The People of Gibraltar
1704 - Committing a Thousand Excesses

Salinas,  Varela  and Rooke - Pocock, Romero and Hesse
Philip IV and Toribio de Fuentes - Laso de la Vega and Tourville
Byng, Espinosa and de la Capela - Ana Jacinta de Alcazar
Cristofero Trujillo and Knox - and the list of the ones that stayed on 
During the whole of the 17th century the Rock of Gibraltar had been mostly at peace. Despite having become something of a backwater, it had managed to remain relatively prosperous. The town itself may have been small in territory and limited in its resources but it was the center of a far larger hinterland. There was little restriction of movement between the Rock and the rest of Spain which meant a flourishing trade in goods and services in both directions. In fact by the end of the century Gibraltar was probably more of a dormitory town than anything else. Most of its more important inhabitants owned large estates in the Campo area.

The Rock in the 17th century  ( Unknown )

The population of about 6000 inhabitants lived within the confines of its three main districts, Villa Vieja, La Barcina, and La Turba. The first two were on the northern side of the Rock just below the area occupied by the ancient Moorish Castle. Both could trace their antiquity to the time of the Moors and were mostly inhabited by well-off merchants, relatively prosperous tradesmen and a variety of craftsmen and artisans. Several absent and work-shy aristocrats – including the Solis, Guzman and Benítez families - owned some of the best properties within the walled precincts of the old town.

Panoramic view over the Bay of Gibraltar 
Dated 1567, it is the oldest known graphic representation of the Rock.
A = La Iglesia Mayor de Santa María    B = Hospital de la Misericordia  
C = Iglesia de San Juan de Letrán   D = Iglesia de San Francisco  
E = Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Rosario F = La Torre del Diablo   G = La Torre del Tuerto   H = Ceuta L = Abila – Monte Hacho   M = La Cueva de San Miguel  
N = La Torre de los Tarfes    P = Castillo Moro   Q = Guardia de Dia en El Hacho
( Antonis Van den Wyngaerde ) ( see LINK )

To the south, and outside these walls, was a large built-up area called La Turba. Spanish historians of the era have tended to dismiss it as a slum - the name itself implies that it was inhabited by a rabble - but by the beginning of the 18th century it was probably where most of the inhabitants lived. 

Numerous convents, churches and monasteries housed those who looked after the religious side of things while some of the better housing was taken up by the usual plethora of councillors, bureaucrats and royal representatives. Every day of the week casual workers, hawkers and the inevitable gaggle of priests and paupers crowded the busy Calle Real that cut across it from north to south and connected it to the more prosperous Villa Vieja. 

 A rather minimalist representation of the Rock showing the four main sections of the town - the Moorish Castle, Villa Vieja, La Barcina and an entrance to the town called La Puerta de Mudarra ( see LINK ) which no longer exists     ( 1597 -Unknown )       

On one particularly hot day in 1704 the community representative of the local Ayuntamiento, Don Bartolomé Luis Varela, was standing near the Baluarte Del Canuto on the northern section of the walls that surrounded La Barcina. He was a worried man. As he looked westward he could see the bay slowly filling up with men-of-war. There were far too many to count but he could tell that well over sixty of them were powerful ships of the line - and none of them were Spanish.

Hard to interpret seventeenth century plan showing the profile of the rock from the Torre de la Calahora - the Moorish Castle - to the Baluarte del Canuto ( 1600s - Cristobal Rojas )   ( see LINK

The fortifications he was standing on were supposed to protect the town from attack from the land and he was confident that they were capable of withstanding any attempt to do so from that direction. The walls looked solid and reassuring and the passageway through the Puerta de España gateway ( see LINK )  that opened the city to the north was both narrow and awkwardly shaped. Varela found himself smiling as he remembered the old story. 

When Phillip IV had visited the Rock in the seventeenth century, he had discovered to his dismay that his carriage was too wide to go through the gate. Thoroughly annoyed by the whole affair the King took it upon himself to make the Governor of Gibraltar aware of his displeasure. The Governor, however, was his own man. He replied,
Sire, the gates of Gibraltar were designed to keep the enemy out, not to let carriages in.

Old drawing showing the Puerta de España gateway at the top and parts of both Villa Vieja and La Barcina on the right. The long building is the old Atarazana -  or boathouse - which would be completely destroyed during subsequent sieges ( 1627 - Luis Bravo - Detail )   ( see LINK

Varela was less amused when he looked southward towards the gun placements dotting the defensive Line Wall facing the growing armada of ships. They were simply not up to the task. In fact the state of disrepair of the nearby Baluartillo de la Cabeza del Muelle Nuevo gave him no confidence at all. If he remembered rightly, the last time anybody had done anything on those defences had been just after Philip IV’s visit. It was under his instructions that a whole series of improvements had been carried out on the Line Wall. The Baluarte de San Andres, Santa Ana, San Lorenzo . . . . the names rolled off his tongue as easily as the stones they were made of would roll down into the sea as soon as they were hit by enemy cannon.

