The People of Gibraltar
1836 - Thomas Roscoe and David Roberts

Thomas Roscoe was born in Liverpool in 1791. He was both a journalist and a travel-writer. Altogether he wrote several travelogues on Spain, France, Italy and Morocco as well as a biography on The Life and Writings of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

His books - The Tourist in Spain - Andalucia published in 1836, and The Tourist in Spain and Morocco - which was published in 1838, include chapters on Gibraltar. Both volumes are beautifully illustrated with engravings by David Roberts.


David Roberts (Unknown )

Generally Roscoe's opinions of those Spaniards he met in his travels can be summed up by the following quote;
They do not govern themselves here by the laws of ethics, but by custom, or according to the rules they can suck out of the pith of old proverbs, mostly antediluvian, and just suited to the world as it existed before the flood.
Perhaps the following selection will reveal what he thought about Gibraltar - and its inhabitants.


The Tourist in Spain - Andalucia (1736)
ArrivalA few hours after quitting Algeciras, the tourist find himself, with a feeling of relief and pleasure, within the gates of one of the most extraordinary fortresses known in ancient or in modern times . . . . and from the summit of its steep majestic rock, embracing a fortified city with beautiful walks and grounds in its ample girth, you behold at once the far-spread Mediterranean, Barbary, Fez, Morocco, and the Kingdoms of Seville and Granada. 
From the appearance of Apes . . of a species not known in Spain . . . it was conjectured there existed some subterrane communication between Europe and Africa - a tradition adopted by the vanquished Goths, who soothed their pride by reflection that the Arab foe must have stolen a march upon them below the straits, which accounted for the rapidity of his conquests. . . 
The city has a bold and striking air, not borrowed simply from its position and martial character, but from its existence as a colony of free men, whose enterprising spirit has given it every advantage and improvement of which it was capable.


The Rock from the Neutral Ground ( David Roberts - from the book )

An extraordinarily complimentary description of the Rock and an interesting and novel theory to add to the many others associated both with the apes - and with St Michael's Cave. That 'enterprising spirit' was, of course mainly based on smuggling and the colony of free men did not include all that many of the ordinary non-British population.
The PeopleNo religious distinctions interrupt the harmony of society; the English of different persuasions, Spaniards, Portuguese, Genoese, and Jews, frequent their own places of worship, and enjoy their common civil privileges undisturbed. The interest of commerce, and of all parties in Gibraltar, deprives religion of its animosity . . . 
The Moor sells his Barbary beef to the Christian or the Jew without dread of contamination; and the fish taken from the bay is as delicious to the Protestant as to the Catholic . . . 
Besides its island masters, Gibraltar contains people of almost every nation . .  The English, exclusive of the military, amount to several thousand . . . and the increase in the population, as well as the number of strangers, may be attributed to the improvements carried out by General Don, and by other governors and influential inhabitants.

Gibraltar ( 1830s - David Roberts )

The census of 1830 showed a civilian population of about 17 000 people. Of these 7400 were native Roman Catholics and 1300 native Jews. The rest were classified as aliens from which one might have deduced that they formed part of that amorphous mass of people 'of almost every nation' that Roscoe and everybody else who visited Gibraltar at the time could not resist commenting on.

In actual fact the vast majority of them were simply those 'Spaniards, Portuguese, Genoese, and Jews' mentioned by Roscoe who had simply not resided in Gibraltar long enough to qualify as 'natives'

To attribute the increase of the population to improvements carried out by General Don (See LINK)  and others, was to confuse cause with effect - Don's many improvements were more or less forced upon him simply because of the sheer size of the population he found on the Rock when he first arrived and because of the horrific effects of the yellow fever epidemics.
The PlaceAmong its public buildings is a small theatre; the actors are chiefly military men; the actresses, however, are from England, and a few from Italy and France. The governor has a beautiful garden, which is open to the public, and is usually filled with throngs of company on a Sunday evening. . . 
From the delightful gardens of the Alameda with its winding slopes, its light latticed fences, gay pavilions, and profusion of shrubberies and flowers, opens a prospect nobly contrasting with the wilderness and gloom of the contrasting hills. . . . 
On the declivity, amidst the shades of a fig, the orange, and the lordly palm, appears a summer house . . . Lower again you catch the darkening line of wall, the city on one side and Rosia on the other . . . Towards the south, near Europa the rock assumes a variety of strange fantastic shapes . . . In the more favoured sites, rural villas . . in imitation of the old Moorish architecture. mimic castles, terraces, and towers, give greater novelty to the scene. . . From the ruinous castle you may proceed upwards to the excavations . . .

