Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) "Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast Africa" 16.5 inch platter, ca. 1825.  Although hard to see, the title of the pattern is printed on the left near the bottom of the center of the pattern.

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to share what I have learned from studying transferware patterns.  I was always curious about an Enoch Wood (1818-1846) pattern, "Cape Coast Castle On The Gold Coast Africa."  It is part of a series known as the Irregular Shell Border Series, which mainly includes American and British views.  An African view didn't seem to fit in.  I learned that Cape Coast Castle was a major British trading post located in the Gold Coast (a British Colony) from the 17th through the 20th centuries.  As such, the pattern falls into a British colonial category, rather like a lot of transferware patterns with views of India.   I learned that merchants from all over the world, including America, came to Cape Coast Castle to trade.  If you look carefully, you'll see that the ship in the foreground is flying an American flag.

Cape Coast Castle functioned as an important British market between the natives of the Gold Coast (now Ghana)* and British, American, and other merchants.   Some of the major commodities exchanged were slaves, gold, mahogany, blankets, spices, sugar, and silk.  The castle was also a notorious prison for the slaves who were waiting to be exported.  For many reasons,  it seems odd (to me) that a slave trading post is featured on a transferware platter.  Although the platter is beautiful, its subject is morally repugnant. Also, by the time the platter was made around 1825, British slave trading had been abolished.   Still, perhaps the pattern was used because Cape Coast Castle, however infamous, continued to be a major trading post for nearly another hundred years.

Cape Coast Castle today. It is now a tourist attraction.
I thought I'd add a second pattern in the Irregular Shell Border Series that depicts a Gold Coast trading post.  The pattern features a Danish-Norwegian trading post, "Christianburg on the Gold Coast Africa."  Christianburg Castle was the headquarters for Denmark-Norway's** commercial activities on the Gold Coast:  presumably, slaves as well as gold.

Enoch Wood & Sons (1818-1846) "Christianburg Danish Settlement on the Gold Coast Africa" 20 inch platter, ca. 1825.

I'm reading a novel, "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi, that begins in the late 18th century at Cape Coast Castle.  The book is the impetus for this post.  Although I had knowledge of the slave trade between Britain and its colonies, the book fleshes out the story of the actual business of slavery.  It is painful to think of people as commodities.

Obviously, this is a transferware blog, not a slavery history blog, but I thought I would direct you to some slavery information.  If you want to know more about British slave trading, follow this link.  An interesting history of slavery in America is found here.  For more information about Cape Coast Castle, visit "Ghana's Slave Castles: The Shocking Story of the Ghanaian Cape Coast.

*The Gold Coast was a British Colony that became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957. The Gold Coast is to the left of Nigeria.

The Gold Coast is printed in red to the left of Nigeria.

** Denmark-Norway was one country from 1523-1814 except 1533-1537.


  1. Very interesting, very well stated. I have never seen these patterns before, they are very beautiful.

    1. Thank you! The patterns are very beautiful, and the history is even more interesting. I love learning new things through my study of transferware.

  2. I visited it whilst consulting to Ashanti Goldmines. Very popular with African American tourists but quite creepy. I was given to understand that the Ashanti kings sold many of their subjects to the traders!
    Bernie (DMB not sure how to change that)