The People of Gibraltar
1756 - A Home to Jews, Genoese and Pickpockets

Baron Tyrawley and Percival Stockdale - Barbara and Joanna Pora
Captain Bellamy and George Anne Bellamy - Henry Cowper and Cornelia Ainslie
Richard Jepson and Cornwell  -  Isaac and Simha Aboab
Major Irwin

By the time James O’Hara, the Baron Tyrawley, took over for his short nine months spell as Governor, Byng was very much on everybody’s minds. Tyrawley had been stationed in Minorca at the time of Byng’s fiasco but he and all his officers had managed to find themselves ‘on holiday’ in England when the French captured the island. As O’Hara had expected, Gibraltar was back to its usual mess. 
The administration was chaotic, important letters remained unanswered, and the financial accounts were impossible to interpret: and that was just the bureaucratic side of things. The Garrison was in an even worse state. The fortifications were badly maintained, the guns were antiquated and there was a shortage of ammunitions. 

There were also several important military hands rummaging around the government tills. According to his original report even the palisades in the stores ‘were better fitted for hen-coops that for fortifications.’ What he failed to clarify was who had ordered them, how much had been paid for them, and who had benefited from the transaction.

 
Map of Gibraltar showing the newly built Spanish Forts of San Felipe and Santa B├írbara at either end of the Spanish Lines. It must have been the source of constant irritation to Governors Bland, Fowke and Tyrawley to see these brand-new state-of-the-art forts right on their doorstep while those of Gibraltar were crumbling with age  ( 1756  - Tobias C. Lotter)      
Tyrawley, a military man, eventually attained the rank of Field Marshal despite the fact that he was only ever involved in one campaign and that was a fiasco. In other words he was a man with a certain amount of influence back home. He belonged to that species of upper crust Englishman whose veneer of courtliness hid a venal impulse to see the world as a place in which he could do whatever he pleased answerable to nobody. Greed was a given, almost an obligation.

Almost before he had time to get to know where his bedroom in the Convent was, Tyrawley dashed off a complaint to the Secretary of State which if nothing else shows the man to have had a fine line in irony. 
That Gibraltar is the strongest town in the world, that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen, and that London-bridge is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, are the natural prejudices of an English coffee-house politician.  
A rather supercilious looking Baron Tyrawley on the left with the Duke of Montagu and an unknown man
He had made up his mind almost immediately. He was already weary of Gibraltar. It was also he suggested, a huge drain on Britain’s resources and about as useful as a naval base as ‘Eddystone Lighthouse’. His opinion of the local inhabitants was not much better and only marginally higher than that of Bland. The Rock was a place that had ‘dwindled into a trading town for Jews, Genoese and pickpockets.’ In fact he was growing ‘intolerably weary of Gibraltar’, which was ‘in all respects upon the most scandalous foot that ever a town was’ that pretended to call itself a fortress.
In a sense it is surprising that Tyrawley had the time to give his opinion on people who were not part of his immediate family. He is reputed to have had three mistresses - mostly acquired while he was abroad, - and fourteen children, all of them illegitimate. He was able to afford shipping the whole lot of them back to Britain on the strength of 14 bars of gold given to him by the King of Portugal for services rendered when he was the British Ambassador in Lisbon. What exactly those services were has never been made clear.

