Lieutenant Colonel Thomas James of the Royal Artillery was responsible for inflicting upon us - The History of the Herculean Straits now called the Straits of Gibraltar including those Ports of Spain and Barbary that lie Contiguous thereto . . . in two, four hundred odd page volumes. It was published in 1771.
James was stationed in Gibraltar from 1749 to 1753 but must have returned in 1755 as this is the year in which he states in the book that his various descriptions of the Rock refer to. The book was dedicated to the Honourable Colonel Richard Maitland whom he hoped would one day 'take command of that distinguished fortress of Gibraltar' - a hope that never came to pass.
It only needs a cursory reading of his work to know that that he disliked the Spaniards intensely and admired British Gibraltar accordingly. But it does contain some extraordinarily detailed accounts of Gibraltar's history, its fortifications, its fauna and flora, the weather, a list of its governors, the town and its inhabitants and - rather surprisingly - a lengthy account of corruption going on in high places. I have omitted most references to the first few but have included as much as possible of the others.
The Rock from the Spanish lines - a very similar black and white engraving appears in Thomas James' History. The caption is incorrect ( 1750s - Rock (William Henry Toms)
1704 - The Taking of Gibraltar - The French say . . in order to diminish, as much as possible the glory of this action, that the Spaniards had neither garrison or guns there; but that this is far from being true, since there were more than a hundred brass cannon mounted . . . The seamen's attack is allowed by all authors to have been the boldest and most difficult ever made being obliged to climb up precipices to come at the enemy . .
None withstanding the works were strong and well appointed with cannon and ammunition, yet the garrison at most consisted but of one hundred and fifty soldiers; what number of inhabitants the city contained is able to bear arms is nowhere to be told.Claude de Bose says there were but between fourscore and a hundred; surely he must have been misinformed . . . however . . fifty men . . might have defended the works against ten thousand; but that the bravery of our men was beyond example. . .
The town contained twelve hundred houses . . now supposing one man in each house, able to bear arms, the garrison under their governor, the Marquis de Salinas, consisted of a body of one thousand six hundred men, a force sufficient to have held out against the allies, had their conduct and courage been equal to their strength, for we shall find . . the British forces in that garrison consisted of three weak battalions, when attacked by the enemy, and the town full of Spaniards . .
This analysis of the events of 1704 has more or less been discarded by most subsequent historians. The curiosity lies in the colonel's dilemma - on the one hand he wants the event to be seen as one of the greatest in history - on the other his prejudices force him to describe the enemy as both inept and cowardly. The two hardly go together. ( see LINK )
The Taking of Gibraltar - probably the only extant eye-witness sketch of the event ( 1704 )
The Goatherd - During the siege five hundred volunteers took the sacrament never to return back to their cam, till they had taken the city. This forlorn party of Spaniards was to have been sustained by another of French troops, but the generals disagreeing, the aid was not sent . . Their plan was this . . under the conduct of a goatherd, through the pass de algarovas i.e. the pass of the locust trees . . to have surprised the town. . . .
Claude de Bose tells us that at first, this Spanish detachment had some advantage, but the English returning the charge, killed the colonel who commanded and after taking his brother prisoner destroyed most of his men. . Those Spaniards who perished were driven were driven over that precipice called Saltade Loba i.e the wolf's leap.
The goatherd was Simón Susarte ( see LINK ) and the Saltade Lobo was the Salto del Lobo. Claude de Bose was a contemporary French historian.
Salto del Lobo marked as X ( 1733 - Hommannische Erben - detail )
Journal of the Siege of 1727 . . . before we conclude . . it may be a requisite to give a more particular account of the siege of twenty-seven, and having been favoured with an exact journal thereof I take the liberty to insert it.. .
Thursday the ninth - Between the third and the ninth, nothing extraordinary happened. . .Sunday the twelfth - This day came in fifteen deserters . . Thursday the fourteenth - Last night came in a deserter . . Sunday the nineteenth - Last night it rained very hard . . . Monday the twelfth . . Nothing extraordinary happened . . Tuesday the Twenty-eighth - the enemy worked very little . . Monday the sixth - Last night two men of lord Mark Kerr's deserted . .
