The People of Gibraltar
1800s - The Ward Family- Rich as Croesus

Cockayne, Montresur and Casola, Tedesco, Finocchio and Duff

The Wards were in many ways the stereotypical kind of civilian family that the British would so dearly have loved Gibraltar to have had. Instead they were lumbered with what they perceived as a rabble of Genoese, Spanish and Jewish families who made up the vast majority of the civilian population.

Sketches of local inhabitants going about their daily business in the mid nineteenth century. The drawings suggest a range of cultures living side by side on the Rock. All, however, were held with equal disdain by the British administration (London Illustrated News) 

The original John Ward seems to have arrived in Gibraltar in 1704 after having served under Rooke as a lieutenant of the Royal Navy during the capture of Gibraltar.

A flamboyantly baroque Italian painting celebrating the taking of Gibraltar. John Ward must be in there somewhere.

Rare early eighteenth century engraving showing a fanciful Gibraltar full of minarets. The origins of the town as well as the Rock's proximity to Barbary seems to have confused more than one contemporary artist into believing it to be Moorish. (Unknown)  

Another fanciful representation from which the one above may have been taken. (Unknown) 

John Ward is said to have ‘borne arms with honour and died in the British Service’. More importantly he seems to have decided to stay on in Gibraltar and was described as a 'merchant' at his burial in 1766. Before that, in 1730 he had become a prominent citizen and was one of the founder members of the Masonic Lodge of St, John of Jerusalem in Gibraltar. The date is significant. Freemasonry was introduced into Gibraltar in 1727 by the Governor, Lord Portmore, when he returned to Gibraltar at the start of the 13th Siege.

From a business point of view this must have proved quite convenient as fellow founder members included several other influential individuals. One was Lieutenant Thomas Cockayne who was secretary to Lord Portmore. He was reputed to have been in the habit of dipping his sticky fingers into every dirty pie he could lay his hands on. He ended up as a Lieutenant General and the owner of a huge number of ‘messuages, tenements, warehouses and buildings’ on the Rock. Many of these had once belonged to Marco Casola, one of those lucky individuals who had been granted a house by Hesse for services rendered' - which immediately makes one wonder about the methods Cockayne might have used to obtain the rest of his properties.

Odd Dutch map of the Bay with annotations about the taking of Gibraltar in 1705. It also shows the Rock with two fortresses, Fuerte Isabella and San Antonio, both of which appear to be a figment of the imagination of the authors  (Covens and Mortimer)

Another influential friend was a Mr. Jas Montresure, chief engineer in Gibraltar from 1747, and founder member of the Gibraltar Lodge of Sr John of Jerusalem No 51. He must have been an important fellow in Masonic circles as he eventually became the Provincial Grandmaster for the whole of Andalucía - whatever that might signify. 

James Gabriel Montresur – or perhaps Montressor or Jas M Montresure as he was known on the Rock. He was Chief Engineer of the Fortress of Gibraltar during the 1750s

A design for Gibraltar's imposing South Barracks by J Montressor. It was apparently built more or less to this plan.

The story of Masonry in Gibraltar is beyond the scope of this article but certain odd claims made by the Spanish historian José Antonio Ferrer Benimelli are worthy of mention. The capitulation to the British fleet in 1704 – he argued - was made much easier for the Anglo-Dutch forces because they were helped by Spanish Freemasons on the Rock - ‘con la traición y consentimiento de los oficiales que estaban en tierra.' It is a highly unlikely theory but a nice idea.

After Ward’s death his widow Elizabeth appears on the scene as a witness in the proceedings of Governor Bland’s Court of Enquiry. She claimed ownership of a small holding ‘enclosed by a wall, at south end of the Garrison Victualling Office.' The authorities came out in favour of Elizabeth but she was soon back in England and never returned to Gibraltar. Her son – also called John Ward - stayed on and achieved a position as a senior merchant in Gibraltar of even more prominence than his father.

Family tradition had it that he became 'as rich as Croesus' through running a privateer during the 'Seven Years War'. John Drinkwater, author of the book on the Great Siege of Gibraltar, knew him well. In fact he thought that John Ward was 'one of the principle civilians of the place.' In Gibraltar one could be an out and out crook and still be considered a local worthy as long as one was an Anglo-Saxon and had plenty of money.

In 1748 Ward married Rebecca the daughter of Raphael Tedesco, a rich Jewish merchant from Livorno, an event that can have done little to jeopardize the strength of his financial position. It nevertheless ran counter to the normal reluctance of the English to marry foreigners. 

