The People of Gibraltar
1740 - Gross Idolatry and Rank Superstition

George Whitefield and Isaac Nieto - Richard Kane and Isaac Aboab
Simha and Hannah - Wilson and Walters
Smith and Solas - Lucas and Tanges 
de la Rosa and Sabine- Hargrave and John Domenick Grana
Joseph Cassola and John Baptist Viale - Gerard Dierk and Miguel Riera
Patrick Riera and Mr. Missing - Thomas Revell and William Skinner

The satirical engraving shown below suggests that despite their various triumps in Gibraltar things were not going all that well for Britain, either militarily or economically, during the decade following their war with Spain. 
In the first panel a Spaniard fights an Englishman and a Dutchman reaps the profits. The second is a reference to Admiral Nicholas Haddock's complete failure to blockade the Spanish fleet at Cadiz. The panel also makes an indirect comment on Vice-Admiral Balchen's failure to intercept several Spanish ships from South America carrying quicksilver - the so-called - Assoque ships. The Spaniards managed to hear of these plans, changed course and arrived safely in Santander.

The third panel refers to Cardinal Fleury's refusals to the Pretender's constant requests for troops to invade Britain to retake the throne for the Stuarts. The last panel is self explanatory. The British fought the 13th Siege but the Dutch made most of the money.

Late 1730s Satirical print ( N. Parr)  


Books recording the events of the 13th Siege are relativly rare. Here is one compiled from official Spanish records. According to the author a few days after the Siege ended with the Treaty of Seville, 'aquella noche y las dos siquientes se celebró este importante suceso con illunimaciones generales' 

The years immediately after the war were a period in which the so called ‘Great Awakening’ brought about an increase in religious activity all over Britain’s American colonies and elsewhere. It was characterised by an intrusive evangelism in which pastors read out long theological sermons advancing their own very personal religious views. One of the many English ministers who helped spread the word was the Church of England preacher George Whitfield. He visited Gibraltar as a first stop on a voyage to Georgia - which was then part of the American colonies - and left us his impressions in a journal.
George Whitefield.  Although one of the greatest orators of the era, his congregation found his pronounced squint enormously disconcerting.
He seems to have spent most of his time visiting the various prisons on the Rock trying in vain to get the condemned men to repent. Between his visits to these unfortunates he also managed to subject quite a few members of the garrison to a series of sermons on the benefits of being a teetotaller. 

In one such meeting more than a thousand people turned up. It was no mean feat when one considers that getting drunk was not just the main pastime of the Garrison but as he himself put it, ‘a sin that easily begets the men of Gibraltar!’ The exclamation mark was his as was his passing comment. ‘Oh Drunkenness!’ he sermonised. ‘What mischief hast thou done?’ May they hear and fear and sin no more presumptuously.’
His sermons, however, cannot have done much to persuade the Garrison to change their ways. Some sixty years later, Captain Thomas Walsh who was visiting Gibraltar on his way to join the Military campaign in Egypt, mentions the fact that although water was quite scarce on the Rock, ‘wine, on the other hand, was in such abundance, and so cheap that in no other part of the world exists such repeated scenes of intoxication.’
It was distressing, he said, to see whole bands of soldiers and sailors literally lying in the streets in the ‘most degrading state of inebriety.’ Drunkenness was no longer a crime in the Garrison, except for those on duty. Those assigned to working parties were paid eight pence on the spot, which they immediately spent on a kind of bad wine, called Blackstrap. Houses for the sale of this pernicious stuff were found at every step, and furnished ‘no small part of the revenue of the Garrison’; by ‘Garrison’ the author actually meant ‘Governor.’
In fact discipline among the soldiers of the Garrison must have been particularly bad during this period. When soldiers were needed to man the newly created British colony of Georgia, the Governor General Oglethorpe found that ‘he ran great danger from those soldiers transferred from Gibraltar'. He ended up having to put down a near mutiny.
Whitefield also made a point of visiting a local Jewish meeting place and the main Catholic Cathedral. At the first he was well met by the local Jewish leaders and was impressed when told that they had heard his sermon against swearing and that they agreed with his sentiments – there was too much of it going on in Gibraltar at the time. Whitfield’s comments seem to suggest that at least some of the Jewish community were actually allowed to attend sermons intended for Protestant ears.
Jews, of course, had by now become an important part of the local community. Shortly after Whitfield’s visit they were given the right of permanent settlement and the community’s first Chief Rabbi, Isaac Nieto arrived from London to establish a synagogue – the Sha’ar HaShamayin. It was built on a plot of land granted to the Jews by Governor Richard Kane. It was the oldest one in Gibraltar as well as the first on the Iberian Peninsula since the expulsions from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. 

