The People of Gibraltar
2014 - Uno Langmann Collection - Two Photos of Gibraltar

It was big news in the art world when the Uno Langmann family in 2014 generously donated thousands of photographs from their private collection to the University of British Columbia. At any rate it was much commented in British Columbia where Langmann is still at the time of writing one of the foremost Canadian art dealers and a specialist in European and North American art of the 18th to early 20th century. In one of the smaller albums consisting mainly of Canadian and United States views there are two of Gibraltar.


In the foreground a Spanish pill-box – known as a garrita - close to and probably part of the Spanish aduana. The cattle – probably British – are being allowed to graze on the Neutral Ground. Just below the North Front on the British side and from the left a very faint Devil’s Tower (See LINK)  and the tombstones of the cemetery. More or less in the center a rather fancy building with two tall chimneys – the British passport office,


Apart from the ship in the foreground all the rest are part of Gibraltar’s huge 19th century fleet of coal hulks. (see LINK) They were owned by many of the richest families on the Rock who made quite a lot of money servicing the many coal-fired ships that came to Gibraltar. The most famous hulk of the lot was the East Indiaman “Java” - on the left on the photo. (see LINK)

Gibraltar had no proper natural harbour when this photo was taken and larger ships were always forced to anchor a fair distance from the landing place at Commercial Wharf. In fact the ships on the photograph appear to be encroaching into Spanish waters.

However, the populations of the neighbouring Spanish towns of la LinĂ©a and Algeciras were probably around three time that of Gibraltar, neither had any real need for a proper harbour catering for large ships. Spain may never have given up on Gibraltar but the anchoring of Gibraltarian owned ships within what Spain would consider today as part of their territorial waters hardly raised an eyebrow in those days. Gibraltar was part of a powerful empire and Spain was in no position to kick up too much of a stink about foreign ships in their own backyard.

Ironically this was the decade in which work began on the new dockyard , four dry docks, extensions to the South and North Moles (see LINK) and the building of the detached mole . . . all creating a massive demand for labour almost all of which came from the Campo area. And underneath it all was a relationship between the civilian populations of Gibraltar and that of its two neighbours which was probably as good as it would ever be.

Curiously both photos were taken by Joseph Porral a local photographer and postcard seller. Both of them are signed with his JP logo. In my opinion Porral was just as good a photographer as many other pioneers who took similar scenes of the Rock during the mid and late 19th century. His work is decidedly rare. To have found two of his photos in a single album is more than I could have hoped for.