Among their many children were two who continued to trade in Gibraltar under the name of J. and G. Ward. The two directors were John and his younger brother George. The former was in charge of the business back in London while the later looked after the shop in Gibraltar. No doubt the Great Siege will have caused considerable disruption to their business but it was Eliott’s post-war decision to intervene in the smuggling trade that had the greatest effect on their wealth.

So much so that the two brothers threatened to take him to court - in England - if he continued to ban what they considered to be their legitimate right to import tobacco into Gibraltar. Elliot, a naturally cautious man, immediately asked the Law Officers of the Crown to defend him should they go ahead with the proceedings.

A not very attractive 'cacacture' of Eliott. The 'Cock of the Rock' epithet has little to do with either his sexual or military exploits. His hat is firmly over his eyes. 

This contretemps seems to have caused a serious rift with John Ward senior who apart from his trading activities was employed by the Government as a Clerk of the Survey in the local Board of Ordinance. His salary was 4 pence a day. That such a relatively rich merchant should have decided to work for what was in effect a pittance drives one to the conclusion that he only did it because it opened up all sorts of useful trading and financial connections with people in authority. In other words it allowed him to be on friendly terms with a whole raft of influential people ranging from John Sweetland, the Captain of the Port to the Rev. William Leake who was the Governor’s personal chaplain.

The job also seems to have given him access to funds which at least on one occasion he ‘lent’ to his two sons‘. The loan took place at the commencement of their partnership and John and George seem to have run into some trouble. They were unable to repay the loan in time thereby ‘plunging’ their father ‘into very serious difficulties’ which - had they not been eventually able to resolve the problem - would have led to his ‘publick disgrace.’

All this together with his son’s quarrel with Eliott must have caused John Ward senior considerable embarrassment not just with his employers and with the Governor but also with his commercial friends. When several years later he drew up his last Will and Testament, he distributed his considerable wealth among his various offspring but restricted his two eldest sons to ‘£20 each and no more’ – an insultingly miserly sum.

Nevertheless things must have resolved themselves eventually as his epitaph on a marble slab in St. Mary Ealing states that he was ‘a man not so much distinguished for length of days, as in employments of labour and trust, for perseverance unremitting, and for honour unblemished.’ In the end his sons must have paid back their debts allowing him to get got away from whatever crooked deals he had been up to.

By the time the Great Siege had come to an end, John Ward senior had returned to England and George Ward decided to follow. A story carried by the magazine, The New Annual Register of 1783 tells us that when George was taking leave of his friends in Gibraltar a certain Major Duff made him a bet. He would soon be following John Ward to England and would therefore be able to meet him in London before the first of September.

Duff lost his bet and after acknowledging defeat asked his friend to buy a couple of lottery tickets so that – if they won – he would be able not just to clear his gambling debt but ‘pay for a handsome treat’. Unbelievably Ward’s tickets won £20 000 a massive amount of money at the time. George’s good fortune seems to have set him up for the rest of his life as he went on to become a ‘very eminent Spanish and Mediterranean merchant in the city of London’ who in the process also happened to have ‘amassed a princely fortune'.

In many ways Eliott’s quarrel with the Wards about their attempts to import tobacco was something of a waste of time. As far as one can make out from the records, his ban proved almost impossible to enforce. Correspondence between Eliott’s Secretary John Raleigh and Michael Morphy the British Consul in Malaga reveals that a ship called ‘The Souls of Purgatory’ had been impounded by the Spanish authorities. It had been found to contain a huge cargo of Brazilian tobacco. 

The master of the boat - Peter Finocchio from Gibraltar – argued that the tobacco was actually in transit and was meant for Gibraltar. He had absolutely no intention of smuggling it into Spain. This was certainly a blatant lie as Malaga is not a logical stepping stone for any ship travelling from Brazil to Gibraltar. In reality Finnochio was smuggling goods that had previously been imported into Gibraltar by local merchants in complete defiance of Eliott’s attempts to enforce General Bland’s less than water tight regulations of 1753.

There is no direct proof of course, but Finnochio could easily have been carrying tobacco belonging to Messrs J and G Ward.

Late nineteenth century picture showing a lugger being chased by a Spanish steamship just off Gibraltar. Over half a century since Finnochio and the Souls of Purgatory, smuggling remained rife in the area. That lugger was almost certainly carrying tobacco              (Unknown Spanish artist)