The People of Gibraltar
1782 - B. Cornwell – A Native of the Garrison.

Moses Israel, Benady and Taurel - Carrol and Mr. Maxwell
Major Baugh and William Davis - Pearson, Kelly and Daniel
Hind & Co, William Boyd and Henry Cowper - George Boyd and Eliza Terry
Isaac Aboab, Abraham and Saul Cohen - Abudarham, Portugal and Cansino,
Gavino and De la Rosa - Porro, Martinez and Montobio,
Matthew Cowper, Maro and Fagg - Thomas Field, Belilo, and Lynch

It is hard to make out exactly who B. Cornwell was - we don't even know what the B. stood for. However, he was - by his own account - 'a native of the garrison' and the author of a slim 52 page volume the title of which is best gleaned from the picture of its front page shown below.

Whoever he was he certainly knew Gibraltar. Unlike many other writers of the era he found it easy to spell correctly the names of the many locals mentioned in the book and his comments on their various mishaps and adventures carry with them a measure of respect sadly lacking in many other more well known works of a similar nature.

The date of its publication - 1782 - ensures that the Great Siege had not yet technically ended during the time that he was writing his account although there is little doubt that he was perfectly confident as to it outcome.

The following notes ignore those sections dealing with the military aspects of the war as well as the history of the place and concentrate on what he had to say about the Rock itself and its inhabitants.

The Town
. . is situated at the foot of the mountain, and afforded a handsome appearance, the houses having been in general well built of the rock stone, and the streets neatly paved. Many very elegant officers' quarters were likewise interspersed among the houses of the' inhabitants, but there, as well as the private property of individuals, have been demolished since the commencement of the siege.

. . .The back part, of the rock of Gibraltar, which fronts to the eastward, or Mediterranean Sea, is perpendicular, and perfectly inaccessible ; so that from this quarter no surprise is ever apprehended but to prevent desertions by the soldiers of the garrison, who have frequently found means by strong ropes to lower themselves down this precipice and make off to the Spanish lines, guards are constantly kept.. .

The inaccessible side of Gibraltar ( 1854 - Vilhelm Melby)

Sentinels are likewise kept continually polled out all round the garrison at the most convenient distances ; a constant cry of " All's well" from those sentinels is kept up all night; latterly, at the approach of the gun-boats by night, this term of security was changed at the south part of the garrison, and the cry of 'Gun- boats' was adopted and echoed from one sentinel to another.

The glacis is mined underneath and a large quantity of gunpowder constantly kept there so that should the enemy . . be so fortunate as to escape the fire of Prince's Lines . . these mines would then be sprung.

Black Town
It was distressing . . . to see the poor inhabitants at Black Town jumping out of their beds, and scouting away half naked along the rock, the women affrighted, with only a blanket thrown over them, clasping their infants, and flying to some cavern in the hill for shelter, the shells and balls from the boats whizzing everywhere round them, and sometimes alighting on a house, where a whole family were residing, as was the cafe with the family of Mr. Moses Israel, a Jew, who was a man greatly esteemed and respected in the places and associated very much with the English inhabitants ; himself, his clerk Benady, and a female relation, one Mrs. Taurel, were all destroyed by bombshell falling into the house. . .

. . . The town's people in general, not having been used before to see an enemy but who, instead' of daring to attack, trembled at the sight of a British navy, that they could never be brought to believe the Spaniards would attempt to attack the garrison in the face of so large and formidable a fleet.

Thus had the remembrance of the gallant . . . conquests of the last war wrought upon the people of Gibraltar. In their opinions however, at this time they were most egregiously deceived. The fleet had not all anchored before the most dreadful bombardment took place.

. . bomb shells and balls were whizzing everywhere about; the late joy of the inhabitants was in an instant turned to the deepest distress ; mothers were seen clasping their tender infants ; children running wildly about scared and crying while the careful male part were busily employed in packing up their most portable and valuable effects to convey them to Black Town, . . about 200 yards out of reach of the enemy fire on the land side.

Black Town was also known as Hardy Town, the name of the major in charge of the place     ( 1799 - Barbie du Bocage , Jean Denis )

Once . . part of a shell . . fell into the house of a Mr. Maxwell at Black Town, and made its way through the bed of Major Baugh . . the same day one fell between George's Vineyard and the South Pavilion . .

