The People of Gibraltar
1750 - James Gabriel Montressor - The Survey

Francis Columbine and William Hargrave - Humphrey Bland and George Don
Francis Carter and John Crushett - Enrique Pérez de Guzmán
Abd-al Mu'min and Mr. Fraser - Callwell and Isaac Nieto
Tuckey and Fray Juan Bernal - Mr M Pitman and Gerard and Patrick Dierk



Survey of the Established Barracks for Soldiers at Gibraltar ( 1750s - James Gabriel Montressor )  (See LINK
(With thanks to Aurelio Garcia who very kindly sent me a full-sized digital copy) 

From 1747 to about 1754, Montressor - or Jas as he was known to his intimates - was Gibraltar's chief military engineer. As such he was perhaps unfortunate to spend the first two years in this post under Lieutenant General Francis Columbine (see LINK) and then Lieutenant-General William Hargrave. (See LINK)  Both these gentlemen - the first a temporary appointment the later a fully fledged Governor - considered Gibraltar as a personal gold mine rather than as a colony of the Crown to be properly looked after.

When Lieutenant General Humphrey Bland took over as Governor in 1747 (see LINK) things - as they say - were about to change as his remit from London included a series of draconian measures which were supposed to clean up the Augean Stables. Perhaps the most important of these entailed the eviction of locals who were living in:
. . . houses chiefly inhabited by Jews, Moors and Papists of different nations which may prove dangerous to the town (and then lease them to) His Majesty's Protestant Subjects. (There is) no legal problem . . as all the ground is His Majesty's. . . . 
And then just in case Bland had missed the point:
You may let at an easy rent to encourage His Majesty's Protestant subjects to settle there, which will be a strengthening of the place whereas at present those houses are cheaply inhabited by Jews, Moors and Papists of different nations, which may prove dangerous to the town.
It meant, of course that proper plans and maps of the town were at a premium and Montressor seems to have obliged accordingly. At least one of his many plans is available - Montressor's very large - 2m x 1m - Survey of the Established Barracks for Soldiers at Gibraltar as shown above. Although the streets are not named it is in effect a map of the town in the 1750s. 

The following are 14 sections which cover the entire plan - with comments where appropriate. 



Section 1

Before 1704 the central area shown on Section 1 was known as la Barcina (see LINK) but was probably called the Esplanade by the British at the time the plan was created. The casemates - from which the "square" takes its present name of Grand Casemates - were built much later in 1817 during General George Don's Governorship. (See LINK


To the north - the left hand side of the plan - the northern fortification or Grand Battery - once known as the Muralla de San Fernando - are shown as a continuous line of gun emplacements ending in the square of North Bastion - el Baluarte San Pablo. 

The eastern boundary is shown as a diagonal line at the top of the picture. It separated the Esplanade from the old town or Villa Vieja. The sea - with a clearly drawn Waterport Gate (see LINK) is the western boundary, and the gap between the buildings is the entrance into the main town. The Shot House, Shot Pound and perhaps the Shot Yard were probably built over the ruins of the old Moorish atarazanas or ship yards.  


Section 2

The wall enclosed area in the middle of this section of the plan shows the old town and the road leading to the lime kilns is what is today known as Crutchett's Ramp. According to Francis Carter writing in 1772 a certain Mr John Crushett owned at least one of the lime kilns shown on the plan. (See LINK) Appropriately the local name for this road was and may indeed still be - la Calera - the lime kiln. The western exit of the Ramp was Main Street. (See LINK)

The Ramp formed part of what in medieval days was known as Villa Vieja. Much of the area was badly damaged in 1727 during the 13th Siege and was also very much in the line of fire during the Great Siege (See LINK). In the 1814 census Crutchett's Ramp appears as Portuguese Town.

Landport Gate - the land entrance along the isthmus from Spain - must be on the plan but is hard to find. It should appear on the top left hand side of the plan. It had been rebuilt in 1727 so was still a relatively new feature. During the Spanish period it was known - among several other names - as Puerta de Tierra (See LINK) To the right of this is what I interpret as being la Puerta de Granada (see LINK) - a second older gate from the North into Gibraltar. 


