The People of Gibraltar
1705 - Despotic Control over Prices 

Rooke and George of Hesse - Peter Skinner and Gianbattista Gassa
Alonzo de la Capella  and Juan Diez de la Palma - Simon Navarro  and Henry Nugent
Shrimpton, Fox and Ramos - Jezreel Jones and Charles III
Bartolome Bresciano  and Bartolome Dagniano - Jacob Diaz Arias and Edward Pearson
Ana Phelipes and Juan Mateos - Joseph Bennett and Lorenzo Picardo
Domingo Fabio and Andres Canova - Antonio Grana and Antonio Viale
Isaac Nieto  and Phineas Nieto - Jacob Cardozo Nuñez

The first military commander of Gibraltar during the Hapsburg occupation of Gibraltar was Sir George Rooke. Queen Anne may have been delighted by his exploits but unfortunately for the admiral the Duke of Marlborough had won his famous battle at Blenheim just a few days after he had taken Gibraltar. His wife Sarah, who is reputed to have had a lesbian relationship with Queen Anne, made sure that Gibraltar and Rooke would not undermine her husband’s triumph.

Sarah Marlborough, the Duke's wife and Queen Anne's lover.


 Yet another commemorative picture ( J Hulett )   LINK

In any case, the taking of Gibraltar was not considered to be all that much of an achievement by the English political elite. Nor were the French all that much impressed either. While Louis XIV was mulling over the consequences of his defeat at Blenheim his courtiers explained what had happened. The English, they said, had just put a few men ashore in Gibraltar, climbed the Rock and taken the Castle. According to Trevelyan in his England under the Stuarts, they also informed him that it was ‘impossible to imagine how careless the Spaniards’ could be.

Later when Queen Anne decided to order a gold cup to commemorate the taking of Gibraltar she presented it to one of Rooke’s favourite officers Captain Robert Fairfax. Why she didn’t give it to Rooke has never been satisfactorily explained. As a thoroughly irritated Ferederick George Stephens ( see LINK )  wrote in his History of Gibraltar
 . . the captor of Magdala and deliverer of some missionaries at the price of ten millions of money and one wounded man, has been magnificently rewarded, but Rooke got not even thanks.
He was referring to Lord Napier’s adventures in Abyssinia in 1868. The Pre-Raphaelite critic Stevens later put it even more succinctly. 
The Duke of Marlborough 'got the Palace at Woodstock and the Admiral got nothing.’

A letter dated 1687 in which Robert Fairfax recalls having fox hunted with Queen Anne's father James II. His hob-knobbing with the Royals may have something to do with the decision to give him Rooke's gold cup.

What Rooke missed out on: Marlborough’s Blenheim Palace near Woodstock.
Gold commemorative medals were struck to celebrate the capture of Gibraltar, but, and perhaps for similar reasons as for the non-event of the gold cup, they were never issued as decorations. In fact the only people who got them were local civilians such as pilots and fishermen who had proved themselves useful to the allies during the attack.
Rooke only lasted a few weeks as commander and was succeeded by Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt who had been in charge of the Dutch troops during the takeover. Hesse was appointed as Governor by the Archduke Charles. He can probably claim the honour of being the very first proper Governor of the Rock. He lasted two years, hardly lifted his aristocratic fingers and then moved on to try to conquer Barcelona. He left with the sound of a forty-one gun salute in his ears never to return. His personal secretary, a certain Peter Skinner, and a man with an eye to the main chance, decided to stay on. 

The Siege of Barcelona -  Hesse was killed storming the citadel of Monjuich. His heart was sent to Darmstadt in 1711  ( Unknown )

A while after the taking of Gibraltar Skinner petitioned the English authorities for a royal bounty for ‘services and expenses which had been very considerable.’ He didn’t specify but we assume they referred to work done for the Allies during the assault. Skinner argued that a plan he had made of Gibraltar had been and could in future be of considerable value to England. Unfortunately somebody else had stolen the thing and it had been recently published elsewhere. Despite suspicions that the fellow was an out-and-out imposter they paid him £100.

Whether Skinner was entitled to the money or not, Hesse was definitely the kind of man who believed in repaying loyalty. In 1705 he granted a property in Gibraltar – today 250 Main Street – to a Genoese known as Juan Bauptista Gaza but whose real name was probably Gianbattista Gassa. The grant specifies that this was in recompense for ‘having served on all occasions with the zeal proper to his obligations and executed all that was ordered of him’ and as he was poor and ‘had to maintain a wife and three children’ he was granted the house in Main Street.

