The People of Gibraltar
1757 - Unreasonable and Fickle People

The Earl of Home and the Cansino family - Sir Home Popham and Edward Cornwallis
Sir John Irwin and Matias Adan -  Judah Serfaty, John Crutchet  and Mrs. Riche
Mr. Popham and Rear-Admiral Sir Home Popham - Edward Cornwallis and Carrera
Coll, Francia and Moreno - Porro, Parody and Benzaquen
Levy, Abrines and Bosano - Dellepiani, Porral, Rapallo and Abecasis
Benatar and Matias Adan -  John Crutchet, Bland and Mrs Richie

It is also true to say that those relatively carefree days – at least in so far as the officers of the Garrison were concerned - had also been purchased at a price. The Earl of Home, who succeeded Tyrawley as Governor had come to an amicable arrangement with his Spanish counterpart. He ‘allowed the Spanish Tobacco Guards to search the town as well as the boats in the mole’. 

If they found either tobacco or tobacco smugglers they had his permission to arrest them and take them into Spain. Home also permitted the Spaniards to appoint their own customs officers to work in Gibraltar so that they could keep a watch out for smugglers. It meant that his relationship with most of the more powerful merchants – British or otherwise – deteriorated as fast as his rapport with the Spaniards improved.

Map of Gibraltar from a 1762 edition of the Colonial American Magazine. Note the size and position of the Governor's Gardens. The Convent or Governor's residence is shown as a light grey block.

The Earl of Home’s policy affected the Jewish population perhaps more than any other section of the population. For some reason he seems to have been less tolerant of them than many of his predecessors. This was quite unfortunate as there were well over 800 Jews living on the Rock at the time – close to the record high. They owned about a quarter of all the available property in Gibraltar including most of the more desirable houses. The Cansino family for starters owned no less than four properties located in the Grand Parade, College Lane, Irish Town and Convent Lane.
An event which highlighted his relative impotence when dealing with his Jewish residents was the wrecking of the British warship HMS Litchfield off the Moroccan coast. The crew of the ship were immediately taken hostage by the Pasha and Home tried to get them released using Jews from Gibraltar as intermediaries. He soon became thoroughly exasperated by the long-drawn-out negotiations. Annoyed by the ineffective methods used by his Jewish mediators – who were making sure that they would end up making quite a bit of money out of the whole affair - he lost his cool and issued an ultimatum. If the prisoners were not released forthwith, he would ‘attribute the miscarriage to their mischief here and banish them.’

But Home soon came to his senses. For all his threats the Governor was well aware that Gibraltar simply could not exist without the Jewish population. His bluff was quietly called and he took no action. The poor crew of the Lichfield paid the price as they were left to stew in Barbary for a further six months.

The loss of HMS Litchfield off the coast of Barbary

Home may have blamed the Jews for this particular fiasco but the fact is that there was very little that he or the Jews could have done. Gibraltar’s dependence on food and supplies from Barbary meant that the British had to be constantly alert to the changing moods of the various Pashas and Emperors of Morocco. Good relationships based on treaties seemed to be of as little worth as the paper they were written on.  Home and Bland both had a very low opinion of the Moors but they were not the only ones. An officer temporarily in command while the Governor was away had this to say about them; 
The Moors are the most unreasonable and fickle people, capable on the most frivolous pretences to break with any Nation.
They problem was that these British administrators simply couldn’t understand the mind-set of their Moorish counterparts. The following anecdote illustrates the kind of absurd situation which they often found themselves having to cope with. While Lord Home was still in command, yet another ship was taken by the Barbary pirates and detained in Algiers. A furious Home immediately sent out a certain Mr. Popham as his ambassador. He was to demand of the Dey ‘the restitution of the vessel’ and if he failed to see the light then ‘to assure him that he would bombard the place.’ 
‘Pray sir,’ asked the Dey, ‘and what might be the cost to England to do this?’
‘Why sir’, answered the self-assured Mr. Popham, ‘about £50 000.’
‘Well then sir’, said the Dey, ‘if that is the case, give my respects to Lord Home and tell him that I will burn Algiers for him for half that money.’
Popham, incidentally was a man of whom it was said 'was a devotee of both marriage and fatherhood' and is alleged to have had twenty children and inherited another twenty three from his various wives. He must have carried out much of his activities in Gibraltar as his most well known son, Rear-Admiral Sir Home Popham was born on the Rock.