During Tyrawley’s term of office a young lieutenant of the Welsh fusilier called Percival Stockdale was stationed in Gibraltar. Later in life he recalled his time on the Rock in a rather tedious two volume Memoir. The best one can glean from it is that he spent most of his time there in a drunken stupor. There was, he wrote, ‘much hard drinking at Gibraltar’. Nevertheless he was at pains to point out that ‘nothing’ could better ‘show the salubrity of the climate than the general good health of the Garrison.’ In fact Tyrawley himself was of the opinion – despite his antipathy for Gibraltar – that he had never known a healthier place.
Percival Stockdale
The ‘prevailing liquor at Gibraltar’ was a very strong punch which was always taken after dinner. Unfortunately there was also ‘a pernicious custom to drink copious quantities of a weaker kind of punch, with ‘a great proportion of lemon-juice in it’ and which was distinguished from the real thing by being called ‘sour’ or ‘weak’.
Stockdale, despite only being a lieutenant, seems to have been on more than nodding terms with the Governor whom he describes as ‘a man of political, but much more of amorous intrigue', He was also deemed 'a person of extraordinary talent for humour, and repartee.’ One day when dining out with an officer friend Stockdale asked him what he thought of lord Tyrawley as a bel esprit ? ‘The first time that I heard him converse,’ answered his friend, ‘I thought him very entertaining; the second time, very well; and the third time, very indifferent.’
Stockdale offers little information as regards the town itself other than that there were two much frequented coffee houses ‘almost opposite each other’ in the Esplanade. The locals were hardly worth a mention although he seems to have been much taken by what he calls ‘two Spanish toasts’. They were the sisters Barbara and Joanna Pora. He must have been in love with the later as he wrote some ‘verses on her’, ‘every every word of which’, he ‘perfectly remembered’ all those years later:
 'Long have Europa's rival nations strove,
Each in their own to fix the seat of love.
England has boasted her majestick dames ;
And soft Italians set the world in flames;
But now no longer these disputes remain;
For beauteous Pora gives the palm to Spain.'
 
Each in their own to fix the seat of love.
England has boasted her majestick dames ;
And soft Italians set the world in flames;
But now no longer these disputes remain;
For beauteous Pora gives the palm to Spain.'
To his credit Stockdale later became an ordained deacon and  witnessed and participated in the great political struggle over slavery.

One of Tyrawley's mistresses was a young Quaker girl who he had carefully arranged to marry the master of a trading ship. The bridegroom, Captain Bellamy, conveniently disappeared immediately after the wedding ceremony and his young Quaker girl soon gave birth to a daughter. She was supposed to have been called Georgiana but the parson was drunk during the christening and her name was registered as George Anne Bellamy. She went on to write her own autobiography – An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy - and become one of the leading actresses of the era.
George Anne Bellamy – one of Baron Tyrawley’s daughters.  She was supposed to have been called Georgiana but the parson was drunk during the christening.
Perhaps in an attempt to save his employers some money Tyrawley decided to try and strengthen the military defences of Gibraltar on his own initiative. In the words of Frederick Sayer, ( see Link ) he did so 
. . . with no more economy than governors are apt to do who think themselves above being responsible.’ 
A report by an engineer sent by London to inspect the fortifications in 1758 commented unfavourably on what he called ‘the unfortunate attempts at amateur engineering.’ Eventually Tyrawley's thoroughly unprofessional efforts landed him into trouble.
When the Governor heard about the many criticisms which were being levelled against him in London, he demanded to appear before the House of Lords. Among other things he had been accused of receiving ‘emoluments’ which amounted to 
twenty thousand per annum, exclusive of his salary, which were shared by knaves at home.
Rather surprisingly considering the amount of money he was making out of it, he was also accused of having warmly advocated ‘surrendering the place’ to the Spanish. Unfortunately for all his many detractors, his defence concerning his conduct was ‘so admirable that the House dismissed the whole affair.’
The fact was that Tyrawley didn’t think much of his appointment as he made very clear in a letter to London. He assured the Government that he took it;
. . . as no great compliment to be left here as storekeeper of Gibraltar.
Despite all this, Tyrawley did manage to produce one useful change: he closed the Protestant and Jewish cemetery outside Southport gate and transferred it to North Front. He didn’t think it was a good idea to bury the dead on top of Gibraltar’s water supply. The Jews refused to change their burial habits as North Front was theoretically Spanish territory and they were still fearful of the Inquisition. Tyrawley assigned them a place elsewhere in Jew’s Gate while the Catholics continued to bury their dead under the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned.

