Bunce Island Slave Castle
Importance for African Americans
Virtual Archaeology Project
Bunce Island Weblinks
Clues from History and Archaeology
Brief History of Bunce Island
Bunce Island Reconstructed
Project Team and Sponsors
The Castle Complex
Where We Go From Here . . . . .
Visit Bunce Island in 1805
Make a Contribution

BI Video

This "movie" takes you through Bunce Island in the year 1805,
showing you what a visitor 200 years ago would have seen there.

the Reality of Bunce Island

You find yourself lapproaching Bunce Island from downriver, the same direction the save ships came from. Entering the castle, you find yourself on the top floor of the three-story office tower, looking through a window to the other buildings in the castle complex. Next, you're looking into the large open-air slave yard behind the main house where hundreds of men were imprisoned. Then, your eye travels on a flyover past "Bance Island House," the headquarters building, to the African village on the south end of Bunce Island where the African workers dwell with their families. Finally, as you leave, you pass through the rigging of two slave ships anchored at Bunce Island and see the castle once again from a distance.

You not only see Bunce Island, though, you also hear it. The movie's soundtrack features the waves washing onto the island's beaches, the anguished voices of hundreds of captives in the slave yards, drumming in the African village, and the creaking of the wooden slave ships.

Our computer animation is still in an early stage of development, but as time goes on, we hope to add human figures to make the Bunce Island model as realistic as possible. Our ultimate goal is to produce a digital model that leaves nothing to the imagination. We want viewers to see with their own eyes what went on at a West African commercial fort during the period of the Atlantic slave trade.

Listen to
the Voices of Bunce Island

We confront the reality of Bunce Island in this section by listening to quotations from the writings of four British visitors to Sierra Leone. We hear actors portraying these travelers as they describe the various buildings in the castle as they saw them in the late 1700s and early 1800s. As we listen to their words, we also hear the sounds they would have heard at Bunce Island 200 years ago -- the slave traders firing cannon salutes beneath their country's flag flapping in the wind, Bance Island House with its lively music and lavish hospitality, the formal garden with its sounds of tropical birds and wind blowing through the trees, and the slave prisons packed with captives crying in agony and pulling at their chains.

Click on the labels to hear the sounds of Bunce Island
and quotations of early visitors to the castle.

© 2008 Chatelain and Opala
Digital reconstruction: Overview of the castle complex

© 2008 Chatelain and Opala
Bunce Island: The castle and the African workers' village

A Grotesque
Combination of Elements

The Bunce Island traders tried to emulate the lifestyle of English country gentlemen. The chief agent lived in "Bance Island House," the impressive two-story dwelling at the center of the castle, where he held dinner parties hosting visiting slave ship captains. The agent and his men relaxed in the evening hours in their elegant formal garden at the rear of the castle, drinking wine and brandy in the shade of orange trees. They also maintained a small golf course in the 1770s complete with African caddies dressed in tartan loincloths.

These symbols of opulence were mixed, though, with the hideous business of slave trading. The British traders put the prison immediately behind Bance Island House so they could watch their captives 24 hours a day. The sounds of music in their elegant "great house" mixed with cries and the clanking of chains. Bunce Island was also a trading post, and there were cannons at the front of the castle mounted beneath an oversized British flag. Slave ships fired 7-gun salutes to signal their arrival, and the Bunce Island men fired back to welcome them. Scattered throughout the castle were also meeting rooms, offices, and storerooms where the mundane work of commerce was carried out. Bunce Island was a grotesque combination of elements -- a wealthy man's estate, a fortress, a trading post, and prison.


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