The Gibraltar born Rear-Admiral, Sir Home Popham

Lord Home was also having trouble with his non-Jewish residents. It seems that the Governor liked his fish - and that when it came to claiming his perks tended to be just as arbitrary as his predecessors. The following paragraph appears in the General orders of 1759;
The fishermen representing to Lord Home that being obliged to bring their fish to the Convent as formerly practiced was a hurt to them, orders that they shall not be obliged to bring up their fish as formerly practiced. But that they do not sell or dispose of any fish before the Governor's servant has bought what may be wanting for his table, and the servant employed for that purpose will have orders to be early at the market every morning and to acquaint the Officer of the Guard as soon as he has bought sufficient.
It may also well have been during Home’s term of office that a big furore broke out in London.  Several London based merchants issued a complaint stating that the Governor of Gibraltar was handing out British passports and other documents to ‘foreign ships trading from that port to the Coast of Barbary’. One can easily guess that these ‘foreign traders’ were either Jews, Moors or Genoese who were given these papers to facilitate matters at the Barbary end. 

There is little doubt that these passports were ‘facilitating’ the making of several personal fortunes by quite a few people in Gibraltar, one of which was undoubtedly the person who was illegally issuing these passports. It took the authorities in London about five minutes to decide exactly what needed to be done. They sent a copy of the merchants’ memorial to the British Consul in Algiers, who, or so it was said, either ‘filed it away or lost it.’
The good Earl, who was an ancestor of the well known English politician Sir Alex Douglas-Home, died in 1761 and is known to have been buried in Gibraltar although nobody has yet been able to identify exactly where. From the route taken by his funeral cortege the most likely and obvious place is somewhere inside King’s Chapel.  

It is not something that anybody in Gibraltar has ever made any real effort to find out. Back in England Bryant Barratt, purveyor of lace goods and other luxury items took Home's family to court in order to recover debts amounting to over £114. The action failed because of an obscure Scottish law of which Barratt had never heard of.
When Lieutenant General Edward Cornwallis took over as Governor in 1761, he soon found himself up to his neck in negotiations with the Moors of Barbary. Later, people said that the stress of trying to keep up with the fluctuating fortunes of these trade treaties were responsible for his death. Cornwallis was a rather unfortunate man. Perpetually distressed by the treatment he received from his superiors and physically plagued by severe bout of rheumatism, his long career was marred by one misfortune after another.

Nevertheless one cannot help but not feel too sorry for him. Before his Gibraltar appointment he had been Governor of Nova Scotia where he became infamous for offering a bounty on the heads of the Mi’kmag, a Native American people. In fact his treatment of the aboriginal people was something that the locals in Gibraltar could have done without knowing too much about. Even though he lived in a time when norms of behavior were different to that of today, he still deserves the criticism he received during his lifetime for his treatment of the natives of Nova Scotia.

 Lieutenant General Edward Cornwallis
Yet another fiasco attributed to Cornwallis was Healy’s Mortar ( see LINK ) – although the Governor had long since left the rock to other acting officials by the time is was completed.  This contraption consisted of a west-facing hollow chamber cut into the rock face at an angle of 45 degrees. The idea was to place black powder at the bottom of the chamber and the fill it with well over a thousand stones each weighing about 1lb each. A slow fuse allowed everybody to get out of the way in time. It was first tested on May 14th 1771 when about a quarter of the stones reached the bay while the rest fell into the fortress between Ragged Staff ( see LINK ) and the southern esplanade. It was never used again.

1771 Healy’s Mortar – designed by a Mr. Healy as instructed by Cornwallis

The generally claustrophobic conditions returned when the isthmus between Gibraltar and the rest of Spain once more became a barrier to normal overland trade. Nevertheless when it proved impossible to bring in food and other provision by sea because of bad weather or the actions of hostile ships, the Spaniards would allow these to be brought into the Garrison overland as long as they were paid for in cash. In 1766, the acting Governor Sir John Irwin, made use of this generous concession on the part of the Spaniards by sending his counterpart a message asking for permission to buy free of duty, ‘twenty sheep and an ox or two for my table and those of the officers under my command.’
This request is an indirect indicator of the type of food that the Garrison were normally forced to eat. The time it took an eighteenth century sailing ship to travel from Britain to Gibraltar meant that many of the supplies were salted in order to preserve them. Irwin insisted that these were ‘very sufficient and wholesome’, although his correspondence makes it quite clear that things like ‘salt beef’ were not quite good enough for his own palate. 