 The old cemetery at North Front ( 1870s George Washington Wilson ) ( see LINK

Right up to the end of the century Catholics who died in Gibraltar had the right to be buried under the floor of the Cathedral. This rather unusual tradition was considered to be a great privilege. So much so that people from outside town – mostly from San Roque – were willingly to pay hefty bribes to whoever happened to be sacristan at the time in return for the guarantee of a reserved plot. The sexton is said to have freed up space for his clients by the simple expedient of exhuming the recently buried corpses and then dumping them in quicklime in the Room of the Goat at the back of the church.
The dead having been looked after, there were serious problems with the living. Great dissatisfaction continued to exist both on the Rock and in Britain with regards to the maintenance, management and cost of the Garrison. Despite the obvious criticisms that can be levelled against all those initiatives taken during the middle of the 18th century and even taking Tyrawley’s obvious distaste of the place and its people at face value, there is little doubt that the town was no longer simply a fortress with an insignificant non-British community. Gibraltar was changing in character.
The eras of Roger Elliott, ( see LINK ) Stanwix, Portmore ( see LINK )  and Hargrave ( see LINK ) had left a legacy that was difficult to get rid of. The new administrators may not have been quite as corrupt but their disdain of things non-British and contempt for Papist culture continued to undermine the well-being of a Garrison that was dependent to a large extent on the welfare of its civilian population. 

By the end of the 1750s Gibraltar was an aging fortress and an administrative nightmare. It was a shabby run-down place with a complex community with the whole lot run for better or for worse as if it were a British city. The Garrison was about double the size of the civilian population if their wives and children were taken into account. It was now a larger place than it had been when it was part of Spain.
The Scottish satirical writer Thomas Carlyle once wrote that it was 
. . . not good to be without a servant in this world; but to be without a master, it appears, is still fateler predicament for some.
 Gibraltar’s British upper-crust would have been in general agreement with Carlyle - but it is hard to make out whether the second bit applies to the local population. One can dig up any number of quotes which tell us what the British thought about the residents but there are few records on what the locals thought about the British. It is obvious that everyday transactions within the confines of a place as small as Gibraltar must have led to almost daily contact between ‘master’ and ‘servant’. Somebody must have had an opinion but nobody ever thought it worth the trouble to record it.
Whatever the reason there is no doubt that the Garrison found Gibraltar a sad place to live in although it is doubtful whether the locals had much to do with this. The officers and the men hated every minute and spent most of their time drinking, whoring or brutalising each other. It was hot it was humid and there was precious little to do when off duty. Flogging, as always, was the disincentive for drunkenness. It didn’t work despite the fact that the offender did not have to be court marshalled. All that was required was the word of an officer.
For other minor military offences a new torture was devised to take the place of running ‘the gantelope’ which had been stopped to preserve the willow tree population of the Rock. The officers now sentenced their men to ‘ride the wooden horse.’ This involved a couple of planks of wood fixed together and forming a triangle with the ground. The culprit was then made to sit astride the contraption for an hour or two with sixty pound cannon balls tied to each of his feet.
Riding the Wooden Horse
Over the years the soldier’s uniforms had changed from comfortable and loose fitting to tight, gaitered and itchy. It required more than two hours to get ready for parades. Guard mounting now took place at seven in the morning in summer and at eight in winter and the twice daily parades were attended by both the Governor and the Town Major. 