Half an hour earlier on his way up Calle Real to join several of his colleagues on the Baluarte he had already felt a growing sense of anxiety as a large crowd of people gathered in the Plaza Major. Among them he was able to make out the straight-backed figure of one of the town’s cavalry officers, Captain Francisco Toribio de Fuentes, marching southward with his skeleton squad of eight poorly armed soldiers. 

He was on his way to take charge of La Torre del Tuerto, the defensive tower overlooking the new mole. Stopping for a few minutes to discuss the situation, Fuentes had informed him that a good number of people were already streaming southward towards La Puerta de Africa and through it to Europa Point. For many locals it was the more or less instinctive thing to do at the slightest hint of trouble, and there was more than a hint of it now.

Map showing the Baluarte del Rosario. The gap between the wall just above the fortifications is Puerta de Africa - today South Port Gate  ( 1597 - Unknown )

Seventeenth century print of the Dutch engaging the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Gibraltar in 1607. It shows a fanciful representation of La Torre del Tuerto making a nuisance of itself
( 1607 - Jan Jans Orlers )   

Old Spanish map showing the tower on the Muelle Nuevo as Torre del Puerto ( 1658 - Pedro Teixeiro Albernas  )     ( see LINK

Plan for the new mole extensions and tower. The name of the defensive tower - which was square-sided rather than round -  was probably a corruption of Torre de Puerto as it over looked the New Mole  ( 1627 - Louis Bravo ) 

Varela looked across at the man standing next to him on the Baluarte and was depressed to notice the look of resignation on his face. Diego Esteban Gómez de Salinas y Rodríguez de Villarroel, Knight of the Order of Santiago and military Governor of Gibraltar was well known both locally and abroad as ‘a man of considerable energy and talent’. Varela was aware that Salinas had done as much as was humanly possible to avoid the inevitable but to no avail. 

He had pestered Madrid for months trying to get them to update Gibraltar’s out of date defences as well as to increase the number of soldiers that made up his Garrison. He had warned them that he had ‘no more than 56 men’ of whom not quite 30 were actually fit for battle. He had even dared to inform them that he had been forced to commandeer a few hundred civilians most of them from La Turba. They were, he said, ‘of such bad quality that even before they arrived they had already run away.’ His superiors had simply ignored his appeals.
The third member of the group, head bowed fingertips touching and slightly stooped, seemed to be lost in prayer. He may well have been. Juan Romero Figueroa ( see LINK ) was the vicar in charge of the parish church of Santa María la Coronada y San Bernardo which despite being situated in the middle of La Turba was the town’s principal church. 

Unlike his two companions the expression on his face was neither worried nor resigned. He was furious. He had been one of the few men with authority in Gibraltar that had actually anticipated an attack. The War of the Spanish Succession had been going on for several years. France and half of Spain had remained loyal to Phillip V who on the principle that possession was nine-tenth of the law had already installed himself in Madrid.

The rest of the Spaniards together with England and just about every other country in Europe favoured the Hapsburg Archduke Charles of Austria – or as he was known to his supporters, Charles III of Spain. 

What it was all about - Philip, Duke of Anjou and the Archduke Charles

Romero, who was nearly sixty years old at the time, had been astute enough to realize more than a year previously that during a civil war just about anything could happen. It would be best, he argued, to make sure the town was capable of defending itself.

Southport Gate in the late 17th century at what was then considered the southernmost extremity of the town. It was then known colloquially as La Puerta de Africa. ( see LINK ) Originally the ditch in front of it was filled with the sea water. The fortifications on the left form part of the Baluarte del Rosario     (  1747 - James Gabriel Montressor )  ( see LINK

Romero's concerns had been met with derision by everybody in authority – including at least one of men who now stood beside him. One of those who had ridiculed him the most was a man with one of the longest names on the Rock as well as possessing one of its longest titles - Don Cayo Prieto de Laso de la Vega, Alcalde Mayor of the Very Noble and Most Loyal City of Gibraltar. Don Cayo had refused to accompany the other men to watch the ships entering the bay. He knew that Romero would be unable to resist telling him ‘I told you so.’

Although all four men were unaware of it at the time, the ships that confronted them were all under the command of the British Admiral Sir George Rooke. With him was the Dutch Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, Commander-in-Chief of Charles III’s forces.

Admiral Sir George Rooke and Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt
While at war these two wore much shorter wigs - but equally arrogant expressions

The original plan had been to attack the port of Cadiz. According to eyewitness accounts, Rooke had recoiled in dismay when he received his orders. A naturally haughty man with an exaggerated confidence in his own abilities he hated the idea of being confronted by his undoubted limitations. His personal failure in a similar attempt on Cadiz a couple of years earlier were still fresh in his mind. It had turned into a fiasco that had been more than just a military failure. Quite apart from the fact that he had not been able to take the city, tales of rape and looting by drunken English forces had done little to promote the cause of the Hapsburg pretender. His later attempt to take Barcelona had proved equally disastrous.

