The People of Gibraltar
2015 - The Names of John Mackintosh Square
 Santiago Chipulina and John Gareze - Luis Mudarra and General O'Hara
John Drinkwater and Thomas James - James Gabriel Montresor and Aaron Cardozo
Pablo Larios and the Earl of Chatham - Lord Napier


Main Street - just before its northern junction with John Mackintosh Square

During the 1960s - roughly a million years ago - or at any rate long before television, mobile phones and Facebook had taken over the world - it was quite common for young people in Gibraltar to take a leisurely stroll up and down Main Street (see LINK) simply to check out the talent. In my case it was to smile at the girls that I would otherwise have been too shy to do so.  It was also fun to meet other friends walking in the oposite direction doing the same thing. It was a throwback to the traditional Spanish "paseo" and must have been a feature of Gibraltarian life for centuries.

I also recall that we never walked the entire street but restricted ourselves to strolling up and down from about the Convent up to more or less where Main Street ends near the Casemates. These walks would take us time and again along the east side of our main square which was plunk in the very middle of town and which in most other places of similar size to Gibraltar would have been its principle meeting place. But as far as I remember we hardly ever went there unless we had to.

The square was named after John Mackintosh - a gentleman of whom I then knew very little other than that his name was always preceded by the words "local philanthropist" - and the people of Gibraltar probably didn't do him any favours by naming the place after him. This is how the square was described in 1950 by the Ellicotts, two local historians:
Before he has been long in Gibraltar the visitor finds himself in John Mackintosh Square. Perhaps it is Saturday Morning and he has gone to see the draw for the Government lottery. His surroundings do not impress him, as unfortunately the square is no longer a beauty spot. 

Locals  checking their numbers at the lottery draw in John Mackintosh Square - the young man on the far left of the picture is Santiago Chipolina - no relation   ( 1954 - Bert Hardy )  (See LINK)

Nevertheless Gibraltar's main square was not always such an eyesore and in any case it is still one of the more historically interesting places in town. For a start and since it was captured by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704 (see LINK) it has managed to have itself named - both officially, colloquially or because people couldn't spell its name properly - no fewer than a couple of dozen times at my last count. 


 The square lies at the center of the town itself and probably find its origins right back to the 14th century. It might even be older



Possibly the first pictorial representation of Gibraltar's main square can be found in this mid 17th century map in which it appears as la Plaça   ( Unknown )   (See LINK) 

During the 16th century the generic Spanish name for the square was la Plaza as confirmed by the Spanish soldier and writer Pedro Barrantes Maldonado in his Dialogo. (See LINK)
Junto  á la Barcina está  un  arrabal,  que  se  ha  poblado después  que  se  ganó  aquel  pueblo  á  los moros,  en  el  cual  está  la  plaza  y  la iglesia  mayor,  y San  Francisco  y  las  Turbas 

The caption for No. 5 is "La Plaza"   ( 1685 - Edmund Dummer )

The square is also identified by Gibraltar's 17th century historian Alonso Hernández del Portillo (see LINK) as both "la Plaza and as "la Plaza Major
Otra dicha de Mudarra (see LINK) que con licencia del Rey Católico la mando hacer un caballero Corregidor llamado Luis Mudarra el año 1513; esta está en la plaza, y sirve de mirador para ver los navios y galeras que vienen por la mar y para otros servicios.
. . . a quote that more or less repeats the information on the mid century map shown above and dates the square to at least as far back as the early 16th century.

The square is first identified in the literature in 1571 when work on an aqueduct to bring water into the town of Gibraltar from the Red Sands area of the Rock was begun. It was completed in 1694.


L = the aqueduct carrying water from the Red Sands area - Z = The fountain - which was in those days the final destination of the aqueduct - the square in the middle of town is easily identifiable   ( 1727 - Jean Covens and Corneille Mortier - detail )

According to Thomas James (see LINK) writing in the mid 18th century:
. . . 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 must 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 . . . . 
Nothing much remains of this aqueduct, but Thomas' description offers the tantalising suggestion that the square may be of Moorish origin.
This aqueduct was firstly begun by Moors and carried on by earthen pipes  . . . it reached in its time to the end of town supplying the 'Atarasana' and the Castle; that existing at present goes no further than the grand parade; it was planned by a Spanish Jesuit. . . 

