The People of Gibraltar
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 2


The Eliott Memorial - Alameda Gardens  (Mid 19th Century - Edward Angelo Goodall)

During the early 19th century the Governor of the day, General George Don, (see LINK) commissioned the creation of Gibraltar’s Alameda Gardens. With his usual financial acumen Don made sure that none of the costs would be borne by his administration - the whole thing was financed by the locals themselves. Without so much a blush he repealed the bylaws that prohibited lotteries, raised the necessary from the proceeds of eight of them and then promptly repealed his repeal so to speak and made lotteries illegal once more. During 1816, Pasqual was one of the commissioners selling these lottery tickets.


Gibraltar Chronicle (1816)

By the time the 1834 census was taken Pasqual’s eldest son Anthony had married. In 1828 he had taken a local girl called Mary Giro as his wife. He, Mary and their four children appear on the 1834 census.


Anthony and family    (1834 - Census)

This was a period in which the effects of a series of lethal epidemics concentrated the minds of the authorities on the question of health and hygiene in what had become by one of the filthiest towns in the British Empire. 

In 1804 a malignant yellow fever (see LINK) killed about 1000 members of the Garrison and no less than 5000 locals. Prosaic matters such as drains and rubbish collection suddenly became urgent priorities and a series of local organisations such as a Committee of Public Health, a Board of Health, and the two that lasted the longest - a Civil Hospital Committee (see LINK) and a Paving and Scavenging Committee - were hastily set up.

It says much for the Francia family’s claim to a steady rise in prominence in local affairs that Pasqual was chosen as a member of the last one - the Paving and Scavenging Committee. His eldest son Anthony followed in his footsteps in 1831 and was also appointed Deputy Governor of the Catholic section of what was then known as the Civil Hospital.


Reconstruction plans of the facade of the Civil Hospital (1879)

A few years earlier in 1816 a large group of local businessmen decided to create an institution that would rival the exclusive Garrison library which had been set up by military officers a couple of decades earlier. (See LINK) The fact that it was insultingly out of bounds to almost every local inhabitant - no matter how rich or influential - or even whether he was British born or not - must have been at least one incentive for doing so - if not the main one.


The exclusive Garrison Library   (1830s - Frederick Leeds Edridge)  (See LINK)

Local Historian Tito Benady has offered a compelling theory as to why those responsible for setting up the Garrison Library adopted such an exclusive policy. From 1704 to the late 19th century the majority of officers stationed in Gibraltar - however high their rank and even including the Governor - reflected British society at home. These fellows did not regard it as wrong to exploit their positions of power in order to line their own pockets. If that meant having to soil their hands by hobnobbing with the natives - or even heaven forbid - the Jews - then so be it.

However, towards the end of the 18th century, major changes in the structures and emoluments within the British army meant that simply holding a commission was no longer a guarantee to making an easy profit. It meant that a career in the army became more or less the preserve of the aristocracy and the well connected. To be seen to mingle with the merchant classes was no longer the done thing.


One of the officers posing elegantly in Gibraltar’s Casemates Square was a “Sir” - the other two were “Hons”

It is impossible to guess Pasqual feelings about the Garrison Library. But whatever they were he obviously felt that the building of a rival library was a good idea. His name appears in a frieze in which those who contributed towards the construction of the Exchange and Commercial Library are listed. (See LINK) Today the building is the home of Gibraltar’s House of Assembly.

The original Exchange was inaugurated with all due pomp and ceremony in 1817. Pasqual and others of his family are almost certain to have been there. The fact that his surname is one of the few that is not identifiably of British origin suggests that he possibly cared more than most - or perhaps it was that it was mainly merchants of British origin who were the most upset about not being able to set foot inside the Garrison Library.

In 1823, however, Pasqual was no longer one of the Exchange’s “Proprietors”. His son Anthony, however, followed in his father’s footsteps. He is one of only 14 or so non-British surnames on the list. Anthony was 26 at the time.


Anthony Francia -Proprietor No 126   (1823)

Pasqual probably died shortly after the 1834 hopefully with the happy knowledge that his sons had already become prosperous merchants in their own right. An 1824 edition of the Gibraltar Chronicle makes its first reference to Francia Brothers and Co. of Turnbull's Lane, dealing in goods such as maize, French beans, corned beef and mocha coffee. I can only guess that the “brothers” in question were Pasqual’s three eldest sons - Anthony, Francis and John Louis. 