Later in 1711 the judge Don Alonzo de la Capella issued Gassa with a glowing reference. He was, the judge certified, ‘honrado, quieto y pacifico’ . The man had long been involved in the purchase of facines for the town’s fortifications and had proved himself a most punctual and obedient vassal to his majesty.
The certificate went on to confirm that Gassa had lived in Gibraltar for the last fourteen years which meant that he was one of the original Genoese inhabitants that had decided to stay on.

Gassa, however, does not appear on the list of Spanish inhabitants of Gibraltar taken in 1704 despite the fact that he was often referred to as de Gaza and was probably mistaken for a Spaniard by people in authority.  Nor do the names of the owners of the two houses on either side of his newly acquired property in 250 Main Street - Juan Diez
de la Palma and Simon Navarro - appear on any list. It suggests that whatever records we have of people living on the Rock during the first years after the capitulation they are anything but complete and very often incorrect.

Grants from the Prince of Hesse, however, do not appear to have been the only way in which non-British civilians could obtain a place to live in. During the five year period from 1705 to 1710 no less than fifteen families – including those of Lorenzo Picardo, Andres Canova, Agustin Danino, Marco Casola, Domingo Fabio and Antonio Viale, bought themselves property on the Rock.

During the next decades a further couple of dozen families such as those of Francesco Feroci, Thomas Porro, Baptista Ansaldo, Cesar Viale, Juan Batta Bocio, Carlos Riso and Francisco Francia, did so as well. There is little doubt that despite the blockade and other inconveniences the number of inhabitants on the Rock was steadily going up.

Before he left Gibraltar, Hesse appointed Henry Nugent, Count of Valdesoto, as his successor. Nugent was an Irishman and a Catholic and had fought against most of the British colonels stationed in Gibraltar in the Battle of the Boyne. One of the more aggressive of these, a certain Colonel Fox with influential friends in London, campaigned to have him replaced by a Spaniard, General Ramos. The argument was rather abruptly resolved when both officers were killed by enemy cannonballs during the siege after the capitulation and for many years and in many histories of the Rock General Ramos appears as the third Governor of Gibraltar. In reality the general never made it and was actually appointed as governor elsewhere.

The mistake can probably be traced to Drinkwater ( see LINK ) although there is an entry in James’s Herculean Straits ( see LINK ) that may have perpetuated the mistake. In it he states that ‘Major General Ramos, who was sent to Gibraltar as Governor by the Prince of Hesse, did not remain there long, for I find him reinforcing the Count of Cienfuegos at Denia.’

Drinkwater's memory as regards Governors of the Rock cannot have been all that precise as he totally ignores Major-General John Shrimpton who was appointed Governor from 1704 t0 1707. One can perhaps sympathize with Drinkwater's memory lapse as Shrimpton's term of office was little short of scandalous. As other historians have suggested, Shrimpton was ‘a man best forgotten.’

Whatever the case, the taking of Gibraltar had made the Rock a famous landmark throughout Europe. As Dorothy Ellicott reminds us in her history of the Rock the capture was commemorated endlessly by artists not just in Britain but elsewhere. Unfortunately many of these artists had never been anywhere near Gibraltar and their representations of the Rock were not particularly realistic. One of the worst offenders was Gabriel Bodenehr a German map maker of some repute who should have known better.

1704 - Three thoroughly unrealistic engravings of Gibraltar.
The second is by Bodenehr

The mishmash of inhabitants that had endured the sacking and had decided to stay, found themselves living in a derelict town surrounded by hostile troops who had been assigned neighbouring houses as temporary quarters. There was little or no control over the reconstruction or erection of buildings and no attempts were made to improve sanitation - a major problem in the warm and humid climate of Gibraltar.

The civilians went about their business as unobtrusively as possible outwardly accepting the arbitrary conditions set by their new masters and perhaps in the case of the Spaniards inwardly hoping for a change of fortune. Almost immediately they may have been given fresh hope. Less than a month after the capitulation, Spain with a little help from their French friends tried to recapture the Rock.

The people in San Roque must have been agog with excitement as they watched the proceedings but they were in for a disappointment. The assault had little chance of succeeding as the joint military expedition was deficient in just about every requirement necessary to carry it out. 

