Paula – Cape Coast Castle & Far Beyond

Cape Coast Castle

Cape Coast Castle was originally built by the Portuguese in the 15th century as a trading lodge to trade mainly in gold, which was plentiful in this part of Ghana. In 1653, it was taken over by Sweden’s conquest of Cape Coast, and a more permanent wooden fortress was built by the Swedish Africa Company for trade in gold and timber. Over time the fortress passed through the hands of the Danes and the Dutch before being conquered by the British in 1664, by which time the building had been reconstructed in stone.

No matter which nation held the Castle, control over trade was the primary mission of this outpost.

By the 17th century, most of this trade was in people.

By the 18th century Cape Coast Castle was one of the most famous slave forts to be found along the coastline of Ghana.

Conditions inside Cape Coast Castle

Slaves were brought to the coast, and held in fortifications such as Cape Coast Castle. Upto 1,000 slaves could be kept in the dungeons. Conditions were appalling, with 200 slaves in one room, and no space to lie down. The floor was littered with human waste, making it now several inches higher than it was when originally built. Many became ill with malaria and yellow fever. Slaves slept crouched against one another. Slaves could remain living in these conditions for months waiting for the ships to arrive to transport them.

Once the slaves passed through “The Door of No Return” they were loaded onboard vessels waiting to take them away from a Continent they would never see again. They would be destined for lives mainly working on plantations in North America or the Caribbean. However, some, like Francis Elizabeth Johnson, ended up in Lancaster!

Lancaster’s Slave Ships

One of the key aspects of Lancaster’s involvement in the slave trade during the 18th century was in the ships that had been built there, such as Brigs . These were two square-rigged mast vessels, built for their speed. They were used for transporting merchandise out of the port of Lancaster, and were used in the transportation of slaves as part of the “Africa Trade”.

Much of Lancaster’s connection with the slave trade in the 18th century was with the building of ships that were referred to as brigs or snows like the one below.

“In the 1750’s the most popular size for a Lancaster slaver ranged between twenty and seventy tons. The next decade saw a definite increase, with over half the vessels being seventy tons or more, and nine of these were a hundred tons or over. These figures indicate a strong commitment and enthusiasm for the Africa trade at this time by certain members of the merchant community at Lancaster” 

(“The Slave Trade” by Melinda Elder p.41)

One such slaving ship with a connection to Lancaster was “The Barlborough”, a 40-ton ship and the first to leave Lancaster for Jamaica.

It was in the summer of 1753 that she sailed to the Guinea Coast West Africa to collect her cargo of 101 slaves.

They were then transported to Barbados and Jamaica where they were sold. In total the Barlborough and the Bold transported 650 slaves. The slaves were packed in very tightly and it has been estimated that as many as 15% died of malnutrition or disease on the journey.

The black men were shackled together, and put below deck. He saw himself a boy alone, and he saw the men going down through the hatch in awkward stumbling couples, then brought up again during the day, still in chains and made to jump and stretch their limbs. The sun beat down relentlessly on the bright reflective sea and the blistering wooden ship. The women were kept apart from the men…Overwhelmingly this was a world of adult males, of shouts, curses, blows”.

(“Joseph Knight” by James Robertson)

For most of the day slaves were kept below deck where Olaudah Equiano describes: “Many a time we were near suffocation, from the want of fresh air, which we were often without whole days together” 

(“Equiano’s Travels: The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano” by Olaudah Equiano). 

When allowed on deck to exercise 50 or 60 slaves were fastened to one chain in order to prevent them from rising or endeavouring to escape. Slavers controlled what and when slaves ate and drank. Their diet consisted of mainly horse beans and rice (“Slaves Ships and Slavery” by George F. Dow). Water was restricted.

Besides being told when to come on deck and when to eat, as Dow describes slaves were forced to exercise or dance at times to “maintain some physical stature”, in order to be in good condition when they reached their destination to be sold.

Names of Lancaster people connected with the Slave Trade in the 18th century

Not all these people were directly involved with the buying and selling of slaves, but many owned part shares in ships that carried slaves. The same ships were often used to carry goods from Lancaster to the Caribbean and bring raw materials from there to Lancaster, for example sugar and mahogany – mahogany that was used by the Gillow family to make furniture, some pieces of which found their way back to the Caribbean and graced the homes of many a wealthy plantation owner.

