Standing tall on a hilltop in Butre village in Western Ghana, Fort Bernstein offers a mesmerising view of the Atlantic coastline. But it was much more than the spectacular panorama and the paradisiacal beauty of the surroundings that urged Dutch settlers to build this small trading fort in 1656 in this area – GOLD.
Although designed in the style of a proper fortification, the overall construction was so fragile that it shook whenever the guns were being fired for salute. This being said, the mere strategic placement of the building uphill was Fort Bernstein’s greatest defense ‘system’. That’s what probably prompted William Bosman to qualify it as ‘a tiny, ill designed fort’. Well, that’s one perspective and a glass of water also has a full part. Surrounded by lush vegetation, overlooking the beach and the ocean, life at the fort must have been idyllic.
Designed and built to serve as a trading post, however, Fort Batenstein was never used for trading purposes. Yet it did provide a few commercial services such as ship repairs. The bay just below is ideal for that, not to mention that Ahantaland forest can supply plenty of timber for the purpose.
Additionally, the fertile land behind the fort provided the perfect bed for cotton, sugar and coffee plantations set up along Butre River. On 6th April 1872, the fort was acquired by the British and underwent structural adjustments.
Between 2010 and 2011, Fort Batenstein was consolidated, benefiting from co-funding from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At present the fort is under conservation (as a ruin). The Town Tourism Development Committee of Butre offers guided tours to Fort Batenstein and the surrounding area.