When it quickly became evident to everybody that the attack would never prosper the whole thing became a rather ineffectual blockade and the chances of success decreased even further. As the French Marshal Tessé wrote in a letter back to his superiors: 
the English set an example by keeping the sea in all seasons as tranquil as your swans in Chantilly.
Nor was he overly enamoured of his allies. 
The general spirit of the Spaniards is to foresee nothing.

The Battle of Cabrita Point where the Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated by by superior allied forces. It spelled the end of the siege. The book from which this print comes from - England's Glory - was published to promote a pro-war agenda against Spain. Note Date on Picture. 

Here is a Dutch version of the Battle of Cabrita Point. The picture of the Rock seems quite accurate showing a derelict Torre del Tuerto.  

Admiral Sir John Leake, the victor of the Battle of Cabrita Point

Perhaps Tessé would have been less critical if he had known what was happening on the other side of the lines. A certain Captain Gonzalez who commanded a small Spanish company under Hesse decided it was time to change sides. The conspiracy was discovered, Gonzalez was shot and nothing much came of the whole affair. 

Marshal René de Froulay de Tessé

As a minor event in what eventually turned out to be a minor skirmish it is understandably ignored by most historians but it does tell us something about Gibraltar’s tiny civilian population even at this very early stage.

Two of the main conspirators were English. One was a lawyer called Hopper and the other was a merchant by the name of Brown. Neither was executed. Instead they were thrown out of town with halters around their necks. Curiously not one of the non-British inhabitants took part in the conspiracy.

A few months after the start of what came to be known as the Twelfth Siege of Gibraltar an employee of the English Parliament, one Jezreel Jones, visited Tetuan bringing letters and presents to the Emperor of Morocco from Her Majesty’s Ambassador extraordinary in Lisbon. He was there to negotiate with Alcaide Aly in order to obtain ‘an immediate liberty for provisions and necessaries for Gibraltar.’ The French and the Spanish consuls had got there before him and were doing everything possible to get Aly to hinder the relief of Gibraltar. Luckily for Jones the news of the taking of Gibraltar by the English had impressed the Emperor and he managed to obtain what he wanted. If he hadn’t everybody in Gibraltar would have starved.

One wonders at how confident he was with whatever agreement he extracted from the Alcaide. According to somebody who had previously had the misfortune to deal with him, the Alcaide ‘never spared his promises where he had prospect to get them and never kept his word but when it suited his interest.’ In essence, not all that different to British diplomacy over the next few centuries

Meanwhile and for as long as the Twelfth Siege continued, the Spanish families on the Rock received their daily allowance of provisions from the Garrison in accordance with the Articles of Capitulation. ( see LINK ) This hand-out took place in the Grand Parade, the main square in the middle of town, at the same time as the soldiers received theirs. Regardless of the fact that the military had agreed to this arrangement during the surrender it was still an unusual act of generosity.

Perhaps sub-consciously the Anglo-Dutch authorities understood that had the original population decided to stay rather than opt for exile, Gibraltar would have been a far more difficult place to defend and administer. When the Spanish assault finally came to an end Charles III came to visit his Spanish town of Gibraltar. The guns of the Rock responded with a massive salute and the Hapsburg pretender then went back home. It was last time that anybody in Gibraltar would ever take any notice of him.

Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, Croatia and Hungary, Archduke of Austria, sometime King over Gibraltar . . . . but never made it as King Charles III of Spain

There is no doubt that the mass exodus of the original population was a defining moment in the social history of Gibraltar. It was - and still is - historically unusual for a conquered city to have its population replaced by a new one. During the first few years after 1704 people immigrated to the Rock to replace the Spaniards and join those who had opted to stay behind. Most modern histories tell us that Gibraltar very quickly became a centre for adventurers, contrabandists and prostitutes but there is precious little evidence that this was true for the bulk of the new population. A few may have qualified to be labelled as the ‘sweepings of the Mediterranean,’ as yet another author suggested, but most were just ordinary immigrants trying to make the best of a new situation.

Some people from Genoa actually immigrated with their entire families. Bartolome Bresciano was about nine years old when he came over with his family in 1715. Others were craftsmen such as Bartolome Dagniano who came from Genoa in 1709. Another was a London Jewish business man called Jacob Diaz Arias who set up shop a few years later having been encouraged to do so by – ironically – a future Governor of Gibraltar, Lord Portmore. 