The locals, of course, had no claim to any of the Garrison’s provisions salted or otherwise and had to make their own arrangements. When circumstances allowed them to obtain a surplus of fresh food they usually sold these to the military at a very high price. It was yet another source of friction between the locals and the Garrison.
Irwin’s keenness on fresh food may have been the reason why he felt the need to curry favour with his Spanish friends. He was soon giving them details of his successful policy of clamping down on smuggling. ‘Since I last saw you,’ he wrote to his Spanish counterpart, ‘I have made two seizures of tobacco.’ He was of course simply following in his predecessor’s footsteps. Unfortunately he was one anti-smuggling Governor too many for the Gibraltar merchants. They and their London suppliers were losing money. They complained and Irwin was forced both to defend himself and to ease off.  

Annotated Spanish map of the mid nineteenth century with a potted history of the Rock    
 ( Tomas Lopez )  
Amazingly naive map in English produced roughly at the same time as the one above showing an imaginary River Dennis  ( Michelot and Bremond )  

Just before he left the Rock, however, Irwin managed to annoy the residents one last time. He ordered yet another census to be taken of everybody living on the Rock.  On this occasion there would be no distinguishing between residents and non-residents. Everybody who was not British was an ‘alien’. The officially stated purpose of the register was to allow the authorities - yet again - to issue resident permits to ’such Genoese, Jews etc as may be thought worthy of the indulgence of living under the protection of this Garrison.’

The plan was that anybody who was a British subject – of whatever religion - would be allowed to reside without the need for a permit.  The Spaniards could easily be dealt with as they were still considered persona non grata but it was still difficult to make out exactly who qualified as a British subject. Nor was it any easier to separate people on the basis of their original nationalities. The Genoese were now marrying Spanish women.
In the end this sudden show of efficiency proved a complete waste of time. The actual census no longer exists but it is safe to say that very little came of it. The lack of any real control over who was and who was not entitled to live on the Rock was as endemic after the register as it had been before it was compiled. Despite the lost census, lists can be made of families who immigrated into Gibraltar during the thirty year period from the 1730s to the 1760s.

 The surnames of the earliest Roman Catholic families to arrive include Carrera, Coll, Francia, Moreno, Porro, and Parody. Among the Jewish families the names of Benzaquen and Levy appear. They would be joined shortly after by people with surnames such as Abrines, Bosano, Dellepiani, Porral, Rapalo, Abecasis and Benatar and several others. All these are common surnames in Gibraltar today.

Genoa in the nineteenth century

Irwin incidentally was also a Member of Parliament while he was Governor of Gibraltar. His parliamentary friends attributed to him an Irishman’s ready wit and a pronounced taste for good living, and extravagance.  The story goes that when he met George III, the King had said that he had heard he loved his glass of wine. Sir, replied Irwin
. . . they have done me a great injustice - they should have said a bottle.
His rather carefree attitude to military discipline can also be gleaned from the remarks he made after an inspection of his regiment when he found that the officers saluted indifferently, the men were of strange size, the arms unserviceable and the recruits mediocre. ‘The regiment’ he said, ‘was in very good order and fit for service’.
Things were obviously not much better in the Royal Navy. A letter published in the 1762 edition of the London Magazine serves as an insight into the kind of activities which junior officers were driven to in order to cope with the sheer ennui of life on the Rock. It seems that a young naval lieutenant returning to his ship after a day up the Rock shooting seagulls was waylaid by the ship’s purser and forced to admit that he had been unable to kill a single bird.

Smiling broadly at this admission of bad marksmanship the purser bet the young officer half a guinea that he wouldn’t be able to hit him with a single bullet at a distance of forty yards. The young man took him on and they immediately went ashore. During the subsequent shoot-out the bullet ‘tore through the purser’s foot and leg in so terrible a manner that the surgeon was obliged to cut off his leg.’ 

