The People of Gibraltar
1772 - Richard Twiss - Beds full of Bugs

Robert Boyd and Henry Cowper

Richard Twiss was an English merchant and inveterate traveller. He visited Gibraltar in 1773 and wrote an account of his experiences in his Travels Through Portugal and Spain in 1772-1773. It was published in 1775. The following are a series of quotes from those sections which refer to Gibraltar.

Arrival, Inns and Hotels 
We . . . passed the Spanish lines, and shortly after the English lines; entered the town, and put up at a very bad inn, where the beds were full of bugs, which were the first I had yet felt in Spain. The nest day I changed my inn, and went to the King's Arms, which is a very good one, and contains the assembly-room.


Late 19th Century advert for the King's Arms - still going strong

All the inns here are kept by British subjects. I waited on the governor. General Boyd, and had the honour of dining at his Excellency's house, in company with Admiral Sir Peter Dennis, whose ship was then in the bay.


General Robert Boyd ( Unknown )

The Garrison
I was informed that there were at that time seven regiments In Gibraltar, and that about fix hundred men were always on guard at a time : the discipline observed here is very strict, and the officers always appear in their regimentals.

There are three hundred and forty guns mounted on the fortifications, and there is room for a hundred more: those of the grand battery are of bronze, the rest of iron : they are all fired in succession on the anniversary of his majesty's birth; the performance takes half an hour. At sunrise, sunset, and at nine in the evening, a gun is daily fired.


Celebrating the monarch's birthday over a hundred years later - they were still firing those guns

The Town
The town consists chiefly of one street, which is tolerably broad and well paved; the other streets are crooked, narrow, and dirty: it contains an English church, a Roman Catholic one . . and a synagogue for the Jews . . . Here are taverns, coffee-houses, billiard-tables, shops, &c. as in England. The governor's garden is open to the public, and is much resorted to on Sunday evenings. . .

The People
  . . Spaniards and Portuguese, who inhabit this town . . number . .  about three hundred, and are mostly shop-keepers, and for about seven hundred Genoese, chiefly mariners . . . and Jews, who amount nearly to the number of six hundred : I conjecture that of the English to be about two thousand, exclusive of the military : besides these, there are a few hundred Moors who continually pass and repass to and from the Barbary coast, trafficking in cattle, fowls, fish,  fruits, and other provisions, as nothing is to be had from Spain, which neither Jews nor Moors are ever suffered to enter.

The Garrison at Play
The town has three gates; out of one of them I observed some officers playing at golf on the sands, in the same manner as I had seen that game played on the Links . . .

A curious comment as it is the first, and perhaps the only time anybody has ever mentioned playing the game of golf on the Rock.  Gibraltar, it must be pointed out, is about as unsuitable a place for the game as it is possible to be. The ‘sands’ must refer to the red variety in the Alameda Parade just beyond South Port Gate - one of the three he mentions. Hopefully the area they played on was covered by some of vegetation as otherwise it would have meant playing each shot as if inside a bunker – not the most enjoyable of golf shots.


Red sands of the Alameda - not the best place to play golf  (1790 - George Bulteel Fisher )

Theatre
There is a small theatre, where I had the pleasure of seeing 'High Life Below Stairs', and 'Miss in her Teens' extremely well performed: the actors were military gentlemen, who entertain themselves weekly in this manner: the actresses are so by profession.

The 'small theatre' must have been Henry Cowper’s which was obviously still going strong. High Life Below Stairs , a farce by James Townley which includes lines which would be considered nowadays to be rather politically incorrect. ‘I would have forty servants if my house would hold them. Why, man, in Jamaica, before I was ten years old I had a hundred blacks kissing my feet every day.’ Farces were obviously the thing at the time.

The other play he saw was ‘Miss in her Teens’ which was written by David Garrick. One of the actresses he mentions was probably a girl called Jane McKenzie. She was 39 years old and listed on the 1777 census as one of Mr. Cowper’s servants. Several other single English girls are also listed as living in his various addresses. Their professions are given as ‘maidservants’. No names are given of the families they may have worked for and the most charitable guess is that they were probably ‘actresses’.


Castle Steps from barracks window Bell Lane - Henry Cowper's Theatre was about halfway up and on the left ( 1833 Lieutenant  Frederick Edridge)

Passes
No person is allowed to go out of the English territory, either by land or sea, without a pass from the Governor, who grants the inhabitants one annually. No vessels, nor even boats, coming from Gibraltar are suffered to land their people in any of the Spanish ports, till after they have performed a quarantine of three or four days.

The Signal House and the Apes
One evening I ascended to the summit of the rock in an hour, by the path called the Devil's-Gap, on a flight of two hundred stone steps, and then after having walked some time, went up four hundred more, which brought me to the signal-house built on the highest part of the mountain . . .

. . . The eastern fide is almost inaccessible, though several officers assured me they had clambered up to the summit by that fide. Many apes and monkeys inhabit its caverns and precipices, and are frequently shot : it is thought that these animals are not produced in any other part of Europe.


The Apes ( 1854 - E. Widick )

Some people have suggested that this odd bit of information about the apes of the Rock being used as wild game settles the argument as to why these animals were imported into Gibraltar. If correct, then the traditional association of the ‘monkeys’ with British tenure of the Rock  - if they leave so will the British – is hard to reconcile if they were only brought over so that British officers could have the pleasure of killing them.

Unfortunately Alonso Hern├índez del Portillo - remembered for being the first chronicler of the city of Gibraltar - was of the opinion that they had been there ’from time immemorial’. And he was writing in the early 17th century. 

Generally Twiss offers an interesting take on Gibraltar, its garrison and the civilian population. His statistics when compared with those of the 1777 census are slightly off - and perhaps more than slightly when estimating the number of British civilians. In 1777 there were 3200 registered souls living on the Rock. Of these only half had actually been born in Gibraltar. 500 were British Protestants, 800 odd were Jews and the bulk - 1700 - Catholics of Genoese, Spanish and Portuguese decent.


One of several engraving in the book. Unfortunately there were none on Gibraltar