The People of Gibraltar
1552 - La Puerta Nueba - Always Full of Frogs

Abu l Hasan and Alonso Hernandez del Portillo
Alfonso XI and General Sir John Miller Adye
Lieutenant William Forster and Lieutenant Thomas Norman

Yet another gate with a plethora of names - Puerta Nueva, Puerta de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Puerta del Rosario, Puerta de Campo, Puerta de África, Southport Gate - and finally, Southport Gates in plural.

La Puerta Nueva, as the name suggests, was a relatively new addition. Records show that prior to 1540 1 there was no wall defending the town from attack from the South. One reason for this rather glaring omission might have been Abu l Hasan's 14th century line wall extending from La Puerta del Mar right round the western coast to Europa Point and beyond. It was probably thought of at the time as sufficient deterrent against invasion.

It is also possible that the defence of the town in the Turba area - which lay outside la Barcina ( see LINK ) and Villa Vieja both of which were walled - may not have been considered as crucial to the survival of whoever was occupying the Moorish Castle at the time. 

In 1552, however, the Emperor Charles V ordered his Italian engineers to construct one. 2 This new wall eventually ran from the sea to a rocky outcrop - today's Flat Bastion. A considerable distance further south it continued in a distinctive zig-zag shape right to the top of the Rock. It came to be known as Charles V Wall.       ( see LINK )

There was obviously a need for some sort entrance through it into town and the result was  La Puerta Nueva. A large defensive ditch was also dug along the bottom section of the wall which was allowed to fill with water. A small connecting bridge also formed part of the structure. According to the 17th century local historian  Alonso Hernandez del Portillo ( see LINK )  the water was always full of frogs. Nearby there was also a well which was known as la Tarasca 

Coat of arms of Charles V - still visible on the top of Southport Gates

During the digging of the ditch a large number of good sized round stones were found. They were the leftovers of bombardments carried out by Alfonso XI's forces during his attempts to recover the Rock from the Moors in the 14th century. 3

The official name of the gate is difficult to determine. In Portillo's day - well over a century after its construction - it was still considered quite a novelty and was known as la Puerta Nueva - or even better, Puerta  Nueba.

Southern gate labelled as Puerta Nueba   ( 1608 - Spanish engineer - Cristobal de Rojas ) 

The Southern Gate is still labelled Puerta Nueba de la Ciudad ( L ) 
The plan shows a complex series of passageways making the gate easier to defend, as well as a spiral staircase presumably leading to the top of the wall just over the gate. The ditch appears as a morass rather than a structure filled with water as suggested in the literature and the bridge across it is smaller than one would have expected. ( 1612 or 1621 - Ingeniero Andrés Castoria )

Perhaps the more pedantic would have felt that the rather long winded Puerta de Nuestra Señora del Rosario was more appropriate as the gate stood very close to the Bastion at the end of Charles V Wall bearing the same name. Another rather more rustic attempt was Puerta de Campo although none of these versions appear to have been very long lasting as they can only be found on very few maps.

Southern gate labelled as Puerta del Campo ( 1747 - Unknown - detail )

The British point of view - Southport Gate  (1769 - William Test )

In 1755 the gate was describes as being 
'in the curtain, after the ancient manner , with loop-holes for wall pieces to defend, between the outward and the inward gate, over which are the coat of arms of the empire, and those of Spain, with two wreathed pillars, and the inscription PLVS ULTRA.' 4
Although difficult to understand exactly what was meant by 'the ancient manner', or indeed how the gate was defended, both coats of arms over the original gateway have survived 

During the last few days of 1766 Gibraltar experienced a massive storm with almost continuous thunder and lightning and heavy downpours. Earth and heavy boulders rolled down the mountainside filling  in the ditch at Southport gate. 5 By the time of the great siege the ditch was still waterless but retained a covered pathway and a glacis. 6

In 1798 a section of the ditch on the Flat Bastion side of the wall and right up to Prince Edward's Gate to the east, was converted into a cemetery. In 1805 it was given  the name of Trafalgar Cemetery to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. Oddly, only two of those buried here actually died of wounds suffered during the battle  - Lieutenant William Forster of the Royal Marine corps of H.M.S. Mars and Lieutenant Thomas Norman of H.M.S Colossus. 7

Southport Gate - an illustration in the Narrative of the Circumnavigation of the Globe by the Austrian Frigate Navarra from 1857 to 1859 - a single gate, no pedestrian  passages, Southport ditch on the left and Trafalgar cemetery on the right

A Spaniard rides behind a soldier guarding Southport Gate ( Mid 18th century ) 

In 1867 a single additional smaller passageway was created  making life it easier for those on foot. In 1883 the Governor of the day, General Sir John Miller Adye ( see LINK ) ordered a twin gate to the larger one to be constructed right beside the old in order to improve traffic flow. It was similar both in size and shape as the original and was inaugurated on Queen Victoria's birthday. Not to be outdone, Adye had Queen Victoria's Royal Arms - as well as his own coat of arms and those of Gibraltar - placed over the new gate. Southport Gate now became Southport Gates. A second pedestrian gate was created in 1899. 8

Southport Gates with single pedestrian passageway  ( Unknown )

The two pedestrian passageways showing the dates in which they were constructed ( Unknown ) 

Sketch presumably executed before 1872 showing only one gate ( 1883 - Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News )

Single Southport Gate. The single small pedestrian gate dated 1867 had only just been built. ( 1860s George Washington Wilson )

Southport Gates. The original Charles V one on the right, the other by Governor John Adye 4 dating from 1883. The single pedestrian passage dates the photograph as having been taken between 1883 and 1899  ( 1880s - George Washington Wilson )

Two Southport Gates and two pedestrian passageways ( Early 20th century )

Yet another gate was built in 1967 just beside and to the west of the other two. It was named the Referendum Gate to commemorate the first referendum which took place that same year in which Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining British. In line with the local penchant for having more than one name for any of its gates it also has an alternative title - Referendum Arch.

After it was built, the western section of the ditch - known in the 19th and early 20th century as the Sunken Garden - was  partially filled in.

Referendum Gate ( 1967 )