The arrival of a British merchant such as Edward Pearson must have been music to the Garrison’s Protestant ears. Perhaps received with less enthusiasm was the Roman Catholic Ana Phelipes a Spanish woman who also became a resident during those early years. None of these families, however, sound as if they were bent on either contraband or prostitution.

There were very few Jews in the original Spanish population as they had been expelled from Spain in the late fifteenth century. Many of them had made their new homes in the Barbary Coast just across the straits from Gibraltar and several must have come to Gibraltar as foreign traders just after the capitulation. The perceived wisdom is that they must have liked what they saw: on the Rock a huge military garrison needing all sorts of provisions and services and on the nearby mainland an even bigger Spanish army holding up commerce and forcing up prices. 

There was a ready-made market for the shrewd entrepreneur and a good number of them stayed. They would be the vanguard of many more Sephardic Jews who would follow them and settle in Gibraltar. Their Ladino language, phonetically similar to Genoese and almost indistinguishable from Spanish, must have been a big advantage as were their commercial connections with Barbary.

Several histories written around the middle of the twentieth century tend to describe the Jews and their activities in rather less neutral terms. Geoffrey Theodore Garratt in his book Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, suggested that the Jews of eighteenth century Gibraltar exercised a ‘despotic control’ over prices which was only tempered by occasional physical violence and looting. 

He also argued that the Jews ( see LINK ) were probably the only people capable of dealing with the Genoese and Moorish sailors and that the system of private trading as practiced by them ‘was bound to lead to abuses’. There were, he said, many accounts about the ‘profiteering and chicanery practiced by local traders’ leaving the reader to conclude that these were mostly Jewish.

The term ‘local trader’ is one that is much used in describing the activities of the people of the Rock at that time and as with other generalisations concerning Gibraltar it is ambiguous to say the least. The word is used indescriminately to cover people such as shop owners, market sellers plying their trade between Barbary and Gibraltar and British middlemen buying from smaller traders and reselling to the Garrison. 

Even the agents of rich London merchants might fall into this category. All this of course before Gibraltar became a free port and the upsurge in trade allowed the poor ‘local trader’ to become the rich and powerful ‘local merchant’, another term which is bandied about throughout every ‘History’ of Gibraltar. The nationality of these merchants is likewise left to the imagination of the reader.

Garratt was following a long line of British historians who have tended to be overly critical about anything to do with the non-British malpractices while glossing over those that could be attributed to British civilians. Very often, however, it is the ambiguous nature of these descriptions, that make the reader assume that the people being written about were non-British locals whereas in fact they were almost always British born.

Nevertheless in this particular case it is probably fair to say that the very first settlers that supplied the English and Dutch forces with provisions were Jewish. Given the impossibility of trade with Spain, Morocco was really the only realistic alternative as a source for all sorts of supplies including fresh food, horses, cattle, and building material. The speed with which this occurred is explained by commercial and diplomatic contacts dating from the English occupation of the nearby town of Tangier.

The Portuguese who had once owned it had given it up to England as a reward for their help during their War of Independence from Spain. During the later part of the seventeenth century the English, like the Portuguese before them, came to rely heavily on Tangier’s Jewish merchants. They had little option. They were the people who controlled most of the trade.

Market outside the walls of Tangier

A few decades later the network of commercial contacts that they created with English traders residing in Morocco would prove useful to both parties during the first years of the occupation of Gibraltar. In fact it took the Jews less than five years to find themselves paying rent to the Governor for the twenty-eight shops which they occupied in the Main Street - although the records of the day called it Great Street, something that it definitely was not. Of the hundred or so shopkeepers elsewhere on the Rock the majority were Jewish.

Early 18th century Sephardic Jews observe Hoshanah Rabah

There does not seem to be much evidence to support Garratt’s claim that the Jews may have come to prominence because of their ability to handle the Genoese and Moorish sailors. For a start one would have imagined that the British themselves would have been better placed to deal with this kind of problem – if such a problem existed.

The violence and looting that Garratt mentioned was probably a reference to well documented incidents that happened quite a few decades later during the worst moments of the Great Siege. The perpetrators of the violence and the looting against those perceived to be hoarders of supplies were the Garrison soldiers. Most histories identify the culprits as Jewish traders but the truth is that many of the hoarders were British.

