The People of Gibraltar
1861 - Sir William Codrington - The Jewish Refugees

Lady Codrington and James Bell
Sir Moses Montefiore and Horatio Sprague
Walter Elliot, Civil Engineer and J.B. Imossi

Sir William John Codrington was Governor of Gibraltar from May 1859 to September 1865. He was promoted to General while on the Rock. By all accounts he was a brave and resourceful military man whose exploits during the Crimean War were particularly revealing. Appropriately just before he took over on the Rock, four guns captured from the Russians during these hostilities were sent to Gibraltar and placed in the Alameda Gardens.


William Codrington in the Crimea ( Possibly taken in 1855 - Unknown )



Two of the Russian Guns at the Alameda Parade ( Unknown )

Just before he became Governor, James Bell, the translator of Ignacio L√≥pez de Ayala's Historia de Gibraltar, ( see LINK ) was appointed as acting Police Magistrate. His dedication to the Secretary of state to the Colonies includes a mention that Codrington had inherited command of a place that was 'one of the most important possessions of the British Crown'. 


Gibraltar - 'one of the most important possessions of the British Crown' ( 1861 - Henry Stratton Bush )       
( see LINK

Whether this was actually true or not, Codrington's stint as Governor was less than comfortable. Gibraltar's relationship with Spain was confused to say the least. The entire reign of Isabella II was punctuated by a series of chaotic scandals, coups and mini-civil wars which must have made it hard for him to keep track of which particular faction was actually in power at any given moment as a series of governments followed each other in bewildering succession. All of which led to the so called 'Glorious Revolution' of 1868 - which Codrington will undoubtedly have been quite pleased to have missed. 


Lady Codrington, who presumably kept herself well clear of Spanish political shenanigans ( 1861 - Unknown )

In 1859, he also found himself having to cope with nearly four thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Barbary in anticipation of an impending war between Spain and Morocco. The authorities - both the British and Spanish - allowed tents to be pitched in the Neutral Ground - and elsewhere - to cope with about a thousand of them. To add to the general chaos a tremendous storm destroyed the camp shortly after it was set up. A public subscription fetched over $40 000 and the refugees remained in their tents for a very long six months - by which time the blockade of the Moroccan ports had ended. The cessation of Government rations will probably have encouraged them on their way.


Jewish refugee camp at the Neutral ground ( 1859 Unknown )

Later as a consequence of these disruptions to Jewish life in Barbary, the great British financier, Sir Moses Montefiore visited Gibraltar. He had been corresponding for several years with the Governor - whose father happened to be a close friend - precisely in relation to the fate of Jewish refugees returning to Morocco.  


Sir Moses Montefiore

Lucien Wolf, in his biography of Montefiore, had this to say about his stay on the Rock. 
At Gibraltar, Sir Moses was received cordially by the Governor, General Sir William Codrington . . .  As a mark of respect, a military band was ordered to play before his house in the evening and the Governor gave a banquet in his honour. A gratifying proof of the benevolent interest of the Home Government in the Mission was afforded by HMS Magicienne being placed at Sir Moses Montefire's disposal  . . .
And off he went to Saffi to interview the Sultan of Morocco in order to obtain a promise that his Jewish subjects would be entitled to the same rights and protection as his Muslim subjects.

In 1862 the American Civil War made its presence felt in Gibraltar. A year into the war and the CSS Sumter came into port - the C standing for 'Confederate'.  A damaged hull had forced her captain to try Cadiz for repairs but the Spanish authorities refused him entry. Moving quickly south - and casually picking up a couple of prizes on the way - she entered the port of Gibraltar.

Shortly after three United States Navy ships - the USS Tuscarora,  Ino and Kearsarge - set up a blockade to prevent the Sumter from leaving the port. In a sense they were wasting their time. The American Consul Horatio Sprague ( see LINK ) had used his considerable influence with the local merchants. He got them to refuse to provide coal for the Sumter. Whether Codrington approved or not in not known but British sympathies were actually in favour of the Confederate cause.


Hard to say which one is which but the CSS Sunter - as well as the USS Tuscarora,  Ino and Kearsarge are in there somewhere.  ( Unknown )

At the end of Codrington's term of office there were several sporadic cases of cholera among the troops of the 22nd Foot Regiment. Four soldiers died and as a precaution all land communication with Spain came to a halt. It proved a futile measure from Gibraltar's point of view. The epidemic took hold and eventually accounted for more than 1000 cases and nearly 600 deaths. 

Public meetings were held to promote help in the form of soup kitchens for those people most affected by the epidemic and the frontier was closed. All told about $14 000 were collected.

In 1861, however, a while before many of these events had taken place, Codrington sent the Secretary of State for War a general report - known to the cognoscenti as 'The Blue Book' - on the state of the Colony under his command. It offers an interesting snapshot of those things that a Governor of Gibraltar saw fit to describe to his superiors - and those that he saw best to omit. Here it is with my comments;
RevenueThere has been a decrease on some items as compared with the year 1860  . . . and an increase in others . . . The chief items on which this decrease are observable are duties on spirits and auction fees  . .  both caused by a decline in trade; and the former also as well by less consumption of spirits by the troops. I do not think that we can expect in future the revenue from the duty on spirits to amount to more than that collected in the past.
ExpenditureThere has been an increase on various items and a decrease on others. . .  The increase is not a permanent one being chiefly for new works and buildings, while the decrease arises principally from the falling  of pensions and reduction of salaries.
Public WorksThe Convent is in a most dilapidated state and unworthy both from its appearance externally and arrangements internally, to be the Government office, A report of the civil engineer is enclosed.

Mid 19th century photograph of an admittedly rather drab looking entrance to the Convent
The lunatic asylum branch of the civil prison has been completed during the past year; the number of lunatics therein have been seven. An efficient water supply for the civil population is much needed. No plan has, however, as yet been settled by the Home Government.
Population and Mortality The resident population, according to a census taken in June 1860, amounts to 15, 462. This is exclusive of the military, of the convicts ( see LINK ) and of the aliens on temporary permits varying from three days to a year. 
The number of these later varies, but in December last it was 2,185.. . .  Not included in these returns are the military, their wives and families, and the convicts, forming a total of 7,532.These added to the civilian population would make a total 25,159 souls, or 15,107 to the square mile. . . 
The schools are 10 in number, in which are educated 1,304 boys, and 854 girls - and are generally well educated. There are seven regimental schools, in which are educated 189 boys and 134 girls. 
It is hard to imagine two more banal statements on the state of the economy than the first sentences on revenue and on expenditure. The rest is not very much better although it is hardly a surprise that losses of income from taxes on alcoholic drinks would be big news in Gibraltar - whatever the reason.

As regards the Convent he might have added that it was not just a Government office but his family home. Nevertheless there may have been some official response to his indirect jibe at the lack of public works. Three years later a New Police office was built. Although designed by the Civil Engineer, Walter Elliot, the actual building was directed - amazingly - by one of the locals - J.B. Imossi.


Sir William Codrington ( Unknown )