There were now nearly six hundred Jews living on the Rock making up a third of the population. Whitefield would probably have been horrified to learn that many of them had retained their old Jewish customs some of which, such as bigamy, were illegal in Britain at the time. Isaac Aboab ( see LINK ) a Jew from Tetuan but resident in Gibraltar was listed as having two wives.
Aboab was one of the original rich Jewish merchants of the era. He was fifty years of age when he married an illiterate thirteen year old girl called Simha.  He had taken her as his second wife because his first, Hannah, had been unable to bear him any children. Simha was reputed to have been ‘a notorious beauty’. 

Ayala tells us that he suspected that she was bald because she always wore a wig but the real reason was that Jewish law required married women to cover their hair. He also seemed dismayed by the fact that the Catholic community in Gibraltar had no problems socialising with her and her Jewish friends. Years later during the Great Siege Aboab and his wives came to England and never returned to Gibraltar. Simha never bore him any children either.
Whitefield was less taken by his visit to the Catholic cathedral where he attended High Mass. His notes on this experience were cutting and to the point. 
There needs no other argument against Popery than to see the pageantry, superstition and idolatry of their worship. 
Nevertheless the Catholics were also already beginning to make themselves felt on the Rock. When the authorities carried out a survey of about 300 houses inside the walls of the town, they were pleased to note that a majority were owned by people with surnames such as Wilson, Walters and Smith. They should perhaps have paid more attention to the fact that most of the rest belonged to people with surnames such as Solas, Lucas, Tanges and de la Rosa.
As was the norm for any more or less distinguished visitor to the Rock the Governor gave him an open invitation to dine with him every night. On the one occasion in which he took him up on this he condescendingly approved of the behaviour of Sabine’s staff but was rather less taken by the food which he described as cena dubia. Unaware of the Governor’s rapacious character Whitefield inappropriately describes him as quite a religious man who had ‘never been known to absent himself from prayers.’
Another visitor who happened to be in Gibraltar several years later was also driven to comment on the characters of the local parish priest and his assistant, a periodic visitor from Spain. According to him ‘they live very well and will drink freely'. He could very well have said the same about the Governor and his officers. 

His sweeping comments about the population at large were also derogatory. The locals were 
  . . .addicted to gross idolatry and rank superstition not a jot behind their friends in that persuasion.
Among these ‘friends’ were the Catalans who had come to Gibraltar with Hesse’s Dutch army and a few Irishmen who did not form part of the British Garrison. He was also horrified to learn that these people actually paid their church good money for the ‘delivery of souls from purgatory’.
As regards the appearance of the interior of the cathedral, this was described as ‘light enough did they not exclude the sun.’ There were, he wrote, 
. . . . many lamps burnt before shrines on days of dedication and festivity. A great many amulets hang against the pillars and walls; silver legs, arms, pieces of cable, shirts, and such rubbish and trumpery, as offering to the saints. 
These gut reactions against Catholicism by all those of the Protestant faith continued for many years to be an important feature of the relationship between the military and civilian visitors on the one hand and the Catholic population on the other. It was part of a greater cultural divide that permeated the rest of Europe and elsewhere at the time. It led to all sorts of blind spots in the perception of what was morally acceptable and what was not.
Whitefield, for example, for all his holier than thou attitude towards the morals of the soldiers of Gibraltar campaigned vigorously while in America for the legislation of slavery which had recently been outlawed in Georgia. He claimed that the territory couldn’t prosper without slave labour. He himself became a slave owner and ironically used them extensively in his work on the Bethesda Orphanage, today the oldest extant charity in North America.