Quotes from the journal continue in similar vein for several pages. A comparable but far more readable account can be found in the diaries of another anonymous journalist of the 1727 Siege quoted in another chapter. ( see LINK )
The Bay - Gibraltar is a large Bay, and has a pretty large town . . . to the southward of this town is a mole, in which you may lie in five six fathoms of water; to the north is another called the Old Mole, but only fit for small craft . . . the ground between these two moles is very foul and rocky near the shore . . To the westward of this bay are a few houses, and old ruins, which they call Old Gibraltar . . .
All ships coming into the harbour show their colours; if they are not displayed, a shot is fired before the head of the vessel; if she then takes no notice, a second is fired, at her, and continued till the colours are hoisted; as soon as she comes to anchor, or sometimes before, the practic boat boards her, and demands a clean bill of health . . .they are also obliged to pay for the shots fired at them.
The ruins of Algeciras - or Old Gibraltar ( 1726 - J.Breval ) ( see LINK )
As a harbour, the Bay of Gibraltar left much to be desired in the early 18th century - in fact most large ships were forced to anchor at least half a mile away from the town - perhaps as far as the Bay of Old Gibraltar or Algeciras. Those 'practic' boats would be in constant use less than half a century later ( see LINK )
Map showing dangerous rocky area between the two moles (1750s - Guillaume Dheulland - detail )
The Town . . . when in the hands of the Spanish consisted of twelve hundred houses, one parish church, three monasteries of friars, one of nuns, two hospitals, and several chapels. In 1753 there were no more than four hundred houses, properly speaking besides quarters for officers and barracks for officers and soldiers. . .
There were . . . two gardens of great benefit to the garrison; within sight of this Land port gate to Water port, is a piece of ground termed the esplanade with a large storehouse and an enclosed yard for shot and shells; this storehouse was built by the Moors for their gallies, now possessed by the ordinance; On this esplanade are some houses belonging to the inhabitants. In the time of the Spaniards this spot of ground was laid out in streets, but the houses being damaged from bombs . . in 1727 it was thought more advisable to clear the rubbish away . . . On this esplanade is a water port, which communicates to the old mole and quay; there is a draw-bridge over a wet ditch . .
Map showing Old Mole, Land port (D) and Waterport gates .(F ) The Esplanade - now Casemates - yet to be cleared of houses and 'laid out in streets' appears in the centre of the map ( 1727 - B.S .Von Schutz - detail )
The Grand Parade
A - the parade - B - the governor's guard - C - the grand battery guard - D - the Land port guard - E - the (new) town guard - F - the prince's line guard - G - the king's line guard
H - the Water port guard - I - line wall guard - K - Willis guard - L - middle-hill guard - M - signal-house guard - N - rock guard - O - castle guard - P - hospital guard - Q - South port guard - R - advanced guard - S - old town guard - T - artillery - U - Town major and drum - W - whipping post - X - black hole, pallisadoed before the entrance - Y - fountain - Z - officers
James seems to take it for granted that the reader knows exactly where to find Gibraltar's Grand Parade - but he does offer the above diagram with its explanatory captions.
The Bomb-House - The storekeeper and ordnance clerks dwellings, commonly called the bomb-house, was once a fine Moorish building : I take it to have been the residence of their governors, because I have seen the same kind of structures in Spain, and never but one in that style in each town: and that which is peculiar, is the top of the house, which is a flat oblong terrace; round it is a wall of three feet high, and on the wall are stone pillars that support a roof: there houses are much higher than any other building in the town, and command the whole: this upper apartment is at prevent a dwelling room, the spaces between the pillars being filled, and now has windows, and a door place. The cellars remain in their old state, one of which I take to have been the family mosque; the inside is an oblong square, and round the centre are pillars that support a handsome cupola.
Round the architrave is an inscription, but so defaced that I could not make anything of it. This house, when we took the place, was quite entire, and very large; and the complete remains of the Moors, as a dwelling, in the town ; but the changes it has since undergone, have almost diverted it of its ancient beauties; ancient I call it, because it might have been built soon after the coming of those people in seven hundred and eleven . . . .