The soldiers were also required to wear their hair long so that it could be worked with candle-grease and soap and then pulled over a bag of sand and arranged along the back of the head. The whole thing was then dragged back until it was so tight that the poor soldiers could hardly close their eyes. Finally it was powdered with flour, plaited and tied with a strip of leather. It looked good on while on duty but it also kept the rats well fed at night.
Eventually discipline within the army deteriorated to the point of mutiny.  Two of the regiments stationed on the Rock, the Sixth and Thirteenth Foot served a solid twenty-eight year stretch in Gibraltar. When one of these regiments was about to be replaced by another, the soldiers’ wives were made to report separately to a specifically designated man-of-war. They were also required to hand in a declaration signed by a regimental surgeon confirming that they were neither ‘pox’d nor clapp’d, as none will be received on board without such certificate.’ All of which more or less confirms previous speculations as to the morals and activities of the original fifty or so British ladies that appeared on the 1725 Census.
As a consequence of their lengthy and unpopular stay in Gibraltar soldiers of the Sixth and Thirteenth regiments decided to stage a mutiny. Their plan was quite simple: they intended to steal money from the paymaster, and then hand over the town to the Spaniards. They were also quite prepared to murder any officer who tried to stop them. All in all nearly eight hundred soldiers were involved. Unfortunately for them they were overheard in a wine shop while quarrelling over the details of the plan and the Governor was able to take preventive action. The ring- leader Robert Reid was duly hanged.
The full story of this rather sordid episode of British military history has been written to death in many different histories but in not one of them is mention made of the fact that not a single local seems to have taken part or helped the mutineers in any way. This is neither from deliberate omission nor from lack of information – there are lengthy official documents confirming all the details. The locals were not mentioned for the simple reason that they had refused to have had anything to do with it. The wine shop was owned by a civilian, and the quarrel must have been one of very many. Nearly eight hundred drink-loving soldiers were involved. The residents must have known what was afoot but wisely decided to keep well clear of it.
The fact that the relationship between locals and soldiers had been steadily deteriorating over the years might have had something to do with it but the underlying reason was that they could not perceive any real advantage from a change of regime - with all the attendant implications as regards residence and employment. They chose to sit on the fence, to wait and see and to hope for the best.  In any case they could not have been overly smug as regards the endless drunkenness and whoring that surrounded them. In 1752 one of their priests had to be sent packing because of his far ‘too libidinous life.’
If things were bad on land they were hardly any better at sea. British merchant sea captains have usually been assigned a prominent role in almost every history of Gibraltar. Many of them were actually opportunistic seamen who felt it worth their while to bring in supplies whenever a beleaguered Rock was enduring one its many sieges or blockades.  It was always well worth the risk. Not so during this period when hundreds of English merchantmen and privateers – including some run by the locals – were forced to haul down their flags to superior Spanish forces and were taken to Spanish ports as prizes.
On one unhappy occasion a French privateer captured an English vessel and brought it into Algeciras as a prize. The authorities in Gibraltar responded immediately. They sent an armed ship to retrieve the captured vessel ‘under the cannon of that fort’. The Governor of Algeciras responded by firing on the British warship killing over 150 sailors. An absolutely furious Tyrawley sent his opposite number a letter ‘drawn up in such unguarded terms’ that the Spanish governor thought he ought to send it to Madrid rather than bring himself to answer it.
 
Contemporary plan of the town of Algeciras  ( Unknown )   

This particular event caused the usual rumpus further up the diplomatic ladder but as going to war at this juncture was seen as an inconvenience for all three of the countries involved, the sailors were simply buried and the whole thing was quietly forgotten. As a result Algeciras continued to be an important retreat for both Spanish and French privateers right up to the last decades of the century. The picture hardly changed for the better when a few months later in 1762 Britain and Spain became enemies as a consequence of the Seven Years War.
An English ship being taken by a French privateer   ( Unknown ) 
The civilian population also had to put up with a few other 'inconveniences'. In 1766 Gibraltar experienced some incredibly bad weather. More than one observer commented on the violence of the thunder and lightning and the heavy rainfall that continued unabated for an entire day. The size of the hailstones was such that almost all the windows of the town were broken. 

A huge torrent of water from the upper Rock brought down enormous quantities of soil and rubbish and several buildings were completely demolished and in a few minutes the ground floors of the houses of the entire town were under water. The streets were choked with rubbish and the inhabitants were forced to escape through top windows or even break their way through the roofs. ‘Men women, children and animals of all sorts’ were either floating in the water or stuck in the rubbish.
The water burst through the Line Wall destroying over a hundred yards of fortifications and rendering the batteries useless. The local Spanish commander realizing that Gibraltar was defenseless asked for permission to attack. With a quirky sense of honour the Spanish King is reputed to have replied that although he would dearly love to recover the Rock, it would nevertheless ‘not be right’ to do so under those circumstances. Almost everybody in town suffered from the storm and a good number of the merchants were ruined as their goods and warehouses were washed away. According to Ayala ( see LINK ) , ‘The government said that around fifty people had been drowned, but no-one believed that.’ It took a long time to clear up the mess.
When the acting Governor at the time, Major General Irwin wrote his own account for the benefit of his superiors in London he called the aftermath ‘a melancholy scene.’ From reading his letter, however, it is evident that he was not overly concerned with civilian losses or casualties. In fact his report gives one the impression that not a single civilian lifted a finger to help either themselves or anybody else. 