Rooke had reread his orders and prevaricated. Wandering about aimlessly in the Mediterranean ‘finding nothing of importance to be done’, he suddenly came up with an idea. As he sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar Rooke had been admiring the a series of magnificent views of the Rock through the stateroom windows of his flagship the Royal Catherine. It was, he thought, a tempting alternative to Cadiz – especially as he knew that the place was poorly defended. In fact he knew quite a bit about Gibraltar. Some eleven years earlier he had been in charge of a squadron which had been assigned to defend a convoy of no less than four hundred merchantmen destined for Smyrna in Turkey

Unfortunately when Rooke reached Cape St, Vincent he had found Admiral Tourville’s French fleet blocking his way. It had proved a complete disaster. Many of the merchantmen were either sunk or captured but several managed to end up in Spanish Gibraltar together with a handful of his men-of-war.

 In 1693 in the aftermath of the Battle of Lagos and under the guns of the Gibraltar , Vice Admiral de Coëtlogon hunted down and captured five ships of the line that had formed part of Rooke's fleet destined for Smyrna.The City of London judged Rooke's fiasco the worst financial disaster since the Great Fire  ( Gudin )   

As Rooke sat back staring pensively at the disappearing Rock he remembered the lengthy lists of complaints he had received from the few that had managed to make it into Gibraltar.  The local inhabitants of the Rock had received them with less than welcoming arms and had stripped them of everything that was of any of value.

 Yes, he thought, this might just be the moment to kill several birds with one stone. Rooke called a Council of War near the Barbary town of Tetuan and his proposal was accepted. The captains of the Anglo-Dutch expedition all agreed to forget about Cadiz and attack Gibraltar instead. Admiral Byng - his second in Command - was the only dissenting voice but the relationship between the two was such that any objection from Byng was enough to strengthen Rooke’s determination to see it through.

The Royal Catherine before she was completely rebuilt to Rooke’s satisfaction ( Unknown ) 

As the fleet returned towards Gibraltar the Reverend Thomas Pocock - Admiral Byng’s brother-in-law and chaplain on his flagship the Ranelagh - made a note in his diary about the weather. The day, he wrote, was ‘exceedingly hot and the sea’ was ‘almost covered with a thin slimy matter.’ It was a curious historical reference to a common phenomenon which usually occurred during a light easterly wind. It would later to be known locally as levante calma.

The combined English and Dutch fleets line up at the start of the attack on Gibraltar. ( Unknown )

A view of the proceedings as seen by somebody who was there - an "officer on  board the fleet on the 21st of July 1704"

The ships met with relatively little resistance and lined up with their broadsides to the shore. Somewhat luckily but much to Rooke’s hidden amusement, a single impertinent gunshot from the town destroyed the spars from the mainmast of Byng’s flagship. Rooke had already taken great joy in appointing Byng as the reluctant commander of the division that would spearhead the main assault. 

This picture commemorates the Battle of Gibraltar, a Dutch victory over the Spanish in 1607. However it could just as well show Prince George of Hesse leading his troops towards the North Front of the Rock. The Spanish gunners on the Rock seem to have been able to hit at least one ship – which to continue the analogy could have been Admiral Byng's.
 A closer look at this picture reveals a windmill near the North Face of the Rock. There were actually three of them in 1704 and all three were eventually occupied by the Anglo-Dutch Marines  ( 1607 - Adam Villaerts )

The real thing painted in the early 18th century by an unknown artist.The emphasis seems to have been on the landing at North Front rather than the effects of Rooke's bombardment  ( Unknown ) 

The exact date at which the decision was taken to attack the Rock depended on whether one was English or Spanish. On most of the ships it was July, in Gibraltar it was already August. Catholic Europe had opted for the Gregorian calendar. Protestant England was still using the old Julian version.

This old print in the Maritime Museum of Barcelona depicts the capitulation as having taken place in 1703

A rather calm looking French representation of the taking of the Rock showing the geography of the Bay ( 1704 - Louis Boudan )  

Whether the preliminary manoeuvres leading to the attack on Gibraltar by Anglo-Dutch forces took place as outlined above is impossible to verify. If Varela, Salinas and Romero ever stood together on the Baluarte del Canuto to watch Rooke’s ships lining up in the Bay nobody ever recorded it. But the essence of the story is correct. Romero's warnings were ignored, Don Diego got little support from Madrid and Gibraltar’s defences remained in a state of disrepair. In fact one of the reasons that so few men from La Turba actually took part in the fight was that there were not enough rifles to go round. As regards the English side, far less is fiction than fact.