The name of his youngest son is hard to pin down. His proper name seems to have been Juan Baptista Zacarias Francia yet he appears elsewhere as John Louis and on probate as John Lucardo. To make matters easy for myself I have decided to refer to him in future simply as John Louis. 

In 1827 Anthony became a partner in a local firm run by the Giro Brothers - one of which must have been his wife’s father. Their headquarters were in Horse Barrack Lane with branches in Malaga and in London. William James Smith the Gibraltar agent of the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company - a precursor of the well-known P & O line and the founder of the local company that would one day become Smith, Imossi and sons - established his business in the premises of the Giro Brothers. 


The SS Iberia of the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company    (1850s - W. J. Huggins)

Despite such auspicious beginnings, and reasons unknown to me, the partnership was dissolved in 1835


(1835 - The London Gazette)

Francis Peter Francia - invariably referred to everywhere simply as Francis Francia - was Pasqual’s second eldest son. He belongs to that species of historical individual of whom we have lots of inconsequential details but no overall picture of who he was. The fact that his nephew Francis Pasqual Francia is invariably referred to in the literature simply as Francis Francia also adds an element of confusion. Perhaps the fact that he never married makes Francis something of an outsider in a family where the male heirs not only married but invariably ended up with a large number of children.

In 1835, according to the author of The letters of Richard Cobden, Francis Senior travelled to the United States accompanied by Cobden. 


1835 - Passenger list of the packet ship Britannia

Richard Cobden, an English manufacturer well known for his radical and liberal views probably met Francis during a visit to the Rock. Cobden’s calico selling business was based in Manchester and it is possible that his connection with Francis was through Benjamin Carver the first president of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and whose main family business in cotton was also based in Manchester. A couple of quotes from various publications reveal that Cobden’s opinions on Gibraltar as a colony were not universally held by his fellow countrymen. For example:
The conquests of colonies (by Britain) have been regarded with some complacency because they are merely, in most instances, reprisals . . . but England for fifty years at Gibraltar is a spectacle of brute violence unmitigated by any such excuses. Upon no principle of morality can this unique outrange upon the integrity of an ancient, powerful, and renowned nation (Spain), placed at a remote distance from our shores, be justified
. . . . . the industrious middling and working classes of this empire have no interest in the violent and unjust seizure and retention of an integral portion of the Spanish territory; and we have, in this simple fact, redeemed our pledge.”

Richard Cobden

The question of course is whether Francis agreed with Cobden’s views on Gibraltar.  Modern day Gibraltarians would insist that he couldn’t have but whether the relationship between Francis and Cobden was based on a meeting of minds or simply one of commercial interests is hard to tell.  Nevertheless, my feeling is that Cobden may have been quite impressed by his colonial acquaintance. 

I am not sure why Francis travelled to New York but it is almost certain that he must have contacted his younger brother John Louis who had left Gibraltar for New York in 1824. John probably met and married his Gibraltarian wife Francesca Quartin just before he left. It was in America that he became involved in several business interests, some of which must surely have involved other members of the family.

All John Louis’s children - including Fanny and Antonia Thorn - were born in the USA. In 1838 He applied for passports for his family in order to be able to travel back home. As far as I can make out they never returned to America. John was 36 years old. His daughter Antonia Thorn was 1. 

The “Thorn” name is decidedly odd. It’s difficult to tell where it came from but one reason might be that it was meant to honour William H. Thorn, a New York trader who had dealings with the Francias in Gibraltar and may also have been a close friend of John. He may have been Antonia’s godfather. 

In 1851 an event considered important enough to record for posterity appeared in more than one local - and non-local - publication. Here is a quote from the Gibraltar Directory of 1937.
9th February 1851 - Messrs. Francis Francia junior, Richard Sprague (see  LINK), P. Larios (see LINK) and J. Ansaldo (see LINK) were attacked by robbers in ‘Soto"Gordo, the former being wounded in the head. Mr. Sprague proceeded to San Roque and an armed force accompanied him to the spot where they dressed Mr. Francias’ wound and captured one of the attackers.
The "Junior" was presumably used to distinguish Francis Pasqual Francia who was 22 at the time, from his 50 odd year old uncle Francis Francia. Soto Gordo is an area on Corkwoods near San Roque known locally as La Almoraima. 


The convent at the Almoraima    (Postcard)

His friend Richard Tucker was even younger at 21. He was the son of the American consul Horatio Sprague who had died in 1841. Horatio was succeeded as Consul by his eldest son - Horatio Jones Sprague (1823) - more often referred to by friends and family as Horatio Sprag
ue junior. 