As regards the system of private trading that led to abuses these can be laid at the doors of the Governor’s residence rather than that of any Jewish shop in Main Street. As will be well covered in subsequent chapters in this history it was the British administration that was almost entirely responsible for any ‘profiteering and chicanery’ that went on in Gibraltar.

There was, however, one other good reason for the success of the Jews in Gibraltar. Their constant offers of easy credit to higher ranking officers of the garrison put these on such a level of debt that the authorities found it difficult to expel the Jews when any excuse to do so arose. The argument was that if the Jews were forced to leave they would call in their debts immediately, something that the officers were patently loathed to see happening. The story is probably apocryphal but there may be a small element of truth in it. In any case according to the well-ingrained anti-Semitic theories of the day all Jews were blood-sucking money-lenders.

Late 18th century anti-Semitic caricature of two London Jewish money lenders drawing up a bond with a carefree young Englishman
As regards the rest of the local population, several Spanish families changed their minds and returned and as mentioned previously a good number of Genoese also came to join their compatriots. They settled and they soon became as numerous and as important as the Spaniards within the Catholic community. Many of them made their living not just as fishermen but also as general craftsmen whenever they could not rely on trade. However unpleasant it might have been to live in a town under assault or blockade, the Genoese residents felt it worth their while to recommend it to others still living in Liguria. Their advice seems to have been taken as they soon came in their hundreds.

The Genoese seem to have been regarded by others as an itinerant people comparable to the Jews. They had a similar bent for commerce with the additional skill of seamanship. The saying was that there were no Jews in Genoa because they couldn’t compete with the locals. They were, it was also said, traditionally renowned for their aptitude with their hands. As their community grew they were able to find work as porters, longshoremen, servants and gardeners, the last of which they gained a reputation of being the best on the Rock. A few other people especially from Portugal, Minorca, Malta and France also came over to try and make some money by doing whatever was necessary to satisfy the demands of the Garrison.

The Genoese town of San Pietro D’Arena in the eighteenth century.  Quite a few families would immigrate to Gibraltar from here including those with surnames such as Chipolina. Ferrary and Ramagge
In other words, the people who came to Gibraltar during the start of the eighteenth century were mostly rather ordinary lower class workers and tradesmen. As in any other town Gibraltar must have had its fair share of undesirables. Smuggling may already have been a minor nuisance but the people who actually did the smuggling were rarely local men. Visiting Spanish traders, who were allowed into port even when Britain and Spain were at war with each other, were the main culprits.

On the other hand, the lower ranks of the military personal of the Garrison - who were overwhelmingly more numerous than the locals, were variously described by a visiting naval officer as a bunch of ‘shacombe-filthies, raggamuffings and scrovies.’ Perhaps everybody was being unfairly brushed with the same tar!

Satirical print showing men ‘volunteering’ for overseas service in the army outside a pub in London
The taking of Gibraltar had of course created a new dynamic: this was the first time in its history that the peninsular had been severed economically from the mainland. The repercussions were enormous for a place that had never been overly endowed with resources and had always depended on products from the mainland. In the past the people who had brought in these supplies were mostly from the Campo area which meant that their cultural identity was exactly the same as that of the people with whom they did business with in Gibraltar. This was now no longer true.
In effect the capitulation had suddenly created an additional barrier that was more effective at keeping people apart than the soldiers that guarded the gates that lay between them. It was in fact a barrier that led to the arrival not just of a new migrant population of Jewish and Genoese people but of yet another new set of suppliers. The Moors, also from the Barbary Coast, had come over after the capitulation as had the Jews and had also liked what they saw. But unlike them they never settled in Gibraltar. They came, they saw, they traded - but their roots and their homes were in Barbary.
It would not have been surprising that these Moorish and Jewish traders, who each probably ran monopolies on many essential commodities, would have been thoroughly unpopular with a hungry Roman Catholic population who were always second in line to the needs of the Garrison much as Garratt had suggested. But an unusual tolerance for the non-Christian faiths seems to have developed on the Rock at a very early date. In fact Gibraltar was soon notable throughout Spain because of the ease in which its people seemed to accept those who were of a different faith to themselves.

Nevertheless it was the reality of these unusual cultural and physical problems that forced the British to retain and reinforce Gibraltar’s character as a military fortress rather than that of a colonial town. It meant the creation of camp-follower populations both within the town and without rather than a community of local inhabitants with a common culture trading freely with neighbouring countries.