This is the site of the present day Gibraltar Museum. Those 'pillars supporting a handsome cupola' form part of the Moorish Baths. It was probably built by the Merinid Caliph, Abu-l-hasan, who took over the Rock from the Spaniards in 1333 ( see LINK )
Gibraltar Moorish Baths ( 1910 - Unknown )
The Colonel's House - The Dutch Synagogue . . . the house which was my quarters, where I lived for five years, and which was once a chapel of ease, had its whole front of two stories, built of this petrified sand, charged with variety of shells, that took a polish, and as the house was a religious one, the door and the window over it were ornamented with mouldings, etc with an inscription above the centre of the window. This mansion is opposite the bomb-house . . .
Dutch Synagogue and Bomb House on the right ( 1830 - Frederick Leeds Edridge ) ( see LINK )
Fountain - In the middle of the town in the Grand parade, is the fountain built in 1694, which supplies the city with water. . . You descend from the parade to the fountain one and twenty steps: the water is extremely good, and very much purified by its filtering through that immense body of sand, before it arrives to the aqueduct ; it will keep for many years, and it is reported, that formerly this water was greatly valued, insomuch that several used to come to Gibraltar from the different parts of Spain on purpose to drink it for particular disorders . . .
The 1694 fountain in the Esplanade - a cross section and from the front. It still existed - albeit with no water and in a different place - at the time of writing. ( From Volume 2 )
Cross section showing the fountain in relation to the Line Wall ( Adapted from diagram in Volume 2 )
South Port Gate . . . the South Port is in the curtain, after the ancient manner, with loop-holes for wall pieces to defend, between the outward and the inward gate, over which are the arms of the empire and those of Spain with two wreathed pillars, and the inscription - Plus Ultra. . . The ditch in Southport gate was never finished but is very wide . . ( see LINK )
South Port Gate ( 1740s - James Gabriel Montresor ) ( see LINK )
The New Mole - 'The fort of the new mole is a triangular form' . .
Remains of triangular fort by the New Mole - ( 1740 - William Skinner ) ( see LINK )
Middle Hill - From the signal house a road (made by General Bland's orders) leads to Middle Hill . . Within these few years a great part of the rocks . . . has been scarped . . and a parapet capable of containing twenty musketeers. . .
This was almost certainly built as a precaution to avoid any possibility of a repeat of the attack from the 'impossible' east cliffs - as attempted in 1704.
The "parapet capable of containing twenty musketeers" in Middle Hill which was also known as La Silleta ( 2013 - Photograph taken by Bart Van Thienen )
Red Sands - The soil of the town is red sand which starts at Land port gate and continue to the baranca near the new mole where criminals are executed. . . I have seen several pits made from South port to Land port; the kind that was thrown out of them, was of the same complexion as the former; these holes were made for sand to mix with lime for their buildings, and were afterwards filled with the rubbish of the town . . .
Not exactly the most hygienic of systems.
The Aqueduct - A small aqueduct may be made against the bank on the south side of the above gully, or baranca: this aqueduct is extremely well executed; it was begun by the Conde de la Corfana, under the directions of a Jesuit, taken from an aqueduct at Carthage: but it mull be remembered, that the Moors had an aqueduct before the Spaniards, and their pipes made of earthen ware, and let into each other, went along and within the masonry of the Town line wall. . . ( see LINK )
The Sailor's Hospital . . . is a noble, capacious, well adapted pile of building; it is a square of masonry and tiled, with an area in the canter, and piazzas round it, by which the men may either enjoy the sun or shade, and are kept properly, without confinement: there are apartments for a thousand sick, with all conveniences : it is erected to the southward of the new mole, upon a plain, and walled round, in a free, salutary, airy height . . before this hospital was. built, there was a fabrick called Notre Dame des Remedes.
Alameda Grand Parade - On the west front, at the foot of a perpendicular rock, is a plain, where a regiment encamped during the siege of one thousand seven hundred and twenty-seven, and where. the governor reviews the troops by battalion every year . . .
An very empty looking parade ground in the Red Sands area viewed from Prince Edward's Gate ( 1790 - George Bulteel Fisher ) ( see LINK )
South Barracks . . . to the north of the above building, are the south barracks, containing a regiment, a heavy, ill contrived pile, especially the officers pavilions, who are greatly straitened for want of-room; and particularly cellars or vaults.