General Eliott for a long time had suffered these gunboats to approach . . the walls, from whence they kept up a pretty smart fire on that part of the hill to the southward, at the back of the Pavilions and Naval Hospital, where the soldiers that were off duty were encamped and here the inhabitants had, during these troubles, erected large number of wooden sheds for their shelter, with a view of securing themselves in the time of the blockade from the fire at the land fide, in case a siege should take place, not dreaming of being molested there by gun-boats. The name of Black Town was applied to this temporary retreat.

The General paid little regard to the fire of those boats, as little or no damage had been yet done by them, . . but the mischief done on the nights in which the above family was destroyed, likewise two butchers, one Carrol, an Irishman and Belilo, a Jew, together with a sergeant of one of the regiments, determined the General to give them a warm reception on their next approach,

One of Admiral Barcelo's gun-boats   ( From B. Cornwell - The books one and only illustration )

Shortages of Provisions
The town of Tetuan in Barbary, lying across the country behind Ceuta, was formerly the port from whence all the fresh supplies were obtained for the garrison of Gibraltar, and for this purpose barks were continually employed going to and fro ; sometimes the passage being made in five or six hours at other times, owing to contrary winds protracted to three or four days ;

but as many small vessels were constantly employed in this trade the town was never in want, but kept well supplied with all kinds of provisions, such as oxen, sheep, fowls, eggs, and a vast quantity of Barbary oranges, which are esteemed preferable to any

Exclusive of these supplies for home consumption, a considerable quantity of goods proper for the Barbary market was exported from Gibraltar to that coast by the Jews, and in return were imported to the garrison from thence large parcels of wax, hides, oil, flour, honey, &c. these were mostly reshipped for different ports in the Mediterranean.

All Christians have been for some years excluded this port, by reason of a foreign sailor shooting by accident a Moorish woman, the news of this disaster being soon conveyed to the Emperor, he swore by Mahomet that no Christian whatever should henceforth reside in that town. . .

Thus the poor inhabitants, who had no provisions from the King's stores, which, though salt would at this time have proved very acceptable, were in a worse situation than the private solders of the King's army, and were under a necessity of paying a most enormous price for every article in the provision way. . .

The proprietors of the gardens at the Land-Port when attempting to bring in vegetables, being fired at by the Spaniards from their new-erected Mill Battery, and the fishing-boats belonging to the town annoyed by the Spanish gun-boat occasioned these articles, though in plenty round the place, to be likewise at an enormous price. . .

The Neutral Ground during the Great Siege - Note precarious position of the gardens with respect to the Spanish lines. The Mill Battery is centre left. ( 1785 - J. Cheevers )

Bread at this juncture was also exceedingly scarce, insomuch that the bakers' doors being constantly crowded by the great multitude wanting it, and not being able to supply the whole of them, the doors were kept barred, and only a foal hole permitted, through which the people delivered their money, with cloths or handkerchiefs to receive their bread, of such quota as the baker judged he could spare. . .

Loss of Property
The bombardment which began the 12th of April 1781 continued very fierce for three months . . . In regard to the sufferings of the inhabitants from this fire it may easily be Conceived that those of them who possessed the greatest property and houses in the town were the most considerable sufferers; of these the principal were William Davis, Esq, Mr. Kelly, Mr Daniel, Mr. Pearson, Mess Lynch's, Mess Hind & Co, Mr. William Boyd, Mr. Henry Cowper, Mr. George Boyd, Mrs Eliza Terry, Mr. Thomas Field; there were some Jews and Roman inhabitants likewise who possessed property in the place and must of course have suffered proportionally.

Of the former Mr. Isaac Aboab, Mr. Abraham and Saul Cohen, Mr. Abudarham, Taurel, and Cansino, were the principal;, of the Roman Catholic proprietors Mr. Portugal, Gavino, De la Rosa, Porro, Martinez, Montobio, Vialle, were the chief; the damage done to the houses of these gentlemen &c. is computed by the best judges to amount at least to 80 000 l. sterling . . .

. . . those houses would not have suffered so much. had not some of the soldiers of the regiment in garrison been induced in order to erect themselves wooden sheds aty the southward of the place to commit deprivations on the timberwork.

Captain Fagg
Among the great number of armed vessels . . . which . . were fortunate enough to push singly through the Spanish cruizers . . none gave greater pleasure than the Folkstone cutter commanded by Captain Fagg . . . who like a true British hero never flinched . . . every ball luckily missed and Fagg, now out of all danger . . . entered the New Mole of Gibraltar amidst the acclamation of the whole Garrison . . .