Dodshon Foster 

Benjamin Satterthwaite

John Satterthwaite

George Burrow

John Dodson

John Dilworth

William Lindlow

Miles Townson

Thomas Hinde

Abraham Rawlinson

John Heathcoate

Thomas Hutton Rawlinson

John Satterthwaite

John Satterthwaite was the son of Benjamin Satterthwaite who, between Dec 1739 and Jan 1741 was sent to Barbados as a factor or representative for a group of Lancaster merchants who bought commodities from the West Indies that were then shipped to Lancaster. For example, sugar, indigo and mahogany. One of the merchants that Benjamin Satterthwaite worked for was Robert Gillow, founder of the cabinet-making company Gillows of Lancaster. Although Robert Gillow was not involved directly in the slave trade, the mahogany that was imported for him was cut down by slaves working on plantations in the West Indies.

John Satterthwaite was Benjamin’s eldest son and according to records “a self-made man”, his father being described as a “none too successful merchant” (‘The Slave Trade’ Melinda Elder p.195).

John became a resident merchant in St Kitts, where he married Mary Rawlins the daughter of a rich planter there. His clerk John Stout wrote that his master made a large part of his fortune “as a merchant in Lancaster between 1779 and 1785 so that he was able to retire in 1788”.

(Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire . Volume CX111)

As a rich, successful merchant John Satterthwaite and his wife settled in Lancaster. Seven years after his marriage there is a baptismal record in Lancaster Priory Church dated 1778 of Francis Elizabeth Johnson “a black woman servt to Mr John Satterthwaite”. Francis’s age is given as 27 years. Francis worked as a “cherished” servant to the family who lived in an elegant town house on Castle Hill.

Little is known about Francis or Fanny as she was known.

We do not know whether she married or had children, whether she was a “free” slave as many black servants in England at this time were regarded; whether she was paid for her work. There is no record of her death. The only thing that we have that links us to her is the commemorative stone where her hand was buried which is in the Memorial Garden at the Priory Church in Lancaster, which is close to the house where she had worked as a servant. The hand, which had been kept in the Satterthwaite family for generations was finally buried there by a descendent of the family, Eliza Dear, in April 1997.

Link to story of Fanny’s Hand by Karen Burns. Castle Park Stories

1997 – Eulogy written to “Fanny”, by Eliza Dear a descendant of John Satterthwaite.

St Mary parish registers list some 33 baptisms and burials of negroes in the period 1755-85 (printed in LPRS 88)


3 Jan 1759 Thos John, a negroe

27 Jan 1759 Wm York, a negroe, Lancaster

18 Oct 1759 John Mason, a negroe, Lancaster

21 Feb 1760 John Lancaster, a negroe

31 May 1761 Henry Hind, an adult negroe, Lancaster

23 Aug 1761 John Thompson, an adult negroe

10 Nov 1761 Richard Peters, an adult negroe

20 Jan 1762 Wm London, an adult negroe

27 Oct 1763 Rebecca Thorn, an adult negroe

20 May 1764 George Stuart, an adult negroe, Lancaster

10 Jun 1764 John White, an adult negroe, Lancaster

21 Oct 1764 William Trasier, an adult negroe

6 Nov 1764 Molly, an adult negroe

3 Feb 1768 Willm Leuthwaite, an adult negroe, Lancaster

28 May 1769 Ben. Johnson, an adult negroe, Lancaster

14 Nov 1773 Jeremiah Skerton, a black man, an adult, Lancaster

5 Mar 1774 Benjamin Kenton, a black man, in the service of Capt Copeland, Lancaster

12 Sep 1777 John Chance, a black, aged 22 years & upwards in the service of Mr Lindow

2 Apr 1778 Frances Elizabeth Johnson, a black woman servt to Mr John Satterthwaite, an adult aged 27 years, Lancaster

15 Feb 1779 Thomas Burrow, a black, an adult, Lancaster

22 Jan 1783 George John, a negro & adult, Lancaster

3 Feb 1783 Isaac Rawlinson, a negro & adult, Lancaster

6 Oct 1783 William Dilworth, an adult negro, Lancaster

13 Oct 1785 Thomas Etherington, an adult negroe, agd 22 y, Lancaster

Illustrations by Len Grant.