Plan for the 'Soldiers Barracks' - latter known as South Barracks ( 1740s - James Gabriel Montresor )
There is no accounting for tastes - the South Barracks has often been thought of by many as one of Gibraltar's more imposing and stylish buildings ( see LINK )
St Rosia and the Vineyard - Between the hospital and barracks is a large enclosed piece of ground called the Vineyard; in it are many trees, and plenty of roots, herbs, salads, etc in their proper season, and is by far the pleasantest spot the rock: it was originally a religious house, called St. Rosia.
St Rosia was presumably an old Spanish chapel. I have nevertheless been unable to trace any reference to it in pre-1704 documents. ( see LINK ).
Churches and Priests - In the church of one of the convents, divine worship according to the use of the church of England is constantly performed. . . The convent in that part of Gibraltar called Irish Town was of the white friars and is converted into a navy store-house . . All other religious fabricks are converted into barracks and quarters except the Spanish parish church which . . has worship performed therein according to the superstitions of the church of Rome . . . but one priest resides at a time, sometimes he has a visiting brother. They live very well, and will drink freely, and enjoy the fair sex, and one, for his too libidinous life, was recalled to Spain in the year 1752. . .
All Roman Catholics are buried in the Spanish church; they put them in a deep pit, throwing lime upon the corps to consume the body sooner. The church were it kept in proper repair and good order would make a very good appearance.; it is in the gothic style, raised on a Moorish structure, which is obvious at the north entrance, where is a colonnade, with columns supporting a terras, all which is Moorish . . . The church . . would be light enough did they not exclude the sun, by blinding their windows; however, to supply the place of this luminary, many lamps were burnt before the shrine on days of dedication and festivity. A great many amulets hang against the pillars and walls; silver legs, arms, pieces of cables, shirts, and such rubbish and trumpery, as offerings to saints. . . .
On the road from the town, and where it branches off to the upper and lower Europa, are the ruins of a small building, which had a cross erected on it; and where the inhabitants generally stop and prayed, before they approached the chapel of Europa which was called the chapel of Christ.
The road from the town to the south, showing the Chapel of Christ ( 1727 - Delahaye Guillaume-Nicolas )
The Moorish Castle - I shall now proceed with a description of the old Moorish castle . . once was a stately palace and a large strong fortification, before the use of artillery; and . . it vied with any in Spain, either for Moorish strength, beauty or situation. .
James did indeed proceed describing the place in great detail for several pages. His greatest contribution, however, is his meticulous copies of the inscriptions, some of which now no longer exist.
Inscription on the upper castle; 'Prosperity and peace to our sovereign, and slave of God, king of the Moors, our sovereign Aby Al Hajaj, son of Joseph king of the Moors, son of our sovereign Aby al Walid, whom God preserves.'
Inscription on the upper tower; 'To the God that pacifies, and of peace, and to the God that lasts for ever. To the God that pacifies, and of peace, and to the God that lasts forever.'
Other Moorish Castle inscriptions
The Devil's Tower . . . by the Spaniards called la Torre de San Pedro . .
The Devil's Tower ( 1906 - Unknown)
Unlike various other towers on the isthmus, this one survived for nearly half a millennia - until destroyed during WWII during the construction of the Gibraltar airfield. Although also known as Torre del Diablo by the Spanish, it was also known as Torre de los Angeles, Angel de la Guardia, and Atalaya del Mar de Levante. James is the only reference I can find to Torre de San Pedro.
Other Watch Towers . . . that watch towers were of long standing in the coasts of Spain is unquestionable. However . . when the Moors were expelled from Granada . . the Spaniards had few towers in their coast; and the reason is plain; for while the Moors were in possession of the Spanish shore, they had nothing to fear from their opposite coast of Barbary . . . but since their expulsion, they are under the same apprehensions as heretofore . .
There are indeed innumerable watch towers all along the Spanish coast on either side of Gibraltar. Many are probably of Moorish origin, others probably constructed by Spanish engineers during the 17th century.
The Queen of Spain's Chair - tower on the Sierra Carbonera to the north of the Rock ( Early 20th century Postcard )
The Tower at Europa Point - The tower at Europa-point has a room-arched at the foundation in the Roman style, and winding stairs on the outside of the top, easily to he traced, but before the building of Europa line wall, the most part of the steps were entire . . . . The coved room now is made use of for a guard of soldiers and vulgarly called the Dead Man's Hole, on account that a gentleman was, at his particular desire, buried there under the floor of the above room.