Engraving of the fountain which once stood in the north western corner of the square - It was built in 1694 the year in which the aqueduct that brought its water was finished. (1771 - Thomas James )

Writing more or less during the same decade, the antiquarian Francis Carter (see LINK) also suggests that the stones used to build the fountain came from Carteia:
I shall have occasion to take notice of two inscriptions brought thence (Carteia) and employed somewhere by the Spaniards in the wall of the town. There are those who affirm they are placed in the fountain on the Grand parade with the letters inward.
Apart from the presence of this fountain, however, there are precious few details available as to what the square looked like in those early days . Portillo's contribution is unfortunately just about all the information we have in this respect.  
Hay otra ermita en la Plaza Mayor donde está un hospital nombrado de la Misericordia . . 
The hospital stood on the western end of the square close to the sea with the previously mentioned fountain near its northern end. 


In this late 17th century Spanish model of the Rock (see LINK) the Plaza is easily identifiable - the east side gives on to Calle Real - today's Main Street - with the Line Wall defences and the sea to the west. It also appears to be surrounded mostly by two story house   ( Late 17th century - Museo Naval de Madrid )

There is also some evidence - although not a lot as far as I can see - that it was also known by the Spanish as the Alameda and that after 1704 this was more or less adopted by the English who for unknown reasons preferred the Portuguese version of the Almeida or Almeda. Perhaps they found the Spanish Alameda hard to pronounce.

The new English landlords continued to regard the square as the town center and it became their Garrison's principle military parade ground. Up to 1715 the few inhabitants that had remained behind also drew their food rations in the square. 

By 1725 - and rather less attractively - soldiers stationed on the Rock became bored with their rather claustrophobic posting and drunkenness became so common that it could not be dealt with through court-martial procedures. To solve the problem the army developed a merciless passion for flogging. Anybody found drunk on duty would be marched to what was now called the Grand Parade where the ‘Drum Major’ would take the ‘cat out to exercise’. It must have been a pretty common occurrence to hear the sound of the lash echoing around the square.


Around the middle of the 18th century the appearance of the Parade was improved somewhat by a the building of a guard house on the south side of the square. This building probably been designed by the British chief engineer James Gabriel Montresor. (See LINK) Years later, after the Great Siege it was replaced by an elegant Georgian building.


Plan showing the Parade which identifies the Main Guard and the fountain as well as the prisons - bottom right - and the columned slaughterhouse (see LINK) - bottom left    ( 1750s -  James Gabriel Montresor )


The "new" Guard House  ( 1750s -  James Gabriel Montresor )

The use of the main square as a parade ground must have made the British authorities abandon the older Spanish names for the square and adopt the new ones of "The Parade" or "the Grand Parade". 



The Parade  ( 1771 - Thomas James  ) 
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

From then on references to the Parade or Grand Parade proliferate in the literature and the Square is named as such by a variety of people including, O'Hara (1802) (see LINK), J. Patterson (18o8) (see LINK), John Drinkwater (1839) (see LINK), E.D.H.E Napier (1840) (see LINK),  Frederick George Stephens  (1870) (see LINK) and many others but including the odd variations to the theme as shown on the maps below.


Spanish map - the square is identified as Q =  Plaza de Armas ( 1782 - Unknown )


French map - the square is identified as O = Place de la Parade  (1782 - Unknown )

It is perhaps unfortunate that the name "Grand Parade" was also given to an area to the south of Charles V Wall (see LINK) which was also used by the military as a parade ground making it sometimes hard to make out which part of Gibraltar is being referred to.


View from the South of the other Grand Parade   ( 1826 - Filippo Benucci ) (See LINK)

In the 1814 census, the address for the square appears rather ambiguously as either the Almeda or the Parade, although rather confusingly the square was referred to later in the century as "the Esplanade" in English and "la Esplanada" in Spanish.

