The People of Gibraltar
1781 - James Solas Dodd - Can Never be Enlarged

James Solas Dodd was born in London in 1721. He was - at one time or another - a master-surgeon, an actor and a lecturer. He was also a writer of the occasional pamphlet, and among his various publications was his Ancient and Modern History of Gibraltar.

Dodd's genealogy is curious. It was in Spain that James Solas Dodd's grandfather John became acquainted with Don Jago Mendozo Vasconcellos de Solis. The young Spanish officer had become embroiled in a duel with the son of the Governor of Barcelona. Don Jago escaped the wraath of the Spanish authorities by accompanying Dodd back to England. He lived with him for a while and eventually married his daughter Rebecca. Jago's only son was baptised as James Solis but the surname was registered as Solas - an error by a parish clerk. The family, however, decided to adopt this mode of spelling and James became known as Solas Dodd.

Dodd's History of Gibraltar is unusual in that it includes an account of the 13th Siege of Gibraltar from a Spanish perspective. In fact it was translated from documents in Madrid. It is also unusual in that despite its date of publication - 1781 - no mention is made of the Great Siege. As such the book has nothing to say about the people Gibraltar. The following is therefore limited to a selection of his descriptions of the place itself.

The Spanish Lines
Since the year 1728, the Spaniards have constructed barrier lines on their end of the isthmus, right across from the sea on the east, to the bay on the west; and the adjoining neck, between the Spanish lines and our advanced posts at the north foot of the rock, hath been esteemed as neutral ground.

The massive fortifications mentioned here were finished in 1735. Originally named La Línea del Campo they eventually came to be known as La Línea de la Contavalación which in turn gave its name to Gibraltar's neighbouring town of La Línea de la Concepción

La Línea del Campo (1735 - Juan de Sobreville )

The Town
Every succeeding governor hath added, new batteries, retrenchments, and other kinds of fortifications, to increase the defence of the place ; the particulars of which will more fully appear, by the following description of the present state of the town and fortress of Gibraltar.

The town of Gibraltar is but small, and, from the nature of its situation, can never be enlarged, as it occupies the whole of the small plain on the west side of the hill ; nay, many of the houses in the eastermost streets are on the declivity of the rock, and some of them are built close adjoining to it. There is one main street running from north to south.

The chief places of note are the governor's gardens, on the declivity ; the south port magazine; the governor's house; the armoury; the new arsenal; the victualling-office and the barracks round the parade. . . A little to the south is a watering place called the Ragged Staff, where a small jettee runs into the sea against which the ships' longboats lay to take in their water . . .

Map of Gibraltar showing some of the features that impressed Dodd - The town with Main Street running north to south, the Governor's Gardens, the victualling-office with the arsenal below it, the Naval Hospital and Ragged Staff - identified as a watering place (1779 - Sayer and Bennet - Detail )

The South
Without the town, about half a mile to the south, stand the grand barracks ; and a little farther on an eminence above Rozia-bay is the naval hospital; while that for the military is to the east of the center of the town erected on an old foundation, formerly the hospital of
St. John of God. . . .

St John of God - or San Juan de Dios - was a large 16th century church and convent. Shortly after 1704 it was converted into what came to be known as the Blue Barracks. However by the time that Dodd was writing it had been converted into a miliatry store. It was not until 1816 that it became a miliatry hospital.

Batteries and Bastions
From the north end of the town runs a mole . . . which is eight hundred and four feet long which is a gun and bomb battery; but as from its proximity to the Sapanish lines . . . another mole has been erected above a mile further to the south.

To enter minutely into the detail of the present fortifications would be a thankless task . . . the whole . . is one entire continuation of defence. . . . On the north side . . Queen Anne's Battery ( formally called Willis's battery) . . . Lower down to the southward , is a round tower . . . to an irregular bastion called L'Arquia . . . . Land Port Gate . . . Bastion of St. Peter . . . Bastion of St Paul . . .St Bernard's Curtain . . .

From the fourth flank of the Bastion of St Paul runs another curtain, in the centre of which is the Water-gate . . . on the waterside we pass the Prince of Orange's battery, Mongus battery, the Salute battery, and the battery defending the governor's house . . . the New Mole is protected by an irregular bastion . . .

St Peter and St Paul were originally the Spanish batteries of San Pedro and San Paulo. St Bernard's Curtain was originally La Muralla de San Bernardo and was renamed the Grand Battery. The new mole to the south was also of Spanish construction rather than a newly created British one as hinted by Dodd

Gibraltar shortly before the 13th Siege ( 1721 - William Van der Hagen)

St George's Cave ( St. Michael's Cave )
One of the chief curiosities of Gibraltar is a vast cavern, called St. George's Cave. The coolness of this wonderful recess makes it much frequented, as a retreat from the scorching rays of the fun. It is with some difficulty we climb the rock to the mouth of the cave. The entrance is narrow, but when that is passed, the subterraneous vault extends to a spacious degree.