Gangrene then set in ‘and the old man gave up the ghost.’  The lieutenant was subsequently tried and found guilty – presumably of murder – but his sentence was held in abeyance as ‘his captain and several others, gave him a very good character.’

Shooting gulls from Middle Hill Battery on the top of the Rock ( Unknown ) 

A decade or so after the end of his term of office, Irwin, was forced to retire to Parma because of mounting debts. He spent the rest of his life entertaining expats and British visitors to the city until his death.
During the 1770s the people of Gibraltar were said to have lived ‘in perfect harmony and friendship’ with each other and with Spain. Whether this was really true or not is difficult to tell. What is certain is that trade once more moved briskly in both directions and more and more Spaniards came into town to purchase things that were unavailable in Spain. In exchange the locals were quite willing to buy all their ‘pigs, hares, rabbits, and wild fowl as well as vegetables and fruit’.

This improvement in community relationships - as well as the fact that the guards policing the frontier with Spain were now less likely to desert - allowed the authorities to disband the Genoese Guard. The policing activities of the ‘Sergeant’ however, remained in force and by the time Pedro de Salas ( see LINK ) was succeeded by Matias Adan - a Spaniard from the Canary Islands who had lived on the Rock since he was young man - the title had been changed to ‘Spanish Sergeant’.

 The various Governors of the day might not have been so blasé about allowing their officers to gallivant in Spain as much as they did if they had been aware of just how much the Spaniards still hankered after Gibraltar. Here is a French plan - probably sponsored by Spain - to bombard the town from the blind east side. The map is dated 1762, a few years into the term of office of the Governor, Lieutenant General Edward Cornwallis  ( Unknown )     

The usefulness of the activities of these locals to the British was confirmed when he was given an assistant who was responsible for looking after problems which were peculiar to the Jewish community. His name was Judah Serfaty. Inevitably he was given the title of ‘Jews' Sergeant’. 

A curious consequence of these appointments is the phrase ‘sargento de tres rayas’ which was and may even still be used in Gibraltar when referring to any sort of sergeant. The words ‘de tres rayas’ appear superfluous as all sergeants use three chevrons to identify their rank. The phrase, of course came into use to distinguish the real thing from Spanish and Jew Sergeants who were sergeants only in name.
The appointment of the Jew Sergeant, incidentally, was the result or yet another wide ranging initiative. The new concern was that many of the Jewish hawkers - who despite Bland’s best efforts were still setting up stalls in the market place or along Main Street - were either dissuading others from bringing in similar goods at lower prices or persuading them to increase them unfairly. This kind of ‘forestalling’, which was a marketing offence in English common law, was anathema to the administration. It was common-place in Gibraltar and the appointment of the Jew Sergeant did little or nothing to eliminate the problem.
Despite the constant flow of goods from the mainland, the main supply of all the fresh produce required by the Garrison of Gibraltar still came from Tetuan an important Barbary trading town which lay behind the town of Ceuta. The food was transported in barks which took either five or six hours to make the trip in good weather or up to three days when it was bad. But even with atrocious weather there were so many boats involved in the trade that the town was never short of provisions such as beef, mutton, or eggs. The oranges from Tetuan were, according to many, ‘esteemed preferable to any other.’

1740 detail of a map of the Straits showing the relative positions of Ceuta and Tetuan  
These boats rarely returned empty as their mostly Jewish owners ensured they would be filled with goods for the Barbary market thus keeping their own little export businesses ticking over. They had something of a monopoly here as Christians were not allowed to land or trade in Tetuan because of some shooting accident involving a Moorish woman. Nevertheless most observers who visited Gibraltar during the final decades of the eighteenth century were impressed by Gibraltar’s ideal situation at the entrance of the Mediterranean and its commercial possibilities. 

It was, they said, ‘a great resort for merchants many of whom carried on a very extensive trade.’ importing vast quantities of goods from Britain and elsewhere. This trade was not confined to the town of Gibraltar but ‘extended to all parts of Spain, a comment that sounds suspiciously like yet another euphemism for the importing of goods in bulk for the purposes of smuggling.

