The Richter Fort

A former private slave Fort in Osu

Entrance Archway at Richter Fort (18th Century) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Previously Barbara House

The Richter Fort was originally built towards the end of the 18th century in the Osu Alata district less than a mile away from Christiansborg Castle, by Johan Emmanuel Richter, as a residence for himself and his wife Anna Barbara Kühberg. 

Barbara was a 'cassaret' wife

Barbara House was named after Richter's wife whom he had married through a system known as 'cassaret'; an originally Portuguese term used for marriages between European men and either African women or women of mixed Afro-European decent. 

Richter Fort (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Take a tour...

Courtyard of The Richter Fort (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Civil servant, merchant and interim Governor

Johan was a Danish merchant involved in trading gold, ivory, and enslaved Africans on the coast of what is present day Ghana.  He sailed from Denmark to become the commandant at the Christiansborg Castle and after a career as a merchant and slave trader became its interim Governor. 

Barbara was the daughter of Lene and Frantz Joachim Kühberg. Lene was of mixed Danish-Ga descendant and a skilled Accra trader. Frantz was first hired as a sergeant at Christiansborg Castle in 1756 and later became a slave trader at another Danish fort before becoming interim governor at Christiansborg Castle.

Holding Room (2021) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Heinrich Richter 1785 - 1849

Johan Richter's eldest son Heinrich Richter, who was 1/8th African, took over his father's business after his death in 1817 and inherited his father’s assets including substantial outstanding payments from the Danish government which he traveled to Copenhagen to claim. 

Storage Rooms (2021) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

'The Wealthiest Man on the Gold Coast'

He exported raw agricultural products like palm oil, cocoa, rubber and cotton and imported weapons, gunpowder and alcoholic spirits, becoming one of the wealthiest and most powerful merchants on the West Coast of Africa. 

...who also illegally participates in the slave trade

Heinrich grew extremely wealthy and influential as a result of both legitimate and illegitimate trade. He also traded in enslaved Africans both for the indigenous slave markets and for what became the illegal transatlantic slave trade following its abolition by the Danes in 1803 and the British in 1807. 

Triangular Frame with Crest (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Richter family crest

The entrance of the Fort has an elaborate archway dating to its expansion by the sons of Johan Richter. A triangular frame made of decorative moldings above it, has a family crest with the inscription “HR & CR” 1809. The initials stand for Heinrich and Christian Richter. 1809 represents the year their father formally recognized them as his legitimate children.

Entrance Plaque (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

The Fort is labelled a heritage site

A plaque at the entrance of the Richter Fort was installed by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board in partnership with the Norwegian Association of UNESCO, to identify the building as a heritage site linked to the transatlantic slave trade. The plaque reads...


"This house was built in 1809 by the brothers Heinrich and C. Richter who were the African sons of Johan Emmanuel Richter, who later became the Governor of the Danish establishments. The Richter family carried on a considerable trade in gold and palm oil, but the fortification-like style structure hints at another kind of trade - in slaves...

...We know that illegal slave exports continued for several decades after formal abolition. Heinrich Richter was described as a very wealthy man. He died on 29 June 1849 and was buried in his own house.”

The Staircase to Nowhere (1800) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

The staircase to nowhere

This surreal staircase which leads nowhere, is evidence of the storey building constructed by Johan Richter for his family in the late 18th century. It led to the family’s living quarters which included a large luxurious dining room used for grand dinner parties. 

Richter House SimulationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

The simulation of what the Fort used to be like

The grand stone staircase led to the upper level of the house which was destroyed by a massive earthquake that occurred in Accra and its environs in 1939, causing the building to fall into a state of ruin. 

Fort Bastions and Canon Holes (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Bastions & canon holes

High walls and bastions were built around the perimeter to protect its store houses from looters. Ruins on the south-west corner of the fort, depict the remaining bastion of the Fort. Renovation and expansion of the original house, created huge protective stone masonry perimeter walls with bastions on the corners of the fortified building.

Fort Bastions & Canon Holes (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Captives from 'War of Katamanso' were enslaved at the Fort

On the inner sides of the walls next to the bastions, were gun-holes fitted with canons. The expansion of the Fort allowed the imprisonment of captives after the Ashantis were defeated in the 'War of Katamanso' or the 'Dodowa War' of 1826. An Ashanti Princess was among the captives.

Heinrich fought in the war against the Ashanti as part of a coalition of Danish, British and Ga-Dangme soldiers who defeated the Ashantis. He supplied rifles, gunpowder and 100 of his personal slaves for the war and captured many prisoners of war some of whom were sold into slavery.

Oware Game (2020) by HACSA FoundationHeritage and Cultural Society of Africa Foundation

Up to 400 captives and enslaved people were held at the Fort

The Richter House served as a temporary holding place for enslaved persons waiting to be transported illegally to locations both within and outside Africa. The Fort at the peak of its existence, was known to house up to 400 enslaved people (both men and women), as well as servants and members of the Richter family. 

Evidence of Oware, a game played at the Ashanti Court

Captives included members of the Ashanti royal household. It was assumed that they carved out holes in the paving stones of the Fort to mimic the traditional game of Oware played at the Ashanti Court. The hollows in the ground are in the exact form of the Oware game.

Heinrich marries an Ashanti Princess

It is documented in a letter by Wulf Joseph Wulf that Richter married an Ashanti Princess. She was the daughter of Akua Pusuwa, the wife of the Ashanti King Osei Yaw Akoto, captured by Heinrich Richter in the War of Katamanso. She bore his first son Robert Wilhelm Richter in 1831. Due to his lavish lifestyle, by the time of his death in 1849 Heinrich Richter was bankrupt.

Learn more about The Richter Fort's role in Ghanian history

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