The civilian population of the Gibraltar out in force to view the combined Anglo-Dutch fleet. Although atmospherically interesting, the picture is set in an unrecognisable part of the western defences of the Rock       (Unknown )

A curious anomaly in the literature is that British historians of the eighteenth and nineteenth century seem to have found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that the taking of Gibraltar was such a walk-over. Instead of simply congratulating their countrymen on a job well done they seem to have felt the need to justify the event. Perhaps they were keen to avoid having an impartial reader thinking of it in terms of a plucky underdog being unfairly beaten up by an overbearing bully. The result is a series of rather unconvincing arguments which concentrate on the courage and genius of their countrymen while denigrating the efforts of their enemy.

The British historian, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James ( see LINK ) for example, offered what he considered to be cast iron proof of Spanish cowardice and deceit. The town, wrote James, consisted of 1200 houses. Given that there must have been at least one man to each house this was more than enough to hold out against the allied forces for a lot longer than the six hours it took them to capture Gibraltar.

Captain Frederick Sayer, ( see LINK ) a civil magistrate on the Rock in the middle of the 19th century, also found it objectionable that Spanish historians always went out of their way to
. . .detract as much as possible from the glory of this conquest by representing the garrison and defences of Gibraltar to have been in a state of feebleness and decay.
He also thought that French historians were not much better as they tended ‘to diminish as much as possible the glory of the action by saying that the Spaniards had no Garrison or guns there’ at all.

English and Dutch sailors attack Gibraltar. The cannonade from the Rock had more to do with the imagination of the artist than to history   ( Unknown )
Julian Corbett in his book, Britain and the Mediterranean offered a rather different point of view. Refusing to dwell on whether the Spaniards could have done any better, he concentrated on Admiral Rooke. Corbett suggested that it had become a convention among historians to credit England’s possession of Gibraltar to the military commander’s personal fearlessness. The truth was that on this occasion his actions could hardly be described as heroic as he had - as has already been pointed out - consciously abandoned any thought of attacking Cadiz because he was afraid of being defeated.

Politically he was also well aware that his back was well covered. His change of plans would never land him into any trouble ‘as long as he had the sanction of King Charles’s representative’ - which he had as Hesse was persuaded to take part in the attack. Militarily he also knew that the taking of Gibraltar was a fait accompli. Even if Don Diego had managed to coax 1200 Gibraltarians to take up arms against him he knew that the strength of his own forces would prove overwhelming. In fact during Rooke’s rather ignominious previous visit he had noted that the Spaniards only had eight serviceable guns to defend the New Mole.

The real irony was that throughout the War of the Spanish Succession, which raged throughout Europe for a dozen years or more, there were literally hundreds of ports and towns which the allied forces of Charles III would dearly have loved to have taken. Gibraltar, however, wasn’t one of them.

In the end it took the Anglo-Dutch forces less than three days to install themselves on the Rock. Forces under the command of Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt landed to the north of the town where he ‘immediately sent a drummer to the Governor.’ 

A 16th century drawing showing a view of the northern approach to Gibraltar more or less as Hesse would have found it. The walls and gates are still Moorish and there is no sign of any ditch or moat as yet. On the left there is a slope just below the castle where the Puerta de Granada  ( see LINK ) can be seen. At the bottom is the Puerta de España and on the far the town’s Water Gate leading to the Atarazana  - nowadays Casemates Square    ( 1567 - Anton Van den Wyngaerde )   

The drummer was carrying letters urging Salinas to persuade the town authorities to switch their allegiance to Charles III. Confirming his reputation as an honourable man Salinas refused and handed the letters over to the City Council to do whatever they saw fit. Don Cayo and his colleagues adopted an equally principled position and sent back a swift reply.

Tellingly, they used a phraseology that was more in keeping with the chivalry of the Middle-Ages than with that of English and Dutch pragmatism of the 18th century. The town, they wrote ‘had sworn to the Lord Don Felipe V’ and it ‘behoved his loyal and noble vassals to sacrifice their lives in its defence.’ They had nothing further to add but ‘to wish that Our Lord’ should grant his ‘Excellency the long life that he can.’ According to the Ayuntamiento it was the 1st of August 1704. The ships opened fire on the town and after several minor skirmishes the town was forced to surrender.

The assault on Gibraltar. The boats on the right are part of the Dutch fleet under Byng’s command. The small rowing boats are carrying English marines. They were the spearhead of the attack on the new mole to the south of Gibraltar  ( Unknown )  ( see LINK

A modern British take on the taking of the Rock. Oddly enough it does little to dispel the ‘underdog, bully-boy’ argument. A solitary Spanish soldier faces the Anglo-Dutch hoards     ( Patrick Nicolle )

There are relatively few eye-witness records of what happened after the fighting had stopped. Those that are readily available were - as always - mostly written by the upper echlons of the English military personnel who actually took part in the fighting. They were understandably more interested in promoting their own importance in the outcome of the battle than in anything that followed. In many ways this selective lack of information is a foretaste of things to come.