The Sentinel Box - At a few yards distance from the above tower, is a stone sentinel box, on the summit of a wave-worn rock, thirty-four yards and two feet from the surface of the sea, and falsely termed the southernmost point in Europe.
Neither the tower nor the sentinel's box seems to have survived. The first, however may have been what was once called the Torre de Negrillo.
La Torre de Megrillies is almost certainly the Torre de Negrillo. The Sentinel box may have been near Punta de Hira ( 1943 - John Hardesty - detail )
Another possibility is that the tower was either La Torre de los Tarfes or the Torre de los Genoveses ( see LINK )
Map of the southern part of the Rock - N is the Torre de los Tarfes ( 1567 Anton Van Wyngaerde ) ( see LINK )
The Chapel of Lady of Europa - At some small distance, and nearly in the centre of the Europa plain, at right angles to the Captain's guard-house, was the Spanish Chapel, called Lady of Europa; it is the ruins of a Moorish structure, and there are two rooms still remaining, which are covered in the Moorish style, and in all probability this was either a mosque or a saint's house . . .
Moorish Bath - To the eastward of this building, on the same rocky plain, is a Moorish bath sunk in the rock . .
Wells - There are many Moorish wells dispersed through the Garrison and you may know them from the Spanish, being made in a different form. These wells are not peculiar to Gibraltar; for I have seen them in the ruins of several Moorish towns, castles, etc in Spain: they are generally very deep, because the Moors were fond of building on the tops of hills. . .
The Moorish Bath was later given the rather enigmatic name of the Nuns' Well. A discussion as to its origins is given elsewhere. ( see LINK ) As regards the wells, many of these were probably serviced by Moorish 'norias', although no mention is made of them by James.
A well with a bullock operated noria ( Unknown )
The 'Inquisition' Building and the Nearby Circular Structure
A = The King's Vault.
B = The Queen's or Children's Vault
C = The Relations' Vaults etc
D = The Inquisition, most probably a small oratory, dedicated to the deceased, where prayers were given up for their souls ( From Volume 2 )
A = The King's Vault.
B = The Queen's or Children's Vault
C = The Relations' Vaults etc
D = The Inquisition, most probably a small oratory, dedicated to the deceased, where prayers were given up for their souls ( From Volume 2 )
James also offers an interesting but - by his own admission - possibly incorrect theory, as to the purpose of two enigmatic structures that were once found in the southern area of the Rock
The Inquisition - The ruins of a house commonly known as the 'inquisition', which name it acquired by the English, being raised close to the ruins of a circular building; round the outside of which, are the remains of several apartments, three of them which are arched are entire, the rest can only be traced by their foundations. But by an old plan ( which I saw ) this ruin had a superstructure though no remains are now to be seen.
What this building originally was , is hard to say, as I cannot find any account given it; and people are divided in opinion; some imagine it to have been a prison, and these cellars or vaults designed for criminals who were put in at one end that was afterwards closed up; there to end their miserable days (or rather nights) by famine, erected at the commencement of the awful tribunal of the inquisition; while others ( and I think with more reason) imagine that it was a repository for the dead. and that the centre was a sepulchre for the king, and those vaults for his children and relations.
Whatever was the design of this building, it is very certain that the ends of those cellars were clothed with thick masonry, some of which the English soldiers broke through, in the hope of finding hidden treasure.
It is said that don Henry was drowned, with forty of his knights in one thousand four hundred and thirty five and that he was buried in the upper part of the tower in the upper castle; but this is impossible because the tower was the residence of the King . . of the moors, and a mosque . . Now they never did . . suffer a Christian to be buried near their place of worship. I therefore believe Henry's tomb was in this place, and that it became a royal repository; but this is conjecture.
The 'Henry' in question was Enrique de Guzmán, second Count of Niebla. The date of the event was 1436. As regards the Inquisition buildings, the first identifiable mention of this complex comes from Roberts Poole's The Beneficent Bee ( see LINK ) published in 1749.