It was, he wrote, entirely due to the ‘zeal, activity, and cheerfulness’ of the common soldiers and their officers that the drains were eventually cleared to prevent any further damage. He was relieved that the Army’s magazines had escaped untouched but his real worry was that many of the houses that would have to be pulled down were those inhabited by his officers.
If discipline was strict for the soldiers, the regulations were always far less onerous for their officers. Whenever diplomatic conditions permitted they were allowed to escape the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Garrison by making frequent trips to Spain on shooting expeditions or just simply for relaxation. Junior ranks were required to return to Gibraltar before nightfall but this small imposition failed to detract from the sheer enjoyment of getting away from the endless grind of the Garrison.
A British born civilian by the name of Cornwell ( see LINKwho was living in Gibraltar at the time became quite lyrical when describing these outings. Spain was definitely hunting and shooting territory ( see LINK ) but for those who disliked killing animals for sport there were plenty of other entertainments to be had in the nearby towns of Algeciras and San Roque. There was one favourite spot half way between Carteia and La Linea. 

It was given the name of the Orange Grove. Here, on the banks of a small but pleasant river, several enterprising Spaniards had established themselves.  Along with other major improvements to the land they had created several gardens full of exotica such as pomegranate shrubs, sugar canes and the orange trees that gave the place its name. 

 The ruins of Carteia and the river Guadarranque. It is quite possible that the Orange Grove of the literature was somewhere close  (  18th century - Francis Carter )    ( see LINK

The locals welcomed the officers with open arms, influenced no doubt by the amount of money they were prepared to spend during their visits. The enjoyment of angling in a river that always seemed to be full of fish induced some unknown person from Gibraltar to erect a comfortable hut close to its banks under the shade of an enormous walnut tree. Whoever it was had hit on a great idea. He was soon either renting it out or supplying visitors with everything they needed to spend a few agreeable hours, even perhaps to make use of some of the hut’s available beds – for whatever purpose.


Detail of a contemporary map of Gibraltar and part of the Spanish hinterland based on drawings by a British officer who was stationed on the Rock from 1769 to 1775. It is one of the very few maps of the era that shows the Orange Grove ( William Faden )          
During the spring and summer months, British families also tended to spend a few months of year away from the Rock, usually near San Roque. In fact the relationship between British locals and Spanish residents of nearby villages was excellent during those periods when Britain and Spain were not at war with each other. People were constantly visiting each other’s homes both in Spain and in Gibraltar and the officers were ‘constantly making excursions into the country.’  Whether these ‘people’ included any non-British locals is hard to tell from the literature but it is safe to say that whenever it became feasible there would have been a flow of civilian visitors in both directions.
For the more enterprising officers there was also the added bonus of trips to the Barbary Coast, ‘which in season superabounds with various species of game’. As somebody put it these visits allowed for ‘pleasing relaxations from the duties of the Garrison.’ In fact all these fringe benefits slowly but surely 
. . . rendered Gibraltar as eligible a station as any which a soldier could be ordered.’ By ‘soldier’ of course, one should read ‘officer.
This was mostly a relationship between well-off Spanish land owners and the British upper crust. In fact according to Ayala, there seems to have been nothing that gave the officers greater pleasure than to be received with great urbanity and hospitality’ in the grand haciendas ‘of the three towns of the Campo area’, Algeciras, Los Barrios and San Roque, where after a fine evening meal and a good night’s rest they could look forward to some enjoyable hunting the following morning.

Even while on duty on the Rock the officers didn’t exactly over exert themselves. In fact the kind of life they led during the final years of the 1770s makes for comfortable reading. Their main meal was at three in the afternoon and this continued at a leisurely pace until well into the evening as their well prepared food was washed down with ‘wine of different kinds and countries.’ 

Henry Cowper’s theatre near the Moorish Castle saw some of its best amateur productions during these years. Italian Opera Buffa companies also periodically paid the place a visit which suggests that the local non-British residents were beginning to take an interest in theatrical shows.
The Royal Arms of Henry Cowper’s Theatre discovered by accident in 1935
One well known local amateur actress of the day was Cordelia Ainslie, daughter of an army surgeon and something of a personality at the time in Gibraltar. She was known for her excellent performances as Leonora in a comic opera called ‘The Padlock’ by Isaac Bickerstaff. A verse written as a prologue to another play by none other than the Judge Advocate of Gibraltar, Richard Jepson, mentions her by name. She must have been a gracious person with a wide range of interests and friends.