History they say is written by the victors and in the history of Gibraltar the victors have always been undoubtedly English for the first three years and British for the rest up to the present. The historical quirk that ensured that the majority of the civilian inhabitants of the Rock from 1704 onwards would be neither English nor British would count heavily against them.

Right up to the middle of the twentieth century most historians seem to have come to the conclusion that the civilian history of Gibraltar was just not worth while writing about. The decision was in many cases an unconscious one that finds its roots in the prevailing mentality of conquest and empire and of a perceived cultural superiority over the ‘lesser races.’ But it was sometimes a deliberate political ploy. Whatever the reason the choice of material, the tone of the writer and the usually one-sided analysis of the history of the Rock and its people leave impartial readers groping for any proper understanding as to the real identity and character of the civilian population of Gibraltar during the decades immediately following the capitulation.

Spanish versions of what happened next rely heavily on Ignacio Lopez de Ayala’s Historia de Gibraltar. ( see LINK ) A translation by James Bell ( see LINK ) published in the middle of the nineteenth  century is probably the source of most of the local colour used by many subsequent British historians. Nevertheless there seems to be a certain British reluctance to accept Ayala at face value despite his advantage over everybody else. He was able to quote directly from somebody who actually experienced the bombardment and subsequent capitulation.

In many ways the Spaniard is the only antidote to the relentless nature of the English military point of view. He provides us with what seems to be a legitimate perspective dealing not so much with the fighting as with its aftermath. The British wrote about military glory; Ayala recorded the drama of defeat.

An oddly baroque Spanish take on the attack on Gibraltar in 1704. The picture of the Rock itself is pure invention and the map is little better

Whichever account one cares to take, what is absolutely certain is that Spanish Gibraltar had not been expecting a battle and was certainly not properly prepared for one. It was enough to ensure that the 11th Siege of Gibraltar was the shortest of the lot. In fact the Spaniards only success was during the original attack on the New Mole. Beaten back by the enemy they mined the Torre del Tuerto before retreating to safety. The explosion killed forty Englishmen, wounded sixty and capsized seven of their boats.

This old engraving shows the moment when La Torre del Tuerto blew up and depicts a huge explosion by the old mole. The actual event, however, took place by the New Mole on the south side of the Rock. This interpretation can probably be attibuted to the Spanish historian Lopez de Ayala who mistakenly thought that the tower was near the old mole  ( Unknown ) 

There is also little doubt that the days following the capitulation were a disaster for the local population. With more than a thousand English sailors and an even larger number of Dutch soldiers wandering around looking for trouble, the town became a thoroughly unpleasant place to find oneself in. The female population was subjected to all sorts of outrages and the men to every possible indignity. The town was thoroughly ransacked, and a ‘thousand excesses’ were committed 'anywhere and everywhere'. Whenever they got the chance the soldiers took time out to loot or destroy the contents of every religious establishment they could find.

At the extreme south end of Gibraltar at a place which was considered by the locals to be the most beautiful on the Rock there was a shrine known as the Hermitage of Our Lady of Europa. Originally a mosque it had become an important place of devotion for many Spaniards. The oil beacon kept lit in the tower served both as a blessing to ‘Christian sailors’ as well as a lighthouse. It had also long been considered a safe haven in time of war and following the advice of the local authorities a number of women from the town had taken refuge there as soon the fighting began.

According to the Reverend Pocock it had become a tradition for the chapel to be ‘saluted by all Papist ships’ that passed the Straits and for these to be acknowledged by two nearby strategically placed cannons. Pocock had experienced their effectiveness when the confederate fleet had sailed close to the southern tip of Gibraltar on their way to battle. They had been used somewhat more aggressively against Pocock and his naval friends than they would have on Catholic ships but luckily for the reverend padre they had ‘failed to kiss’ his ship.

It was perhaps unfortunate that the first landings on the Rock itself by the allied forces took place on the southern side of Gibraltar. The women were caught up in the fighting and several of them were killed. When the troops eventually entered the Hermitage they treated the image of the Virgin with derision, chopped off the head of the baby Jesus and chucked the whole lot on to the rocks at the bottom of Europa point.

One modern British historian describes this event in great detail but concludes that there was no doubt that the British command had done their very best to minimise these ‘inevitable concomitants of early modern warfare’. A different interpretation given by another is that the only reason the women hadn’t all been raped as well as murdered was that the sailors has been too busy plundering to have had any time to do so. The loot incidentally was taken away from the troops by their officers, who according to Pocock, ‘shared it among themselves.’ It included works of art that had been donated to Gibraltar by the Italian admiral Andrea Doria and by the family of Fabricius Colonna.