Even more confusingly according to the Standing Orders issued by the Governor, the Earl of Chatham in 1825 (see LINK) the word "Esplanade" could also refer to a completely different area:
Landport (see LINK) and Waterport (see LINK) Guards will unload their pieces on the Esplanade in front of the Grand Casemates, and then continue to march under their respective Officers  . . . 

The Grand Casemates on the left with its Esplanade stretching in front of it to the right with the old town - Villa Vieja - and the Moorish Castle (see LINK) forming an attractive backdrop   ( Unknown )

John Drinkwater is equally ambiguous when quoting from Standing Orders issued during the Great Siege (see LINK)
The engineers and artificers in two divisions one to assemble at the Esplanade town the other at the Esplanade south . . 
In 1813, oblivious to the confusion of names attributed to the square, a prominent Jewish merchant Aaron Cardozo (see LINK) was finally given permission after years of trying to build his family house on the western end of the square. The plot of land he used was described by Cardozo himself as:
 . . . a certain piece or parcel of Ground situated at the bottom of the Alameida and upon which a shed used as a Stable for Borricos now stands.
The grant included a stipulation that whatever he decided to build on the site the re ult would have to be 'an ornament to the Alameida'. Later Cardozo himself in a memorial to the Earl of Chatham (see LINK) mentioned this curious stipulation but spelled the name of the square as "the Alameyda". Cardozo completed the building of the house in 18115 and it proved to be  not just an ornament to the square but to the town itself. 


The pink building on the left is Aaron Cardozos House - The square lies to its left  (1844 - George Lothian Hall ) (See LINK)

Three years later in 1818 the square was once again a hive of noise and activity as a second large building was constructed on the opposite eastern side. A large number of local merchants had forked out the money to build the Exchange and Commercial Library. (See LINK) They were responding to the exclusion of local residents to the local Garrison Library by building their own. 


The Exchange and Commercial Library and the Grand Parade or Esplanade ( 1840s - J.M. Carter ) (See LINK

During the early 19th century Napoleon's many military interventions in Europe - including those during the Peninsular War - had a huge effect on the civilian population of Gibraltar. The economy boomed as the local merchants benefited from the conflict either as suppliers to the British Army and the Royal Navy or through the purchase of ships and cargoes captured by either privateers or the Royal Navy itself.

These extremely lucrative transactions - and other less war-dependent ones later in the century - were carried out by public auctions which took place in the square and it was almost certainly during this period that it became known colloquially as Plazuela del Martillo or better still "el Martillo" - a reference to the hammers used by auctioneers. In at least one engraving of the place in full auction fever, it is given the English name of "Auction Square"


Auction Square - ( 1826 - Filippo Benucci )  (See LINK

The engraving by Benucci shown above is in many ways a history lesson on its own. The Exchange and Commercial Library was almost brand new at the time and was still without any of the Genoese style shutters which were a distinctive feature of Gibraltar introduced to the town by a local architect - Giovanni Maria Boschetti. (See LINK

To the right is the three storied Griffiths' Hotel and to its left with balcony, the Main Guard House. Peeking over it is the principle Catholic Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned minus its copula. The view of Main Street to the left shows another three storied building which still survives.

The Rock appears as a background with its signal station and signalling mast with its black leather balls. On the square itself there are three dogs - the place was polluted with them at the time. There are at least two auctioneers, several identifiable Spanish or local smugglers, several Jewish porters and Moorish traders and a complete posse of well dressed, top-hated merchants. These were the fellows who made their fortunes buying and selling in the square.

A few soldiers and their woman, a several young people and also an "aguador" with his donkey and his wooden water barrels finish off the human interest. The four pole contraption was a weighing machine called a "Romana" Possibly influenced by the name of the new building that dominated the east side of the square, by 1834 - and as recorded in the census of that year - the square was now officially being referred to by a new name - Commercial Square. 

By the end of the 19th century, those grand fortune-making auctions petered out and the square deteriorated into the modern equivalent of a flea-market. It was possibly around this time that it acquired the new and vaguely unpleasant name of the "Jew's market" - which presumably presupposed that most of the stalls were run by Jewish locals - something which incidentally was highly unlikely to have been the case. Unlike the name "el Martillo" - which continued to be used by most locals - "Jew's Market" was almost certainly given to it by British members of the Garrison.