From hence we climbed up the Rock . . . which . . . was pretty much upon a level for a large field, though very rocky. . Passing on we came to an old ruined place in the field, with divers cells underground. This was said formerly to have been the inquisition house, or place of punishment to the monastery. . .In a footnote to an article on Poole local historian Tito Benady suggests that the above:
. . . is pure invention. Poole is describing the ruins of the Torre de los Genoveses, which was probably a depot for Genoese merchants in Moorish times and may have been built in the 14th and 15th century.
St Michael's Cave . . . no one should visit this garrison, without viewing the cave, before whose entrance is the remains of a strong wall, seventy-six feet in length; which I am apt to believe was built by the Spaniards at the expulsion of the Moors, through a superstitious remembrance, and great veneration and esteem which those bigoted people conceived ofthe cave of Corbadanga, which gave the first check to the rapid conquest of the Moors . . .
Contemporary etching of St Michael's Cave - but no wall ( Unknown )
Carbadanga must be Covadonga. The wall in front of St Michael's Cave is also mentioned by John Brevant Breval writing in the very early 18th century. ( see LINK ) He was obviously less impressed than James - he called it a 'dwarf-wall'.
The Residents - The old Spaniards feed after the manner of their own country, generally speaking; but in garb between the English and their native country. The Catalans are more observant of the Catholic habits. The Spaniards marry very young; at thirteen or fourteen they will bear children.
The few remains of the Spaniards are greatly addicted to gross idolatry and rank superstition; as are also the Catalans who came here with the prince of Hesse; and the Genoese and the few Irish not belonging to the British Government, were not a jot behind their friends of that persuasion.
They pay contributions for the delivery of souls from purgatory. They keep carnival, a season of mirth and jollity, masquerading from North to the South Port, through the several streets and dancing in each other's houses.
Biased but informative - the former understandable, the latter unusually so for the period. Anti-Catholic prejudices were almost universal among British visitors of the mid and later eighteenth century. Yet he cannot avoid leaving us with the impression that the non-British locals seem to have stuck to their cultural heritage - such as it was - and also to have had time to enjoy themselves now and again.
Corsiars . . . when all Europe are at peace with each other, yet the Straits of Gibraltar have combatants floating upon her waters ; these are the corsairs of 'Barbary and Algiers, who are always at war with some Christian power: the orders at Gibraltar were to protect whoever got first within fire of the guns at Europa, or any other part of the hill, if they required it, by firing upon the adverse party.
Corsairs Making a Getaway near Gibraltar ( 19th Century - Otto Lusty )
Smuggling - Ever since we have been in possession of Gibraltar, the Spaniards have kept a vigilant eye to prevent the illegal custom of smuggling; the practice of which has at sundry times given them a pretence to shut up communication between the garrison and the country. I wish they had no cause; for it is the same thing whether prohibited goods go through Land Port or Waterport, if vessels are illegally freighted with false passes.
Corruption - The making of Gibraltar a free port was a noble step . . but alas! this comfort was transitory, and the poor inhabitants and others groaned under the sever decrees of arbitrary power! If we may rely on the testimony of . . the ironical pamphlet, entitled 'Reasons for Giving up Gibraltar' ( see LINK )
. . .The two heads clerks of the victualling office at Gibraltar whenever they gave a report of provisions in store to the governor, did always take their oath before him, that there was sufficient quantity of provision to last the garrison as many days as they inserted in their report. . .
. . . An anonymous writer, in the Gentleman's Magazine for March 1757, ( see LINK ) acquaints us that when he was at Gibraltar, the G----'s will was the sole law . . . and how bad a law that was.
This section on corruption continues at length as the author acknowledges what appear to be his own experiences as regards corrupt practices on the Rock. Humphrey Bland ( see LINK ) - a relatively honest man - was Governor of Gibraltar during most of James' stay on the Rock but James may have caught the tail-end of William Hargrave's stint at the helm in 1749. ( see LINK )
Apparently when the officers and subalterns attempted to present a joint memorial to the governor expressing their concerns they found that the officers of his own regiment dared not sign. When the memorial was presented the response was immediate - ' it was mutiny, and was in doubt whether or not to put them under arrest. He didn't, the affair reached the ears of the Government in London and new orders were issued. Perhaps a final quote on this topic would be appropriate;
The methods used to raise money, will, and shall be, a monument to posterity of the vices of those times.