Section 3

In the 16th century a well fortified gate separated la Barcina which in those days was a heavily populated area, from la Turba - the newer and main town area to the south.  During the Moorish period and from the 15th century onwards it was probably known as la Puerta de la Barcina - a reference to the body of the Spanish nobleman - Enrique Pérez de Guzmán (see LINK) who was hung in a basket above this gate after he drowned in a failed attempt to retake Gibraltar. 

By the 1750s the gate had either been destroyed or dismantled and appears simply as a narrow gap in the southern corner of the Esplanade. Just south of the gate  there is in effect a small junction formed by four streets and therefore later known colloquially as Cuatro Cantos - four corners. 

Clockwise from Crutchett's Ramp these would be renamed as Turnbull's Lane, Main Street and Cooperage Lane - the later presumably taking its name from the cooperage that according to the plan existed inside the adjacent Naval Yard. Cooperage Lane's west exit gives out to Irish Town - another of Gibraltar's main roads - which runs parallel to Main Street.


Section 4

Although Montressor included the Castle precinct in his plans he left out the Moorish Castle itself (see LINKOf all the buildings identified the most interesting is the "Powder Magazine" which might just possibly be the oldest surviving building in Gibraltar as there is some evidence that at least part of it and its surrounding wall was constructed during the 12th century by the Moorish founder of the town of Gibraltar - Abd-al Mu'min. (See LINK) At the time it would have been known as Bab-al-Fath - the Gate of Victory. The rest of the precinct seems to have been given over to the Provost possibly as his private quarters.


Section 5

Main Street cuts across the centre of this section starting off at the Cuatro Cantos junction. The road below running parallel to it is Irish Town although the name only came into popular usage in the early 19th century. Its original Spanish name was Calle de Santa Ana but there is some evidence that it was also called Calle de la Merced - both names deriving from monasteries that gave on to it. During the time that Montressor plied his trade in Gibraltar it was considered to be "a street of ill repute".

The first road shown connecting Main Street with Irish Town is Parliament Lane. In 1773 - and possibly in 1753 - it was known as Mr. Fraser's Street although who exactly Fraser might have been is unknown. Another alternative name suggested by local historian Tito Benady is Callwell's Lane - but again the origin of the name is not known. 

The names Parliament Lane and the local Spanish one of Callejón de los Masones probably date from the 19th century. They refer to a Masonic meeting hall once found on this street. This could perhaps be the property identified by Montressor as S.21 - a four roomed house suitable for a captain. The Abudarham Synagogue was established on this site in 1825. Going back a couple of centuries there is some evidence that this area was once the site of the old Cabildo or Spanish town hall.

On the opposite side of Main Street from Mr Fraser's Street is another important road - this one running south and to the east of Main Street. Before the British took over the Rock it was called Calle del Gobernador as it led to the house and gardens used by the Spanish Governors of Gibraltar.  What it was called in the 1750s is unknown but the British seem to have found it difficult to hit on a suitable name. In various official documents it is referred to as either "the back street below the hospital" or "the lane leading to the Dutch Synagogue". 

Engineer House was built just before the Great Siege as the residence of the Commander of the Royal Engineers on the lower section of this street. It accounts for its present day English name of Engineer Lane and the local Spanish equivalent of Calle Ingenieros. All the unmarked or unidentified houses in this section were presumably inhabited - although not necessarily owned - by locals


Section 6

Running diagonally across this section of the plan, Engineer Lane divides into two. This configuration seems to have long since disappeared. The Great Synagogue also known as the Dutch Synagogue or the Shaar Hashamayim - or in Spanish as the the Esnoga Grande - is identified in the 1756 census simply as the Synagogue. It was built anywhere between 1723 or 1749 and was established in Engineer Lane by the Chief Rabbi of Gibraltar, Isaac Nieto. (See LINK) The entrance, however, was in Synagogue Lane - now called Serfaty's Passage - in other words the left fork of Engineer Lane as shown on this section of the plan. The building with the paired gardens and back entrance probably identifies the original Great Synagogue. 