In 1869 the Sanitary Commission - the local and rather quaint equivalent of the town's City Council - ordered and built a shabby fountain in front Aaron Cardozo's House. By now the family had rented it out and it had become the Club House Hotel. 

The fountain was meant to celebrate the inauguration of several new wells which - it  had been supposed - would solve Gibraltar's chronic drinking water shortages. The Governor's wife - Lady Airey -declared the water-works open and the fountain was duly christened as the Airey Fountain. The wells were also a flop. 

The celebrations that took place during the inauguration entailed cordoning off part of the square. A local worthy, John Gareze, tried to gate crash the event which he strongly believed belong to the entire civilian community rather than to the select few that had been invited. He was turned away by the police after which he returned home and vented his feeling in a letter to the Gibraltar Chronicle. (See LINK



The Club House Hotel and the new Lady Aiery fountain

In 1876 the square avoided yet another christening by the skin of its teeth. Preparations for the departure of the Duke of Connaught from his undoubtedly onerous duties on the Rock coincided with the arrival of the Prince of Wales. In a fit of overzealous loyalty to the crown, the Sanitary Commission ordered an ornate fountain from Italy to be set up in front of Connaught House. 

The commission also proposed that a column and bust of the Prince of Wales should also be sited in Commercial Square. As a further honour the name of the square would then have been changed from the Commercial to the Prince of Wales.

Unfortunately the fountain did not arrive in time and the proposal for the pillar, bust and name-change fell through. The fountain on the other hand eventually materialised and was finally installed in 1879 although its actual inauguration had to be put back by several months as the new owner of Cardozo's House was on his deathbed at the time after having been knocked down by a bolting horse. A few months later - and after the subsequent death of Pablo Larios, the fountain was declared well and truly opened by the Governor - Lord Napier. 

It remained in situ until 1939 when the ARP shelters were constructed. The bits and pieces were put in cold storage somewhere near the Alameda Gardens but were unfortunately damaged beyond repair after a 1940 bombing raid against the Rock.


The "Jew's Market"  (Late 19th century)


A rather  empty "Jew's Market " The famous fountain can just be seen on the right hand side  ( Early 20th Century Postcard )



Postcard giving two alternative names for the square

In 1919 the Exchange and Commercial Library was badly damaged by fire which resulted in the loss of several historically important paintings including several portraits of Gibraltar's past Governors. The newly repaired building acquired a new facade in the process.


The Exchange Library with its new facade - the Jew's market still part of the scene - with some sort of fire drill in progress - perhaps a nice example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted   ( Early 20th century )

In 1929 Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell - more easily known as BP - visited Gibraltar to take part in one of his jamborees.  Powell - an admirer of Mussolini and a fascist sympathiser - is perhaps best known as having created the Boy Scouts movement. 



B-P in his distinctive and vaguely ridiculous uniform taking the salute in John Mackintosh Square

At the start of WWII - in 1939 - the square was unceremoniously dug up and an air raid shelter was built underneath it. 


Construction work on the air raid shelter underneath Commercial Square   (1939)

In 1940 it was officially renamed "John Mackintosh Square" in honour of that very rich local merchant and philanthropist that I mentioned previously.  The name proved something of a mouthful to most self-respecting Llanito speaking Gibraltarians (see LINK) and by the middle of the 20th century it was colloquially re-baptised as the Piazza.



Main Street and its southern junction with John Mackintosh Square

The long historical process of the naming of Gibraltar's main square from the Spanish Plaza to the Italian Piazza is a curious journey through Gibraltar's somewhat schizophrenic relationship with Britain. Staunchly pro in all matters political Gibraltarians seem to have rejected every one of the English names attributed to the square and created new Spanish ones of their own. The fact that the latest version is Italian could be ascribed to the fact that many Gibraltarians are of Genoese origin. But I doubt it. My theory is that this latest version - as was "el Martillo" - is an ironic joke.

Click on link for a selection of old photographs of the square. (See LINK