An oddly serene picture depicting the capture of Gibraltar in which two British ships seem to be firing at each other with a third one aiming at the artist ( Unknown )

Despite the damage caused by the troops the statue was actually recovered. Made of wood it was found floating in the straits by a fisherman who returned it to the Vicar Romero. If this had happened anywhere else but in what would become British Gibraltar the story would probably have been handed down as a major Catholic miracle. The statue incidentally was once covered in precious stones. Not one of them was ever recovered. They probably now form part of the family heirlooms of the more well-off descendants of the officers who took part in the capture of Gibraltar.

Our Lady of Europa with head of Jesus duly stuck on back in place.

There is general agreement, however, that the inhabitants responded with a few excesses of their own. A good number of British and Dutch perpetrators of various outrages were identified and killed and their bodies ignominiously tossed into wells and sewers. Not long after the capitulation a certain Bernardo Schiaffino was hanged for murdering an English woman. The details are unknown but it would not be surprising if the murder had been in revenge for some perceived insult from the troops.

The main church of St. Mary the Crowned was only spared thanks to the forceful personality of the Vicar, Juan Romero de Figueroa - Ayala’s much quoted historical source. There is little doubt that Romero was a man of considerable courage. Gibraltar born and bred, the locals had considered him a man of ‘gran juicio y solida piedad’ Even while he was aware that his own house was being looted and destroyed, he nevertheless stood guard and defended his church with a handful of supporters among whom were his curate and right-hand man Jose de la Peña and the church’s bell ringer Bartolo el Campanero.

Romero may have saved his church but it was quite evident from the start that there was a bitter personal dislike between the English and the Dutch on the one side and the Spanish population on the other. The historic antagonism of Protestant for Catholic had much to do with it but so did the character and background of the Dutch troops and perhaps even more so that of the often press-ganged British sailors.

A contemporary observer described the majority of the crews on the ships of the Royal Navy as ‘the collected filth of English jails’. Many of the men were on board because they had been offered the chance to become sailors as an alternative to hanging. There was, he wrote, ‘not a vice committed on shore’ that wasn’t practiced on board ship’. Another was even less complementary. The British man-of-war ‘was the great bridge of the ocean, conveying to all places, Death, Pox and Drunkenness.’ No less authority that Dr. Samuel Johnson was of the opinion that it was actually better to go to jail than live in a ship. At least there was less chance of drowning.

People at home in England had been taken aback by Samuel Pepys’ descriptions a few years earlier of drunken soldiers and officers creating havoc in the streets of Tangier. The men who landed in Gibraltar had exactly the same pedigree. In fact they were the same troops that had recently attacked the port of Cadiz. They may have failed to take the town but news of their disorderly behaviour and desecration of Catholic shrines had already reached the ears of the local population on the Rock.

Two hopefully sober English officers admire the view in 17th century Tangier.

However much one might like to gloss over the facts, the truth was that just as in Cadiz, overall control over the troops was lost and careless decisions were taken when far stricter ones were required. When two soldiers were thrown into prison for some unknown offence and condemned to hang, someone in authority took the apparently merciful decision that only one of them should die. He then ruined his compassion by forcing the soldiers to throw dice to see who would be the one to hang.

Pocock, who seems to have been in more places at once than one would have expected from a naval chaplain, also witnessed this event. Apparently the Dutchman ‘hove ten’ against the Englishman’s ‘nine’. For all his religious credentials, Pocock seemed neither upset about the outcome nor about the sheer cruelty of the event itself.

Not surprisingly - as yet another observer wrote - ‘the citizens’ of Gibraltar, ‘with honourable resolution preferred to abandon their homes, their comforts and their fortunes rather than submit to foreign domination’. Hanging on to their pride and with whatever few possessions they were able to take with them the citizens of Gibraltar, young and old, rich and poor passed through La Puerta de España and into what most of them must have thought of as a temporary exile. There were about four thousand of them.

Don Diego de Salinas leads the Spanish population out of Gibraltar ( Oilette )

To some the fact that the population chose almost unanimously to leave was an act of extraordinary solidarity. To others it was act of desperation. British accounts tend to give few details and record the event as an orderly withdrawal. The emphasis is on the generous terms of the Articles of Capitulation (see LINK) which in essence allowed the tiny Garrison to march out with their weapons and their possessions while the civilians were provided with a supply of food and wine for a six day march.

Wood carving of the exodus from Gibraltar by the Spanish population  ( Unknown ) 

There are nevertheless several accounts of people perishing either of starvation, exposure or exhaustion long before they were able to settle anywhere. In modern terms these people were refugees – without the advantage of having some sort of modern United Nations programme to give them a helping hand.

To make matters worse, they were also pursued by some of the Genoese inhabitants of the Rock who had opted to remain in Gibraltar. It seemed like an opportunity to make some easy money. They had sallied forth from the Rock and had taken advantage of the Spaniards’ misfortune to steal whatever they could.