The military kept themselves socially aloof from the civilian population but it would also be true to say that the locals themselves rarely made any effort to integrate. The priority was the servicing of the Garrison. The Genoese and the Spaniards mixed socially and intermarried to such an extent that it eventually became difficult to distinguish between them. The common denominator was the Catholic Church. The Jews formed a separate community of their own.

Before the capitulation the Spanish city consisted of about one thousand or so houses. It had also boasted one large parish church, three monasteries, a convent, two hospitals and several chapels. Somewhere up the hill and well away from the main town a wealthy Gibraltarian called Juan Mateos ( see LINK ) had paid for the construction of a hospital for sailors in an effort to deal with the relatively new disease of syphilis that was rife among Spanish sailors travelling from the New World to Gibraltar. 

 18th century engraving showing the Hospital de San Juan de Dios half way up the face of the Rock. It was one of the most imposing buildings in Gibraltar and had originally been the private house of Juan Mateos, a very rich local merchant of the Campo during 16th century. The building would continue to evolve over the years and would eventually become the Colonial and then the St Bernard's Hospital

When Spain lost Gibraltar the building was taken over as a military hospital and later repaired and refurbished. It was initially retained as a hospital changing hands periodically between the Navy and the Army, but by the middle of the eighteenth century it was being used as military quarters and became known as the Blue Barracks. One of the first Companies of Military Artificers - later known as the Royal Engineers - was formed here in the late eighteenth century.

The bombardment prior to the capitulation and the subsequent assault meant a prolonged period of destruction. Efforts were made to repair and rebuild and there were constant attempts by various Governors to improve Gibraltar’s increasingly impressive defences. Visitors and diarists, however, remained unimpressed by the appearance of the town itself which was more often than not described as shabby, ramshackled and neglected.

Throughout the first hundred years and before the Great Siege took place, the military Garrison fluctuated from about a thousand to about five thousand men. There were even more during the various wars and even more than that when one takes into account the large number of soldiers’ wives and children. In fact Gibraltar was from the very beginning one of the biggest and most expensive of Britain’s overseas possessions.

Because of the imbalance between the number of civilians and that of the Garrison, soldiers were used to carry out most of the heavy work involved in military and civilian maintenance and repair. The problem was aggravated during the first few years after the capitulation because the authorities were caught in a dilemma; they were intent on keeping people out of the Rock as a matter of security but were desperate to allow people in so as to service the Garrison with its huge requirements. In the end there was little choice. The military became ever less choosy as to whom they allowed into Gibraltar and the town gradually filled up with anybody who was willing to come rather than by those that the authorities might have wished for.

Nevertheless there had to be some sort of control, however superficial. Even before 1720 there were Garrison Orders which required ‘strangers’ to give their name, nationality and reasons for entering the Rock. They were even required to produce written evidence of good intent which would then be looked at by the Town major, a British officer whose other duties were maintaining order among the soldiers. If they didn’t have them they were – at least theoretically - not allowed in. During those early years there was no such thing as right of residence and for those who did live in Gibraltar obtaining and holding on to permits of one sort or the other were a constant worry.

The truth is that for many years after taking it the British were quite uneasy about their ability to hold on to the Rock. This unease expressed itself in the use of gunfire to signal the opening and closing of the various gates of Gibraltar, the enforcement of overnight curfews and the fact that – reputedly at any rate – the Governor actually slept with the keys of the town under his pillow.

Despite or because of these factors the population kept rising. Those famous, impregnable bastions and well guarded gates would eventually prove unassailable time and again to the combined military might of Spain and France - but they were easily breached by any number of non-military people who had something to offer and were determined to get in. Simple population statistic make it quite clear that anybody could enter the Rock as long as some sort of suitable contribution was made to somebody from the Garrison; and if that was not possible then through the illegal help of friends who were already there.

Other expressions of British unease were the numerous body counts taken within very short intervals of each other. There were worries about the uncontrolled growth of the civilian population. A boon to future historians one might think but only if one ignores the fact that these statistics did not reflect the reality on the ground. In one particular census the resident were simply asked to fill in a form and then - in the official language of the day - have it ‘dropt into the letter box addressed to the Secretary’.

All notices incidentally were written in Spanish and Italian as well as English so they would be understandable to a population who were mostly still incapable of communicating adequately in English. Unfortunately for the authorities the very same people who were unlikely to drop anything into any letter box also tended to be rather reluctant to comply with military rules and regulations. It says much for the sheer chutzpah of the residents that they actually ‘dropt’ as many forms as they did as a large number of them were there illegally.