The western fork of Engineer Lane leads into what is today known as Cornwall's Parade. In the 18th and early 19th century it was know as the Green Market or the Plaza or Plazoleta de las Verduras which more or less describes what it was mainly used for. 

On the southern and wider end of the square there was once a small but exquisitely decorated chapel known as San Juan de Letran which famously granted indulgences that were on a par with those dispensed by the perhaps better known church with the same name found in Rome. By 1753 it had obviously long since been cleaned out of its treasures as Montressor is proposing that at least seven of its rooms be used to house a single field officer. 


Section 7

The street connecting Main Street to Irish Town on the left is today's Tuckey's Lane. Tuckey was the name of a 19th century property owner and the building on the corner of the lane with Main Street was his. There was also a wine merchant doing business there hence the local Spanish name of Callejon del Jarro. Both names are probably of post 1753 origin.

Pre 1704 the Church or Monastery of Santa Clara occupied the northern side of Tuckey's Lane from Main Street right down to Irish town. Much of the structure of this monastery must have been left standing after the British took over Gibraltar as evidenced by the complex ground plan shown on the map. The monastery was also used as a sort of "lunatic asylum", hence the equally politically incorrectly named cul-de-sac of Bedlam's Court which now stands close to where it once was on the Main Street side to the north. 

A second monastery - that of Nuestra Señora de la Merced which was built over an older one known as Santa Ana - is also shown on Section 7 along the northern side of the second street to the south that joins Main Street to Irish town. The street was once known as Calle de la Carniceria - a reference to a nearby slaughterhouse. (See LINK) The modern name is Market Street.

As mentioned previously, at one time or the other Irish Town itself was known as either Calle de la Merced or Calle de Santa Ana - both names deriving from this monastery. Originally this was a hospital founded by Fray Juan Bernal - personal confessor of Phillip II. Later it became the White Friars Monastery and was home to the 'Mercedarios'. These monks specialised in ransoming Christians who had been taken as slaves by Moorish pirates. After 1704 it became the residence of the Admiral of the Mediterranean fleet and was later converted into a series of apartments and storehouses for the Royal Navy. It was destroyed during the Great Siege but several walls and columns still exist.


Section 8

This part of the plan is dominated by Gibraltar's main square (see LINK) - at the time probably known as the Plaza by the Spanish speaking locals and the Parade by the British  Main Street made up its eastern side and Irish Town lead into it from the north.  

The Main Guard building on the south side may have been designed by Montressor himself.  The building on the west side was once the site of the hermitage and hospital of Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia. After 1704 it was used as a debtors' prison.

The water fountain beside the prison was constructed in 1694 (see LINK) and was still in use in 1753 and indeed right up to the 20th century. The pillared building just north of it was the one and only slaughterhouse at the time and was known by the British as the Socky. They took its name from the local one for the nearby market place which was called the Zoco by the locals. The Line wall and gun emplacements to the west of the slaughterhouse also became known as Zoca Flank and for the same reason. 


Section 9

Main Street runs along the bottom of Section 8 with the opening below it leading to the Parade.  The first street leading east from it is Horse Barracks Lane which may not have yet acquired this name and was probably then known as el Patio del Catalán. The next street to its right is City Mill Lane then known colloquially as la Calle de las Siete Revueltas. 

Both the Patio and Siete Revueltas meet to form Cornwall's Parade, with the second street following an odd jagged path eastward until reaching Governor's Street - Calle del Gobernador. Oddly enough I can only make out six turnings rather than the seven suggested by its Spanish name. 