When she eventually married a local army officer the local Jewish residents sent her ‘a basket full of doves’ as a present. A portrait of her as a young woman confirms her reputation as a local beauty. As she had once lived in Malta as well as Gibraltar she was nicknamed 'The Belle of the Mediterranean'.

Cornelia Ainslie, the 'Belle of the Mediterranean'  ( Unknown ) 
As regards the rest of the local population the occasional ball at Convent was restricted to British senior officers and foreign consuls but there were weekly regimental dances where British civilians – especially their wives and daughters - were welcome.
The odd influential Jewish merchant was sometime honoured with an invitation, and by the end of the decade Isaac Aboab’s beautiful wife Simha seems to have been a permanent fixture. It was quite a triumph for someone who was thought of as an illiterate, bald, wig-wearing wife of a notorious bigamist. 

The Genoese, Spanish and other Catholic inhabitants never even made it to the regimental dances. On the other hand, although Cornwell hardly mentions it, the increased contact between the local Catholic population and Spanish civilians meant that they were probably enjoying life rather more than they had previously. The Jews mostly gave Spain a miss. The risk was far too great. ( see LINK
Cornwell’s eye-witness account of Gibraltar during the decades before the Great Siege were published in 1782 in a book with the immensely long title of A Description of Gibraltar with An Account of the Blockade, Siege, the Attempt by Nine Sail of Fire-Ships and the Sally made from the Garrison and every Thing Remarkable and Worthy of Notice that has occurred in that Place since the Commencement of the Spanish war; Likewise the Vast importance of this valuable Fortress to Great Britain clearly stated and explained. ( see LINK
It is hard to tell who Cornwell was or what he was doing in Gibraltar but he describes himself as a native of the Garrison who had lived there for quite a number of years. He may have been a seller or inventor of a medicine which he called ‘the Oriental Vegetable Cordial’ which he promotes somewhat incongruously in an appendix to his book.
There are other oddities about the book. The fact that it was published in 1782 means that the Great Siege had not yet quite come to an end by the time he had finished writing it. Also his descriptions of the town and his comments on the relationship between Gibraltar and mainland Spain seem to refer to those that prevailed well before the Siege had started. Nevertheless it may be of interest to know what a man who sold medicines had to say about Gibraltar, especially as he was quite complimentary. Perhaps this had something to do with the stuff he was hoping to promote; it was supposed to cure ‘inveterate headaches, diarrhoea, cholics, palsies, apoplexies, bilious, gouty, rheumatic and scorbutic complaints and nervous affections in general’.
First page of Cornwell’s advert for his Oriental Vegetable Cordial
The town of Gibraltar, he wrote, offered a handsome appearance. The Bay was a ‘very safe and commodious one; a fine port for the ships coming from the Mediterranean.’ The merchants ‘carry on a very extensive trade, and import vast quantities of goods from the Mother Country.’ Naively – or perhaps ironically - he suggested that if it wasn’t because of the ‘generous breast of Englishmen’ who were reluctant to take advantage of their Spanish neighbours – or ‘give umbrage to his Catholic Majesty’ – ‘an amazing quantity of Manchester and other prohibited goods would have been constantly smuggled into Spain.’
The place was by now absolutely bristling with ‘cannon, mortars and Howitzers,’ and he makes a point of commenting on most of the principal fortifications – the Sky Battery, the Princes Lines, Willis’s and the Grand Battery among them. The town houses were generally of rock stone and well made. The somewhat smaller properties of the inhabitants were interspersed with several more elegant ones which were used by the Garrison’s officers as their quarters. The streets, he tells us, were all neatly paved.

This business of paving seems to have been an obsession with 18th century travellers. Every single observer describing the town makes a point of telling the reader precisely which parts of town were paved and which were not. It was obviously something that they considered important. In any case he must have been writing from memory as by the time his words were in print there was very little left of the town never mind the pavements. The American War of Independence would soon put an end to the cosy relationship with Spain and by the time the Great Siege had ended it became difficult to believe that any kind of rapport had ever existed.


The Rock of Gibraltar viewed from the hills above the Algeciras aqueduct. It was the kind of view that many British officers visiting the nearby Orange Grove would have relished  ( 1860s - Fritz Bamberger )   ( see LINK