A contemporary cartoon mocking George Whitfield and his ‘Great Awakening’
 In any case despite their criticim of most things non-British these writers are unable to disguise the fact that the local community actually did have a life of its own. There were, for example, periodic carnivals and fairs in which the locals dressed up and enjoyed themselves out of doors. It was, someone wrote,
 . . . a season of mirth and jollity, masquerading from the North to the South Port, through several streets, with dancing at each other’s houses.
These pleasant sounding pastimes were probably the forerunners of similar activities that continued to take place in Gibraltar up to the twentieth century. Most of them were imports from Spain and Italy: the annual Ferias with their stalls and time-honoured fair-ground activities in summer and the tradition of organising baile de disfraces as well as serenading friends and lovers during the Christmas season.

There was nevertheless a hint of a budding - if hidden - relationship between the military government and the richer non-merchant classes.  Sabine and Hargrave were never loath to work with the more well off locals.  Both had a very close understanding with a Genoese merchant called John Domenick Grana and occasionally employed him as under-secretary. Whitfield himself  managed to obtain ‘convenient lodgings in the private house of a well known merchants, which by all accounts was ‘very commodious.’
In general the older folk were given to wearing their national costumes but for the most part they adopted a kind of dress that was midway between that of the English and their native country. Official figures now put the Catholic population at about 1 400 people made up mostly of Spaniards and Genoese but the real figure was almost certainly much higher.  Girls, for example, tended to marry young and it was not unusual for thirteen year olds to have children - many of whom the locals failed to register. It was also quite evident to anybody who watched the boats that came into the harbour with supplies that many ‘more people disembarked than ever left.’
From a twenty-first century perspective it would seem difficult to visualise what the town of Gibraltar looked like immediately after the destruction of the old town and the clearing of part of it to create the Esplanade. On the other hand Villa Vieja only made up a small section of the town of Gibraltar. There may have been quite a lot of rebuilding elsewhere but the general outline of the main part of the town which was known as La Turba – roughly the area surrounding Main Street from Water Port to Southport Gates – remained more or less the same as it did before 1704.
This part of town dated from the 14th century and took its name from Turba al-Hamra, Arabic for 'red hill'. It was a reference to the red sands it was built on.   Main Street itself was given two names when it was a Spanish town. Taking the Cathedral as a middle point, the northern section towards Watergate was known as Calle de la Mar. The section to the South was Calle del Muro. The British continued with this convention and called the respective sections Waterport Street and Southport Street respectively.
The original Spanish houses which remained standing were built mostly of a material called ‘tapia’. This was a mixture of mortar, sand and pebble, which ‘when being well tempered and wrought together on a frame, acquired great strength and solidity’. The houses built by the British after 1704 and again after both sieges were of rock stone and were plastered and painted so as to reduce the glare of the sun. They were also tiled, as against the Spanish ones which tended to have flat terraces and verandas with beautiful and extensive views of the nearby Spanish coastline.
Contemporary view towards Algeciras from Gibraltar
Perhaps the two most outstanding buildings ever constructed by the British were the elegant Georgian style barracks with superb officer’s pavilions on either side. It was built in what was then called by the misspelt name of La Calle Nueba, today known as Town Range. At that time the Eastern part of this road was open ground.
Town Range Barracks ( G.Felipes )
Along one of the lanes that led to the gateway of the Moorish Castle the British inherited a court which was laid out for playing Real Tennis. During the beginning of the 18th century it was owned by a British goldsmith called Henry Cowper who used it as a theatre. The less philistine officers of the garrison spent some of their time producing amateur plays which were performed here. It was often full as there were only 150 seats. Spanish singers and dancers were also sometimes invited - relations with Spain permitting - much to the delight of the local population who probably gave the officers amateurish endeavours a wide berth.  Because of its constant association with theatrical events the lane was known locally as Calle Comedia. Today it has the much more prosaic name of Castle Street.