I cannot find a Spanish name for Cornwall's Lane and suspect it was once simply considered as part of the Patio del Catalán. The small and difficult to interpret opening to the right of City Mill Lane is Pitman's Alley - after Mr. M. Pitman, yet another well-off merchant. The family would later run "Rooke House Academy for Young Gentlemen" which boasted a nicely uniformed band which often played on special occasion. When Queen Alexander visited Gibraltar in 1905:
It gave our gracious Queen an extraordinary ovation by playing the National Anthem on drums and Fifes as her Majesty passed up and down Commercial Square.
The Spanish name for the street was Calle de Miguel de Ribera. Before 1704 the building complex and cloister between City Mill Lane and Pitman's Alley was the Iglesia de la Vera Santa Cruz.


The rather large "Wax Yard" may have been a property rented out to a Dutchman - Gerard Dierk - who married a Spanish girl, had a son called Patrick and settled in Gibraltar. His candles were made of beeswax imported from Barbary.  He sold his products in City Mill Lane. The sheer size of the building, however, suggests it may have been run by the Garrison authorities. 


Section 10

The Spanish Church at the top left is that of the Catholic St Mary the Crowned. Its cloister which was of Moorish origin would be destroyed when Main Street was straightened and widened by the Governor, Charles O'Hara in 1800. The building above the caption 0.23 was a converted Spanish Barracks that came to be known as the Spanish Pavilion. It was dismantled in the mid 20th century.

The diagonal street to the west of it running diagonally towards the sea is Bomb House Lane which may have still retained its cumbersome Spanish name of La Calle que va a la Plazuela de Juan Serrano. The Plazuela in question is shown on the plan and is today found to the east of the Gibraltar Museum. A few decades after this plan was created, Gibraltar's Chief Ordinance Officers lived in a house in this plazuela - possibly in the house marked as No 10 - hence the more modern Bomb House name. The building on the north side at the very end of the road and facing the sea would become the Nefusot Yehuda Synagogue in 1799.


Section 11

The main square in this section - French Parade - was so called because a Frenchman owned one of the nearby gardens shown on the plan. The name was subsequently changed to Governor's Parade and then later to Gunner's Parade when Royal Artillery Barracks was built on the western side of the square. (See LINK)

The street that runs across the top left of the Parade in today's Governor's Street - although it was probably called Governor's Garden Street in the early 18th century.  The continuation of this street due north is today's Town Range but known then as New Barracks Street. The street running diagonally below the Parade is Main Street.


Section 12

The building captioned as a "Barracks for four Companys . . ." is the Town Range Barracks which had just been built by Montressor himself. The Barracks retained much of its facade right into the late 20th century.


Section 13

Main Street runs diagonally across the middle of the plan. King's Chapel - known as the English Church to distinguish it from the Spanish or Catholic Church of St Mary the Crowned - and the adjacent Governor's House or the Convent, are both shown on the top right hand corner of the plan.

The building identified as containing the Court Room and the areas identified as the "Judge Advocate's Garden" and "Court Room" are today still used as the local Court House. This building together with the nearby ones which were apparently homes to the Cashier of the Revenue, Collector of the Revenue - not to mention the Governor's residence in the Convent  - suggest that this was an important administrative area for the authorities.


Section 14

Main Street - shown crossing the plan diagonally - comes to an end when it reached Charles V Wall (see LINK) and the southern exit from the town via what was then a single South Port Gate (See LINK).  

The numerous buildings on the east side of Main Street identified as the "Garrison Victualling Store with Pavilions for their agents", "Grounds belonging to the Victualling Office", "Store House",  "Smith's Shop", "Carpenter's Shop", "Wheelwrights", "Armourer's Shop", "Ordnance" and "Garrison Coal Sheds", Cooperage", "Carriage Shed" - as well as the large storehouse, armoury and timber shed on the bottom right - indicate that a large part of the southern area of the town was taken over for the purpose of servicing the Garrison and the Royal Navy.

It is not known when the diamond shaped fortification on the right was first built. It once known by the resounding name of el Baluarte de Nuestra Señora del Rosario but was later brought down to earth by the British. They called it South Bastion.