CAPE COAST, a port on the Gold Coast, British West Africa, in 5° 5′ N., 1° 13′ W., about 80 m. W. of Accra. Pop. (1901) 28,948, mostly Fantis. There are about 100 Europeans and a colony of Krumen. The town is built on a low bank of gneiss and micaceous slate which runs out into the sea and affords some protection at the landing-place against the violence of the surf. (This bank was the Cabo Corso of the Portuguese, whence the English corruption of Cape Coast.) The castle faces the sea and is of considerable size and has a somewhat imposing appearance. Next to the castle, used as quarters for military officers and as a prison, the principal buildings are the residence of the district commissioner, the churches and schools of various denominations, the government schools and the colonial hospital. Many of the wealthy natives live in brick-built residences. The streets are hilly, and the town is surrounded on the east and north by high ground, whilst on the west is a lagoon. Fort Victoria lies west of the town, and Fort William (used as a lighthouse) on the east.
The first European settlement on the spot was that of the Portuguese in 1610. In 1652 the Swedes established themselves here and built the castle, which they named Carolusburg. In 1659 the Dutch obtained possession, but the castle was seized in 1664 by the English under Captain (afterwards Admiral Sir) Robert Holmes, and it has not since been captured in spite of an attack by De Ruyter in 1665, a French attack in 1757, and various assaults by the native tribes. Next to Elmina it was considered the strongest fort on the Guinea Coast. Up to 1876 the town was the capital of the British settlements on the coast, the administration being then removed to Accra. It is still one of the chief ports of the Gold Coast Colony, and from it starts the direct road to Kumasi. In 1905 it was granted municipal government. In the courtyard of the castle are buried George Maclean (governor of the colony 1830–1843) and his wife (Laetitia Elizabeth Landon). The graves are marked by two stones bearing respectively the initials “L. E. L.” and “G. M.” The land on the east side of the town is studded with disused gold-diggers’ pits. The natives are divided into seven clans called companies, each under the rule of recognized captains and possessing distinct customs and fetish.
See A. Ffoulkes, “The Company System in Cape Coast Castle,” in Jnl. African Soc. vol. vii., 1908; and Gold Coast.