Cormantine Beach, built with the help of workers from nearby Great Kormantin. 

The English presence led to the growth of a strong service economy around the English trading lodge and the adjoining beach, which attracted many families from Old Kormantin to relocate there and establish a new “Crom” (village adjoining a fort or trading post) on the hilltop to the west of the post. Villagers provided food and accommodations to merchants arriving from Accra with gold to trade and the dozens of slave porters who accompanied them.  Others, mostly fishermen, profited by moving inland traders and the goods they purchased through the hazardous surf between Cormantine Beach and the Dutch leggers anchored offshore. African trade with rival Dutch and English factors spurred additional demand for fish, grain, fresh water, canoes, and temporary warehouse space, further expanding the local economy. Anglo-Dutch commercial competition quickly transformed New Cormantine into a sizeable, economically diversified maritime entrepot and a regional magnet for interior gold trading nations.

The Dutch West India Company sends a fleet of nine ships to capture Elmina Castle. 

The Dutch West India Company sends a fleet of nine ships with 400 sailors, 800 soldiers, and an unstated number of Brazilian Indian warriors from Pernambuco, Brazil, to surprise and capture Elmina Castle.  The fleet arrives at Komenda on Aug. 19, and West India Company Director Nikolaas Van Yperen persuades the King of Komenda to supply 200 additional manned canoes with promises of rewards after the castle is taken. The combined forces land at Cape Coast on Aug. 23 and march overland to attack Elmina. After defeating a Portuguese-Elmina ambush with heavy losses, Dutch forces capture St. Jago Hill. Their army attacks Elmina Town from the west on Aug. 26, initiating a siege. After a day-long combined Dutch naval and land bombardment of Elmina Castle on Aug. 27, the Portuguese surrender. The West India Company makes Elmina Castle its operational headquarters and primary regional warehouse in West Africa.
August 1637

A fire breaks out in the trading post which destroys trade goods and halts construction, the Guinea Company blames the event on Dutch-backed saboteurs.

June 1639

Guinea Company factors at Cormantine launch a new regional trade with Portuguese Sao Tome.

They send 2 yachts, which return with cargoes of sugar. Two other ships operating from Cormantine trade along the coast to the east, supplied with cargoes from Cormantine’s store rooms. Profits from the gold trade and these additional activities reportedly reach £45,000.

Civil War in England reduces English overseas trade and settlement.

Nicholas Crispe, a Royalist, is removed from the Guinea Company and wartime disruptions interrupt the flow of English goods to Cormantine and other English trading posts for several years.  London merchant and Barbados investor Maurice Thompson and others sponsor rival trade missions to Guinea to procure slaves for Caribbean plantations beginning to experiment with sugar production.

Maurice Thompson and other English merchants orchestrate a hostile takeover of the English Guinea Company and revamp its operations.

After a decade of tolerating Dutch trading ships anchored nearby, the Guinea Company purges Cormantine Village of its pro-Dutch faction. This forces Ammadou, their “captain,” to negotiate with Dutch West India Company Director General Jacob van der Well to create a new village for them on the north side of the Benya River, adjoining Elmina Castle. The Guinea Company replaced Crispe’s earlier post with Cormantine Castle, a substantial stone fortification with multiple gun batteries, ample warehouse space, and living quarters for several dozen company members, craftsmen, and garrison soldiers.  ADD SKETCH HERE@ME -The sole surviving image for Cormantine Castle portrays a square keep with a large centrally positioned square tower, surrounded by a lower battery with either round or faceted ramparts in each corner (the image is ambiguous). The castle was situated atop the seaward-facing cliffs on a promontory extending into the Atlantic Ocean.  The sketch also shows a detached round tower some distance to the west of the main fort, but it is not known whether this was constructed at the same time as the core of Cormantine Castle or at a later date.

First Anglo-Dutch War breaks out, but English and Dutch company employees and factors independently agree to not attack each other’s posts.


In December 1657, Maurice Thompson, as governor of both the East India and English Guinea Companies, arranges for the East india company to lease the Guinea Company’s West African trade monopoly for an annual payment of £1,300 for six years.

The shift radically changes commercial operations at Castle Cormantine.  The East India Company focuses exclusively on the gold trade in order to obtain bullion to purchase its goods in India and is willing to even sell at a loss in Africa because the resulting gold is far more valuable in Asian markets.  During its six-year operation, the East India Company dispatched 15 ships to Cormantine and transshipped more than 5,562 Marks (2,781 pounds) of gold to Fort St. George in Surat. They also substantially repair Cormantine Castle.

Most East India Company ships stayed less than a month, trading large cargoes of textiles and iron for gold obtained through trade. By 1660, the volume of arriving English cargo overwhelmed Cormantine Castle’s warehouses and the East India Company opened a secondary trading lodge at Cape Coast.  Like the Guinea Company, the East India Company struggled to keep Cormantine Castle adequately staffed: of 111 employees sent out at least 55 died, often within weeks of arrival.

The East India Company focused almost exclusively on the gold trade – it exported a grand total of 47 enslaved men and women, or rather transferred them to other East India Company outposts in St. Helena and India, and apparently imported more than this number of enslaved workers from the Kingdom of Ardra (aka Allada, Benin) to maintain Cormantine Castle.  Because it was not concerned with the slave trade (and lacked the staff to police its trade monopoly), the EIC ignored other English “interlopers” bartering for slaves elsewhere in West Africa as long as they did not also trade for gold.  Indeed, Governor Thompson and other EIC investors with West Indian plantations and investment likely dabbled in both trades simultaneously, since demands and prices for enslaved African workers rose sharply in the 1650s as the Caribbean sugar economy expanded. While Kormantin became a specialized gold market, nearby Anomabu and Winneba grew as destinations for English merchants seeking slaves.  The sale of guns became a bone of contention between English Kormantin factors and the EIC.  As a slave-trading interloper, Gov. Maurice Thompson knew that musket sold quickly and fetched a high price and accordingly had the EIC ship more than 600 guns to Cormantine Castle to sell. The EIC’s Kormantin factors, however, refused to sell them, arguing that gun sales dangerously destabilized interior Accanist gold traders’ trade routes, put their own lives at risk, and, when EIC firearms were offered, were rejected as inferior (“new slender muskets . . . breaking in the fireing them” when “the Cuntrey now desire old heavy gunns”) compared with those of other nations’ wares (Makepeace 1991, 9). Indeed, when the EIC closed its West African operations, more than 3,000 muskets were found unsold, moldering in Cormantine Castle’s storerooms.


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