Contemporary picture showing British ships struggling against the elements in the Bay of Gibraltar  ( Hendrik Kobell )  
One visitor who arrived just prior to the Great Siege was Francis Carter. ( see LINK ) Here was yet another Englishman determined to ignore the traditional chauvinism of his race and make every effort to approve of anything that seemed foreign to his English eyes. In actual fact Carter was something of an admirer of Spain having lived in what he called the Kingdom of Granada for some twenty years. His book, A Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga is a rambling affair covering just about every subject that took his fancy, including Gibraltar which he unfailingly describes in glowing terms.

From Lucan to Pliny he piles on the quotes: the beauty of its climate, the serenity and ‘perpetual cleanliness’ of the sky, the delicate fish of the straits not to mention those ‘most excellent’ bonitos of the Bay of Gibraltar. Even the water was ‘exceedingly good and wholesome’. He does offer one criticism. He acknowledges the perennial problem of the port of Gibraltar. Merchantmen came from everywhere but all were ‘obliged to wait for an eastern wind’, without which ‘no ship can sail out of the Streights.’
He took up residence in Crutchett’s Ramp which was part of the top section of the original town known as Villa Vieja. As mentioned previously most of the lower part of this section of the town had been destroyed during the Gunner’s war but this particular lane seems to have survived. It took its name from a British resident, John Crutchet who owned a property there. In his heyday Crutchett had been appointed by Governor Bland ( see LINK ) as ‘Inspector of Wines and Rum’ with an annual salary of £100 per annum – a wonderful job if ever there was one.

 Bland’s appointment of John Crutchet as Inspector of Wines and Rum.
The Records in the National Archive show that Crutchet asked the authorities to grant him a monopoly in the production of lime. He probably got the go-ahead as the old local name for Crutchett’s Ramp is La Calera - the Lime Kiln.
When Crutchet died Carter managed to rent the place for fifteen months from the new owner a certain Mrs. Riche. Carter fell in love with the property. There was, he said, no part of the Garrison that ‘can be pleasanter or more retired from the noise of drums and soldiers’. No doubt he was comparing it with the hostels and inns near Grand Parade where the noise of the twice daily parades, the firing of cannon and the never-ending punishments must have made hotel life a living hell.
The garden of the house in Crutchett’s Ramp ( see LINK ) was raised by a terrace against the rock and was on a level that was higher than the house itself. It was a place which he enthusiastically filled with pots containing a wide variety of flowers. From this idyllic spot, he wrote, 
. . . you could see sixty leagues about you, an amazing prospect, perhaps not to be paralleled in the Universe.
Amazing also what a difference a decade into the future would make.  During the Great Siege the noise from nearby Willis’ battery would have been ear shattering and the residence itself would end up being completely destroyed by the Spanish guns.

Two semi-contemporary drawings of Mrs Riche’s house in Crutchett’s Ramp before and after it was destroyed several years later during the Great Siege
Unusually for a visitor Carter was unimpressed by the Convent which he considered ‘a plain building, more convenient than elegant, but pleasantly situated by the sea.’ He reminded us that mostof the other places of worship had been turned into warehouses and makes the rather clever observation that this was not just ‘to the great scandal of the Spaniards’ but also to the ‘inconvenience of the Protestants.’
On a trip to the south in the company of several ladies he pointed out the ‘wind-mills’ from which Windmill Hill takes its name ( see LINK ) as well as the newly built South Barracks. ( see LINK

South Barracks from Rosia Bay  ( 1840s - J.M. Carter ) ( see LINK

Returning home in the evening they noticed that the hills behind Algeciras as well as those in Barbary were ablaze. The reflection on the Bay made it seem as if the bay itself was on fire. They were witnessing the seasonal tradition of setting the hills alight. It was an activity carried out by both Spanish and Moorish farmers after the harvest. It was meant to both clear the land of vermin and to enrich its soil.

Carter would have had to travel close to this spectacular gorge and through Europa Gate on his trip to the south. It no longer exists.

Another view of the pass drawn in the 1780’s. According to the local historian, Clive Finlayson, the naturally sloping area of rocky ground was known as ‘The Devil’s Bowling Green.’ During the various sieges, cannonballs falling short of the buildings behind the outcrop would roll back off the cliff in a crude imitation of the game of bowls. The entire area was heavily quarried in the 19th century and the ‘Green’ no longer exist.