Who exactly these Genoese thugs were is difficult to pin point as no mention is made of them other than in this particular context. However records exist of a tower in los Tarfes - today called Windmill Hill - known as La Torre de los Genoveses. (see LINK) During the middle-ages Genoese merchants are known to have become allies of the Kings of Castile helping them in their wars against the Moors. It was in their interest to keep both the Mediterranean and the Straits of Gibraltar safe for trade. 

Map of the South showing  the area known as los Tarfes as well as the Torre de los Ginobeses  ( 1596 - Cristobal Rojas - Detail  )     

Southern area of the Rock including Windmill Hill and Europa Point. The tower marked as H is La Torre de los Genoveses. The other  buildings , none of which exist today, may also have been inhabited by Genoese civilians.  ( 1627 - Louis Bravo  ) 

At some time in the past the Spanish monarchs repaid the Genoese by allowing them to reside on the Rock.  La Torre de los Genoveses may have been built by these merchants - hence the name. Over time it must have become the main building in an area inhabited by Genoese some of which may have been there at the time of the assault and may have found it useful to change sides. 

The Spanish historian Ángel J. Sáez Rodriguez has suggested that the Torre de los Genoveses  eventually became a signal tower similar to la Torre del Diablo in the North both of which may have been in use when the levanter made the signal station at the top of the Rock useless for such a purpose. 

Map showing la Torre del Diablo as  la Torre de los Diablos    ( 1600s - Cristobal Rojas - Detail )     

Diagrams of la Torre del Diablo and its larger but rather less known neighbour, la Torre del Molino. The former faced the Mediterranean whereas the later faced the Bay of Gibraltar. The tower was designed byLuis Bravo de Laguna and constructed by Gilberto de Bedoya in the 1580s.  ( 1727 - Antonio de Montaigu de la Perille )   

The Devil's Tower on Devil's Tower Road shortly before it was demolished in the 1941 Carried out on the orders of the Governor of Gibraltar at the time - General Sir Frank Mason-Macfarlane - aka 'Mason-Mac' - this piece of  architectural vandalism was excused on the grounds that the tower was in the line of fire of one of Gibraltar's umpteen guns . . . and that it interferred with the construction of the new airport. 

By all accounts it was not just the Genoese who were responsible for attacks on the fleeing population. Also among them were ‘inicuos Españoles que no contentos con haberse quedado en Gibraltar salían a saquear, robar i destruir la tierra.’ When the last group of civilians left town they were ambushed in Portichuelos. The bandits ‘smashed down doors’, ‘broke peoples’ legs’, ‘manhandled’ the women, and stole as much jewellery and cattle as they could lay their hands on. They also kidnapped a number of female servants and took them back to Gibraltar with them.

The Spanish population of Gibraltar eventually managed to re-establish itself in the nearby Spanish towns of the Campo de Gibraltar with many of them settling in San Roque around an area near a hermitage dedicated to the saint that had given the town its name. There were good reasons why most of them considered San Roque as a good place for a temporary settlement.

One was the fact that the saint was renowned for having dedicated his life to helping those suffering from the plague. Details of miraculous cures that had occurred here had been handed down by word of mouth for hundreds of years. The second was that they had a great view of the Rock and were therefore in a good position to follow events from afar. History, however, would not be kind to them. Philip V of Spain declared the place a new town in 1706 and gave them the resounding name of ‘La Muy Noble y Más Leal Ciudad de San Roque, donde reside la de Gibraltar’. At the time of writing the descendants of those exiles from Gibraltar are still there.

Early seventeenth century Spanish map of the Campo area. San Roque appears on it but not La Linea. The huge Spanish fortifications of San Felipe and Santa Barbara have yet to be built  ( Unknown )  

A document from the Public Records Office in London gives a list of names taken by a British officer of a number of Spaniards - some with their families - that did opt to stay. In total there were probably about a hundred individuals. 

List of names of the original inhabitants who opted to stay as drawn up by local historian Tito Benady from original records. It is reasonable to assume that the list is incomplete as it was actually compiled in 1712.

 Common Spanish family names such as Guerrero, Rodriquez, Ximenez, Reyes, and Núñez which are still found in Gibraltar appear on this list. Among them was Jose Espinosa, who continued to be paid by the military authorities until his death in 1726 for carrying out duties as signalman at one of the highest points on the Rock called ‘El Hacho’, now known as Signal Hil

According to López de Ayala in 1707 there was ' tan espantosa tormenta sobre el monte que cayeron dos rayos, uno sobre la torre que llaman el Hacho que las destruyó. One wonders if Espinoza was up there at the time.

Espinosa appears on a list of expenses authorised by the Paymaster General in England. His salary for the year 1718 was £18 5s. That for Lord Portmore - the Governor at the time - was £730. 