The Irishman
An odd circumstance attended an Irish vessel's getting into Gibraltar . . arriving off Europa Point he was hailed, and desired to make for the Mole; the Captain understood it was for the Old Mole, the usual place where merchant vessels lie off in peaceable times to discharge their cargoes; but being quite within the fire of the Spanish batteries is never made use of during a war with Spain.

He soon arrived at this old anchoring place and was instantly saluted with a heavy fire . . . Surprised he knew not how to act . . .He stood in for the Palisades near Water-port and was soon aground. Commodore Curtis, seeing his error . . . remonstrated on his behaviour. . . it was the New and not the Old Mole that was in time of war.

Arrah says he, they told me the Mole, and we heard in Corke, before I sailed that General Eliott had sallied out and spiked all the Spanish guns. After entering the man of war's boat and leaving the vessel, the Spaniards still firing pretty smartly, By Jasus, says he, Commodore, we must go back again; I forgot to feed the few fowls I have on board . . . .

Captain Fagg and the Buck
The Captain Fagg affair is covered by Cornwell at length and is dealt with in another chapter. ( See LINK ) As regards the anecdote of the Irishman perhaps it is worth repeating that the reason for the Irishman's mistake was that the famous Sortie that 'had spiked all the Spanish guns' had of course done nothing of the sort. It had nevertheless been built up into such a tremendous feat of arms that many in England - and obviously in Ireland - thought the Siege was practically over. ( See LINK )

Lucky Escapes
During the bombardment of Gibraltar many very remarkable escapes were experienced by different people; a Bomb-shell fell near a sergeant of the Garrison that the fuse set fire to his coat; happening to be running at the time, he continued his career with his clothes in an entire blaze when out of danger from the bursting of the shell he stripped and escaped perfectly unhurt.

A piece of a bomb-shell, which had burst very near Mr. Matthew Cowper while reading a book, knocked the book out of his hand, and did him not the least injury. An old Black, or Negro, called Maro, who had been many years resident in the garrison, happening to be present in the same shed wherein the two butchers before-mentioned were killed . . . the officers of the garrison, who used frequently to joke with him, enquired how he managed to escape so well ; Oh 1 replied the Black, laughing, 'De ball nor de bomb no hurt me, I bomb proof.'

Before the War
The people of Gibraltar are by these means in constant friendship with the Spaniards, who supply them daily with all kinds of wild fowl, hares, rabbits, pigs, and fruit of all sorts . . .Large parties of Spanish gentry are continually coming into the garrison from the country and making purchases of different articles . . On the other hand, numbers of officers and other gentlemen are constantly going out from the garrison to shoot and pass away the time in the country, or at the neighbouring towns of San Roque and Algeciras.

They are by a late regulation obliged to return to town before sunset . . if a person is desirous of visiting Madrid Cadiz or any other place, leave can always be obtained from the Governor . . . . Thus in peaceable times the people of Spain and Gibraltar live in the most perfect harmony and friendship with each other; and no doubt the whole country near the garrison regret this interruption of their former happiness equally with the people of Gibraltar.

The Oriental Vegetable Cordial
The world is indebted . . . for this inestimable medicine . . to a physician of the first character for integrity and knowledge in his profession, who resided in India . . . A medicine . . which . . acts immediately on the stomach, bowels and nervous system in general . . . inveterate head-aches, diarrhoea, cholics, palsies, apoplexies, bilious, gouty, rheumatic, and scorbutic complaints, hypochondriac and nervous afflictions in general & in men; as also . . . hysterics and a long train of other obstinate maladies in women, which too often baffle, the regular forms of medicine.

This incongruously ending to the book promotes the virtues of a miraculous cure-all - The Oriental Vegetable Cordial - You could get the stuff from B. Cornwell at 192 Fleet Street, near Temple Bar in London - and you would get a good allowance if you were a country dealer.

It is really hard to make out Cornwell. He definitely knew his Rock and he was certainly correct in describing himself as a native of the Garrison. His sympathetic treatment of the local population is almost unique for the era and indeed the next century or so. It leads one to suppose that he had actually lived among and personally known many of the individuals which he names in his book . This is no piece of research - it is an account of a personal experience. It would be nice to remember him as a generous and decent Gibraltarian.