Bunce Island (also spelled "Bence," "Bense," or "Bance" at different periods) is the site of an 18th century British slave castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone. It is located deep within Freetown harbor. Located about 20 miles upriver from Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown, Bunce Island lies in the Sierra Leone River, the estuary formed by the Rokel River and Port Loko Creek. Although just a tiny island only about 1650 feet long and 350 feet wide, its strategic position at the limit of navigation in Africa's largest natural harbor made it an ideal base for European slave merchants.
Bunce Island was first settled by English slave traders about 1670. During its early history the castle was operated by two London-based firms, the Gambia Adventurers and the Royal African Company of England, the later a "crown-chartered company," or parastatal, subsidized by the British government. The castle was not commercially successful at this period, but it served as a symbol of British influence in the region. This early phase of the castle's history came to an end in 1728 when Bunce Island was raided by an Afro-Portuguese competitor in the slave trade named José Lopez da Moura. It was abandoned until the mid-1740s. (read more . . . )