On one occasion when the authorities put up posters all over the place asking the locals to inform them on whether they owned or not the house they lived in they simply tore down the notices. In fact those seemingly draconian orders mentioned previously concerning the entry of ‘strangers and foreigners’ into the Rock proved so ineffective that successive Governors were forced to issue reminders. They also had to watch their backs. In 1710 there was a near mutiny by the troops. The authorities in London had rashly decided to make them pay for their bread which had traditionally been issued free of charge. They made things even worse by also stopping the traditional issue of free wine.

A rather good indication that the garrison lacked proper local intelligence can be gleaned from a list made up in 1712 by the chief military engineer of the garrison, Colonel Joseph Bennett, ( see LINK ) dealing with property ownership. The following are a few of the more ludicrous descriptions given on the list;

A Genoeze who married a Black
Another Genoeze in the same street
A Spaniard in the House next to Lieut. Burdeaux.

This kind of carelessness was really quite unpardonable. The Genoese people who owned houses in Gibraltar at that time, were actually quite easily identifiable and had perfectly normal Genoese names such as Lorenzo Picardo, Domingo Fabio, Andres Canova, Antonio Grana, Antonio Viale, and another half dozen or so with similar ones. Nevertheless the overall impression is that the officer who took the roll either didn’t know how to find out or didn’t care. In other words the authorities had no idea as to who was actually entitled to live on the Rock, who was just visiting or who was living there illegally.

Curiously the 1712 list was less vague when it came to identifying the Jewish inhabitants, an indication perhaps of their growing importance to the garrison, not to mention the Governor’s earnings. It reveals the obvious, that most of them came from Tetuan but there were others from elsewhere. Isaac and Phineas Nieto, the sons of the London Rabbi David had arrived from the capital. Isaac would later become chief Rabbi of Gibraltar. Jacob Cardozo Nuñez ( see LINK ) came from Portugal in 1719 when he was 10 years old. He was destined to produce one of the most prosperous families on the Rock. Jews recently arrived from Livorno and elsewhere are also mentioned.

This growing Jewish interest in Gibraltar worried Colonel Bennett, a hardened Tangier veteran and a man with very definite opinions as regards people he considered to be foreigners. He wrote;
The Jews, come daily in great numbers from Barbary, Leghorn and Portugal to inquire into every particular circumstance of the place, they have their correspondents abroad.
He considered them ‘enemies to the place by hindering our getting materials.’ They would also be very likely to ‘do much damage’ as they were a ‘mercenary people’ who would ‘betray the garrison as they have often done to the Moors’ in the past. He was wrong on both counts. Rather than hindering they were actually helping the Garrison obtain its supplies. As for betraying the British they would hardly do so to the Spanish who would have immediately thrown them out of Gibraltar. 

Early seventeenth century plans showing the Old Mole, Puerto de Mar and Ciudad Barcina. It will not have changed all that much by the early eighteenth century. The Old Mole was in effect the commercial mole of Gibraltar. It would have been here that Bennet would have observed all those Jews comming in 'daily in great numbers'  ( Cristobal Rojas )   ( see LINK )  

Bennett was also less than enamoured with the Spaniards and the Genoese that were also drifting in as he considered them an even greater security risk simply because they were Papists. Over three hundred of them he said - men, women and children, - had arrived recently either to recover their property or to serve the Garrison.

He wasn’t particularly taken with his bosses either. In 1712 he wrote to the London about ‘the wholesale system of peculation' existing among the authorities at Gibraltar. The Governor had thrown out the officers of the Garrison from the best available houses and - for a substantial fee - allowed new residents to move into them. To make matters worse, the Governor had insisted on making Bennett use the money intended for improving the fortifications on house repairs.

Bennett may have been in a bad mood. He was at that time trying to get the authorities to repay him £2000 which he had spent out of his own pocket on those same fortifications. He was made to wait for ten years before he saw a penny of it. On top of that, his protests at all these irregularities had drawn upon him ‘the governor's displeasure, inasmuch as that he has threatened to hang 'him and to break his bones.'

Old engraving of a rather awkward looking Rock in which the town has been shifted towards the south. The prominent watch towers in the foreground were built by the Spaniards as defences against marauding Barbary corsairs.