Castle Street in 1770.  The steps shown at the top probably led to the entrance to the theatre
Henry Cowper, incidentally, although of British stock, was born in Gibraltar in 1736. By the time he was forty he had bought up six properties and was reputed to be ‘the fourth largest property owner’ on the Rock a position which he apparently held jointly with two other non-British locals, Joseph Cassola and John Baptist Viale. ( see LINK ) It would have been impossible at that time to become very rich in Gibraltar on the strength of owning a theatre or being a goldsmith and one must assume that his wealth evolved from other sources. In other words he was one of the original ‘merchants’ of the Rock. In fact when he died in 1803 he described himself as such in his will.
Another road which was known by more than one name was City Mill Lane which has already been mentioned as the place where Whirligigs were erected and was therefore universally referred to by the British soldiers as Whirligig Lane. The locals called it ‘El Callejón de las Siete Revueltas’ , which had nothing to do with spinning nature of the Whirligig. It was simply a reference to its many twists and turns. 
Its official name of City Mill Lane was a reference to a mill owned by Dutchman called Gerard Dierk who had married a local Spanish girl and had settled in Gibraltar. He was granted a property which he converted into a factory for producing tobacco snuff. It was probably the money he obtained from smuggling the snuff into Spain that eventually say him reach the giddy heights of Dutch consol of Gibraltar. 