Three years later Antonia Thorn now of marriageable age met Horatio Sprague Junior’s son - Horatio Sprague Junior, Junior perhaps? - and the two must surely have fallen in love. They duly joined together in 1854 not just themselves in matrimony but also two very influential local families. She was 17 years old while he was almost double her age. Their matrimonial home was a large one in Prince Edward Road.




Horatio Sprague 


Antonia Thorn Sprague

That was the same year that Francis Pascual must have put aside his risky trips with his pals to Soto grande. He married a Spanish girl Ana Segura who was born in Archidona near Antequera in the Province of Malaga.


Three Segura sister, Luisa (b1837), Margarita (b1834) and the eldest, Anna (b1832) who is probably the girl who is standing    (Unknown artist)

Edward Frederic Kelaart in his book Flora Calpensis (see LINK) which was published in 1846 and was the product of a two year stay in Gibraltar as Army Surgeon, mentions Francis Pasqual’s uncle several times: 
Midway between the village of Campo and St Roque is the farm or rather garden of Mr. Francis Francia, British vice-consul at St. Roque, a native of Gibraltar, who has with an industry and taste rarely found in this part of Spain, laid out a very large piece of ground in a flower and fruit garden where many exotics have been introduce; among these the Loquat and several rare varieties of Orange are found to grow in great perfection . . . . Beyond the large stream, about a mile and a quarter from the Spanish line is an extensive plain, called the Spanish race-course, the property of Messrs. Francia, merchants in Gibraltar. . . . 
The “race-course” was probably el Hip√≥dromo de la Sociedad Andaluza de Carreras de Caballos in Campamento which had been used by members of the Garrison and by locals from Gibraltar since the very beginning of the 19th century. 


The Calpe Steeplechase at the hipodromo in Campamento (1870 - London Illustrated News)
Lately the stones found in the ruins (of Carteia) have been used  . . . chiefly by Mr. Francia in erecting his villa on the Spanish race-course.
Francis’ house in Spain was in Benalife near Campamento and - as mentioned by Kelaart - near the racecourse. He called it Villa Francia. He was not the only Gibraltarian obsessed with the Sport of Kings at the time - practically half the population both rich and poor were p;assionate about it. A very much younger member of the family, Alfred Charles who was a handicapper for the Sociedad Andaluza many years later suggests a continued family involvement with horse racing in Spain for a considerable period of time.


Don A.C. Francia - Honorary Handicapper  (1919)

Many years later, the Duke of Cambridge - “Commander in Chief of the Her Majesties Armies” and an imposing individual in his own right visited Gibraltar - ostensibly to do something that would hopefully prove militarily useful. As a young man he had been stationed in Gibraltar to learn the military trade spending most of his time in Spain with the Calpe Hunt. (See LINK)


Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge on the left arriving late at a meet - His greetings to the waiting huntsmen have been endlessly immortalised both in literature and in paintings - 
“I’m devilishly glad I caught you,” he is quoted to have said, “so fire away”   (1830s - Geroge Cole)

During this later visit he happened to meet Francis in the Garrison library  - it so happens -and told him that he recalled having been with him on a shooting party in Spain when he had  been stationed in Gibraltar. By my reckoning the Duke was nearly 70 years old and Francia approaching 90 when this earth shattering exchange took place. They must have had very good memories but it is perhaps interesting to realise that there would have been very few other merchants in Gibraltar - no matter how influential or rich - that would have been on nodding terms with this type of exalted company.

Joseph, another of Anthony’s sons and a younger brother to both Francis and John, became Gibraltar’s first local-born individual to become a barrister. During the 1830, according to local lawyer, John Restano in his book Justice so Requiring, the entire legal profession in Gibraltar consisted of James Cochrane - who was the Attorney-General - four Protestant lawyers - William Cornwell, Duncan Colguhom, James Sewall and Alexander Shea and a single Catholic barrister - Joseph Francis, Pasqual’s third eldest son Joseph must have been quite a useful fellow to have on your side in the law courts.

As I mentioned previously it was extremely rare for locals to be allowed any sort of access into the Library and yet Joseph Francia esq appears as an honorary member on an extensive Garrison Library list. He was the one and only local with a non-British name to appear on it 


Joseph Francia, honorary member of the Garrison Library (1837 - Garrison Library Catalogue of Books)


With very special thanks to Alex Panayoti. Most of what I have written is based on his meticulous research. Without his help it would have been impossible to do so. Thank you Alex.

To continue please click on the following LINKS

1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 1
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 2
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 3
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 4
1723 - The Francia Family Tree