The Moorish Castle ( 1830s David Roberts )
There is indeed much at Gibraltar to convey an exalted idea of British Power . . . There is a nation . . . raised by a concurrence of causes to the rank of a first -irate power. . .
The Alameda is lovingly described, the theatre was Henry Cowper's in Castle street and the vision of Charles the V Wall (See LINK) dividing the town from Rosia is still more or less valid. One of those 'fantastic shapes' towards the south was probably the Devil's Tooth and the summer house was almost certainly the Mount Pleasant.

But, of course, the real give away is the last paragraph from which I have only quoted a very short section. Roscoe believed passionately in the superiority of Britain over everybody else and in its military power. In its day, the most cursory look at the Rock was enough to convince anybody that this was indeed a place that symbolized this idea. My view is that this was perhaps the main reason why he liked Gibraltar so much.


The Tourist in Spain and Morocco (1738 )
Departure Having remained at Gibraltar much longer than we intended or desired, we at length began to get out of humour, both with the place and with the people generally, though we could not be insensible to the untiring politeness of our military friends. . . . 
The very comfort and splendour we saw were among the sources of our ennui. We fancied ourselves at home; for everything at Gibraltar is English, save the sunshine, the warmth, and the blue depths of the sky. Besides, our countenances had become so weather-beaten, and our costume so travel stained, that, for some days at least, our appearance in the midst of our gay countrymen was much more that of foreign bandits than of English gentlemen. 
But forty dollars soon put all this to rights, and enabled us to walk the ramparts with an air of dandyism not inferior to that of the first martinet in the garrison. Still, as our imaginations were full of Africa, all our civilized enjoyments soon palled upon the appetite.  
St Michael's CaveTo kill time, we accompanied a party, consisting of Colonel Smith, Colonel Rogers, Mr. Edridge, and several other officers, on a visit to a spacious cavern, scooped by the hand of nature in the rock. But art and contrivance were called in to heighten our enjoyment; for persons had been sent on by our companions to illuminate the cave at several points with blue lights, which shedding their strange splendour over the rocks, and shining like a series of halos in the perspective, reminded us of the Kabyles' retreat in the Tales of the Hamad'han.
Mr. Edridge may have been Frederick Leeds Edridge, (See LINK) a young officer stationed in Gibraltar at the time and a well-known amateur artist.


Castle Steet. The theatre was where the steps are on the right. (1830 - Frederick Leeds Edridge ) 
Griffiths' Hotel . . . . Griffiths' rump steaks and porter, though certainly of the best, could allay our restless desire to be again in motion. It was to no purpose that our host descanted on the fine contrast presented by things in this town, with the miserable Spanish places through which we had passed. 
The following morning . . . the rain poured down in torrents . . . We therefore remained within doors, flirting with Miss Griffiths and other beauties of the hotel. all English, rosy, fresh, fair, with those rich blue eyes characteristic of the north . . . The newspapers too, assisted us in getting through the day. But it were useless to chronicle our contrivances to dissipate the tedium of Gibraltar
Griffiths' Hotel was on a corner with the Grand Parade and Main Street. It was probably one of if not the best hotel in time. That wonderful rump-steak incidentally had most probably come from a Moorish cow. It would also seem that the excitement of their trip to Morocco, Gibraltar seems to have lost most of those charms that Roscoe had enthused about six years earlier

Miss Griffiths was the owner's daughter but it is hard to tell who those English beauties were - Griffiths' was undoubtedly a tourist's delight but for the locals it was very much a man's territory. The newspapers may have included the Gibraltar Chronicle and others supplied by the next door Exchange and Commercial Library. (See LINK)


Main Street and Griffiths' Hotel (Unknown )

Roscoe was an Englishman who exalted all things English and tended to denigrate. anything that was not. And yet his obvious admiration for Spain, its towns and countrymen are at odds with the quote I gave at the beginning of this chapter - yet very much in accord with the wonderful engravings produced by David Roberts. It makes one understand why he bothered to tour the country so thoroughly - not just once but twice.


The Rock - ( 1830s - David Roberts )





View of Gibraltar from Gaucin (1830s - David Roberts )


The Great Square of Tetuan, seat of the Governor of Spanish Morocco   ( 1833 - David Roberts )


Ronda  ( 1830s David Roberts )


A Spaniard  ( 1833 - David Roberts )


Two Spanish peasants ( 1833 David Roberts )