 Detail from an old 17th century map showing El Hacho at the top end of Charles V wall. The building with a cross was a small chapel called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Whenever a ships were sighted Jose Espinosa would follow tradition and hang straw-stuffed black leather balls from the wing-like spars of the chapel. The place soon lost its religious connotations and simply became known as the signal tower  ( 1627 - Luis Bravo - Detail  ) 

Middle 19th century view of the Rock towards the south with Ceuta and Tangier in the distance sketched from El Hacho - Signal Hill. On the middle right the New Mole is just visible. The early signal system was obviously still in use   (  1860 A. Guesden )

 There was also another group of Spaniards who stayed on in Gibraltar but were not included in the original Public Records list. Several hundred Catalans had sailed with Hesse after the failure of Rooke’s attack on Barcelona and had taken part in the battle for Gibraltar. Tradition has it that after the capitulation they had been released from military service and that many of them had decided to stay on as civilians.

Whatever the truth of this it is certainly the case that several Catalans occupied important posts in Gibraltar after the Prince left for good in 1705. Alonzo de la Capela, for example was the one and only local judge. He had been chosen by no less an authority than the Archduke Charles. In fact his proper title was Juez de Civil y Criminal por la Majestad Católica de el Rey nuestro Señor Don Carlos tercero (que dios guarde) en la Ciudad de Gibraltar'. Another Catalan Joseph Corrons was appointed ‘Alcalde del Mar’ or Captain of the Port.

Shortly after the capitulation a certain Ana Jacinta de Alcazar, wife of Cristofero Trujillo, gave birth to a girl. She was christened Maria Josefa. In effect she had the honour of being the first ‘Gibraltarian’ to be born on a Rock now essentially under foreign administration. The word Gibraltarian is in inverted commas because there was at the time no such thing as a Gibraltarian. From the Garrison's point of view she was just another resident alien.

One of the conditions of the act of capitulation was that the original families would be allowed to live in their own houses without having to pay any additional rent – as long as they swore allegiance to Charles III. This was probably the reason why the number of Spaniards that made up the population of the Rock increased considerably over the next few years. Several of the original exiles must have decided to change their minds: rent free accommodation in their old home town proved an irresistible temptation. Trujillo and his wife may have been one of those who decided to return.

Nevertheless the fact that both her parents are absent from the London list mentioned previously suggests that neither the administration nor anybody else was entirely sure about who had actually stayed behind. For example there are records that show that a number of Genoese fishermen who had formed part of the original population had also decided not to move out. Yet there must have been other Genoese living in the town as well. The fishermen were highly unlikely to have been the kind of men who had harassed the Spanish population on their way to exile.

A number of Carmelite White Friars and other similar clerics also stayed on as did as the old Vicar, Juan Romero and his bell ringer. It had been a difficult choice for Romero. His personal account of how he came to his decision to stay mentions the complete lack of any real authority or control by the Anglo-Dutch commanders. There was absolutely nobody in command that he could consult with on what might be the best thing for him to do. In the end he made his own decision. He unpacked his bags and opted to stay.

It proved a good choice. Despite his fervent Catholicism and obvious dismay at the military take-over of his parish he seems to have been able to come to terms with the new administration and they in turn came to have a certain respect for him. They found him a reliable person to deal with and seem to have treated him as if he were the leader of the small resident population. In the midst of the upheaval he is recorded as having written the following lines:

‘O patria mía,
Qué hermosa me pareces
Yo no te dejaré, y mis cenizas
Se mezclaran con las tuyas.’

Most commentators suggest that he wrote this poem to commemorate his decision to stay on. According to others it was a lament against the destruction of his home town and the loss of its citizens. To modern ears the tone is sentimental and overblown but there is a certain pathos in the idea that the good Vicar considered Gibraltar as his ‘country’ rather than Spain.

Despite the generalised chaos that surrounded him, Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt found time to install himself in relative comfort in what had once been the Spanish Governor’s house. It was near the middle of town close to the area where the Garrison Library ( see LINK ) would one day be built. There he invited Rooke to join him for a leisurely diner. 

 Fanciful represention of Rooke and Hesse entering Gibraltar ( Unknown ) 

Meanwhile the English quartermaster - an officer by the name of Knox – was already complaining about the shortage of food. ‘The Prince’s people and Catalans, Spanish officers and prisoners’, he wrote in his report, ‘amounted to a considerable number over the English and Dutch.’ Hesse and Rooke must have shrugged their shoulders. They were far more concerned with congratulating each other on what they considered to be a job well done.

 The oldest extant plan of the town.
1. Puerta de Espana – later Landport Gate   2. Moorish Castle – Below it Villa Vieja and La Barcina. The large oblong area to the right of it is La Turba.   3. Hospital de San Juan de Dios
4. Plaza Major now known as the Piazza.   5. Iglesia parroquial de Santa María la Coronada y San Bernardo   6. The middle of Calle Real   7. Puerta de Africa - later Southport Gate
8. Muelle Viejo

( 1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña’s map of Gibraltar ) 

Modern map showing the names of the fortifications of Gibraltar and other details in 1704  ( Unknown