Next to the mill he also owned a shed where he produced candles made of beeswax imported from Barbary. Candles were an important consumer item in those pre-electricity days and passers-by who could afford it were able to select their supplies from a show of different types. They were usually draped over poles by their long wicks as they were hung out to dry.
One of Dierk’s neighbours was a Spaniard Miguel Riera. He and his son Patrick, who had been born in Gibraltar in 1731, owned a grocery shop which they advertised as ‘for the selling of greens.’ The produce came from a plot of land which in those days formed part of what is today the Library Gardens. In those days it was known by the family name of Huerta Riera. A few hundred yards up the Rock, bullocks, sheep and goats imported from Barbary browsed the western hillside, something that is difficult to believe when one looks at the Rock today. There was also plenty of extremely rich and fertile soil along the North Front and this was used to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. Wine was cheap, and all sorts of fruit such as melon, oranges, figs, grapes, and pomegranates were brought in from Barbary and Portugal.
As regards fish, it would appear that the seas close to Gibraltar were rich both in variety and quantity. Fish caught locally included John Dory, turbot, sole, salmon, hake, rock-cod, mullet, mackerel and at least a dozen different types of shell-fish. The Barbary Coast supplied beef, mutton, veal and poultry, whereas pork was supplied by Spain, and was considered to be of exceptional sweetness and flavour. Today they still haven’t lost their touch.
The years of relative peace that followed after 1730 had allowed the authorities in London to try to improve conditions for the military garrison and the soldiers were provided with rations fixed at so many pounds of bread, meat and so forth per week. These were issued in multiples depending on rank and rose to up to six times a private’s ration for a colonel. This unusual perk proved an attractive way for the officers to increase their income. They sold off the extra food to the Jewish merchants who were always ready to either barter or buy the stuff from them outright.
In 1738 a Spanish edict made things slightly harder for everybody on the Rock. It prohibited all communication between Spain and the Barbary States. The reason given was the danger of contacting the plague. Gibraltar was in effect quarantined and supplies of provision were no longer available from Morocco. The theoretically centralised victualling system for delivering supplies to the garrison was also experiencing all sorts of difficulties due to the incompetence of the victualler and the greed of those responsible for running it in Gibraltar.
As far back as 1714 the authorities in London had offered to pay Gibraltar’s Portsmouth based victualler in South Sea stock.  This company, established in 1711 by Robert Harley, had been granted exclusive trading rights in Spanish South America. There was a frenzy of speculative buying and shares in the company took on a life of their own. By 1720 the South Sea Bubble had burst. There are no records as to whether the victualler suffered any great loss or whether this might have affected the provisioning of the garrison but it certainly couldn’t have helped.
Edward Mathew Ward’s painting showing people buying South Sea Company shares.
Eighteen years later, Mr. Missing was still in business as sole victulaller for the Garrison of Gibraltar. He now found himself complaining bitterly that ‘the officers have many times given him receipts for much less quantities than he had sent.’ He said he was not prepared to suffer any ‘blame for so small a Garrison’. Another two years and Mr. Missing was complaining again about the lack of suitable warehouses on the Rock. He was also quite upset by the fact that the soldiers would not accept beef instead of pork until he could ensure adequate supplies of the later. The Spanish were making life difficult once again. His agents couldn’t get enough of that wonderful pork from Andalucía.
General Sabine backed him up. He surveyed the storehouses and found them in ‘a most ruinous and insufficient condition.’ Parts of the old storehouses were in such a dangerous state, he wrote, that everybody was ‘under daily apprehensions of their falling, the consequences of which may be the loss of many people's lives, more especially on those days the provisions are issued out to the soldiers.’ He sent them a plan of the old storehouse and a proposal for a new one.
Sabine, however, was not unconditional in his support. He appointed a two man commission to investigate Missing’s accounts as well as his claim for damaged and decayed provisions, his unauthorised hire of extraordinary warehouses and the moving of provisions from one place to another. In the end it all proved too much for poor Missing who promptly died in his home in Portsmouth.
London appointed as his successor a gentleman of Tower Hill in London called Thomas Revell and Sabine continued to press London for a new victualling office and storehouses to be built just within South Port, close to a small military barracks. The Governor was concerned – unnecessarily as it so happens – that the garrison’s provisions were not at all safe. The Spaniards had just built ‘a new port mounted with 12 culverins against the town, and in conjunction with other batteries prepared for the purpose could beat’, he said, the barracks and most of the houses ‘to pieces.”
The problem rumbled on for several years with various proposals and counter proposals. There was constant hassle from Revell.  When the price of corn dropped dramatically he was called in to explain why he hadn’t lowered the prices he charged for each soldier victualled on the Rock. His answer would have done a modern-day supplier proud; ‘the corn now being consumed was purchased when the corn price was high.’ Revell then argued that because of the inefficiency of the departments he dealt with, forms remained unsigned and he was not being paid on time. He asked for an advance and then promptly supplied the garrison with kidney beans, oatmeal and rice instead of the peas specified in his contract.
To cut a much longer story short, Revell must have been either a much cleverer man than Missing or at any rate more persuasive. By 1742 he had not only managed to get himself a brand new victualling storehouses near Southport – the site of today’s John Mackintosh Hall, but also a series of workshops, sheds, kitchens, dwelling houses and a bakery. In a final act of bravura he managed to convince the treasury to give him a 4% allowance for the insurance of all ‘victuals sent as well with as without convoy for the future that is so long as the publick affairs shall continue in the present situation they are in.” He and his friends in Gibraltar were making an awful lot of money.
A new building, today known as Ince’s Hall, was also built inside the Town close to Charles V wall on land adjacent to the Convent gardens. It was designed to store armaments and became in effect the Garrison’s main arsenal. It was large enough to house more than ‘1000 piezas de armamento’, a description which is more or less on a par with ‘how long is a piece of string.’ Nevertheless it was a useful addition as all military hardware had previously been dangerously housed in myriads of small warehouses spread out all over the town.
Both buildings were conveniently placed close to the mole at Ragged Staff ( see LINK ) where most of the Garrison’s supplies were landed. In fact the only inconvenience was that the land on which they were built had once been the cemetery for the Franciscan friars that had originally owned the place. Innumerable fragments of bones and rosaries were unearthed during the digging of the foundations.
To make life even easier for the lucky Mr. Revell the enlargement of the small mole was also undertaken at around this time. A couple of decades earlier, pipes had been laid to carry water to the mole for ‘the better victualling of men-at-war’. The water was stored in barrels which were then transferred on to ships. The name of the mole comes from the naval term for the stump mast used as hoists on boats that transferred the barrels on to the ships. Despite its English name the wharf is of Spanish origin and is the oldest in Gibraltar. It became the traditional landing place for newly appointed governors of Gibraltar but it was also a very convenient place for Mr. Revell to unload his overseas supplies.


In this early nineteenth century annotated Rock of Gibraltar 'Ragged Staff' is mistakenly given the name of the Mole of Aigade 
(J. Stockdale )  
As a humorous aside, in 1741 Hargrave entered the fray. He sent London a certificate signed by his chief engineer, one William Skinner ( see LINK ) who argued the need for the building of a new coal yard. The old ones, he argued, were such a distance from the new Victualling Office, that the coals were ‘liable to be embezzled in peace, and destroyed by the enemy in time of war.’ The Navy, incidentally seem to have had their own victualling system. Jerkin’s Lane – today College Lane - was named after an 18th century Naval Victualler who had a house there.