The People of Gibraltar
1725 - Juan Moreno - Gibraltar no longer Spanish

Antonio Alarpeck and Thomas Cockayne - Earl of Portmore and Thomas Stanwix

Señora Magdalena Moreno and Domingo, Pedro and Magdalena Moreno
The Prince of Hesse and Pedro de Salas - Francisco Ximenes and Esteban Oñate
Jose Palomino and Don Alonzo and Teresa de la Capela
Domingo Moreno (nephew) and Paul Bresciano - Jasper Clayton 
Lawrence and Juana Van Ness - Humphrey Bland

The noise of the drums was loud enough to drown out whatever music a small regimental band was trying to play as they marched down Calle Real. It was followed by a platoon of soldiers (1) to one of the many makeshift barracks in the middle of town. (2) It seemed like a foreign sound in what was still essentially a Spanish place but after the capture of the Rock by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704, Gibraltar was no longer Spanish.

The capture of Gibraltar  ( 1704 - Unknown )

The change in ownership, however, had failed to bring about any change in the weather. It was still early in the morning yet it was already unpleasantly warm on the sunny side of Calle Real - or Main Street as the new landlords were now beginning to call it (3). The popular Bull and Dog (4) was slowly filling up with its usual mixed clientele of expats from various countries, most of them either Genoese or Spaniards.

One of the latter, Juan Ambrosio Moreno (5), would much rather have been back home with his family but he had important business to discuss with the man sitting opposite him in one of the tavern’s quieter seats.  Juan’s companion - Antonio Alarpeck (6) was a visiting merchant from Leghorn with strong local connections. Juan was eager to get his business done as soon as possible as Alarpeck intended leaving the fortress before the firing of the evening gun - a British warning to strangers that there would be serious consequences if they overstayed their welcome and were found to be in town without a permit. 
“Antonio, necesito tu ayuda,” said Juan with an uncharacteristically worried look on his face.
There was a sense of unease in the air not just between Juan and Antonio but throughout the entire newly acquired British fortress. A military officer called Richard Kane (6) who had been stationed in Minorca had been ordered to Gibraltar by his English bosses. He was an unknown quantity in so far as the locals were concerned but one which most of them would be willing to bet would be worse than the military commanders who had previously been in charge of the fortress - not to mention notorious crooks such as Thomas Cockayne (7) - secretary to the official Governor of Gibraltar Lord Portmore.

Richard Kane

Shortly after he had been appointed in 1713 Portmore had made the effort to sail to Gibraltar. A leisurely look around the place was followed by one or two get-togethers with his military colleagues. There wasn’t much else to do as he had decided to keep Brigadier Thomas Stanwix on as Lieutenant Governor. (8) 

The Earl of Portmore

Satisfied that that he had complied with his governmental duty he promptly returned to the home comforts of Portmore House in England - and no doubt to those of his notorious wife, Catherine Sedley. (9) His colleagues referred to him ironically as the “Head Governor”.

Catherine Sedley - The portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely. He ignored her squint, enlarged her bosom and generally took no notice of how ugly she was supposed to have been.

Not that Moreno knew any of this, of course. He had probably never even heard of Portmore - and certainly not of Sedley. In any case he didn’t know any English - or at any rate not enough to keep up to date as regards local gossip as to who was who and who and who was out on the Rock at any given moment. Moreno was just one of about 400 Spaniards who were residents of the Rock at the time. According to a census taken in 1725 - almost certainly ordered by this new fellow Kane - there were just over a thousand civilians. At any rate those were the official figures. 

Moreno had laughed when one his friends had told him about the census. He was quite sure that there were considerably more than 1000 souls living on the Rock in 1725. He knew for a fact that quite a few people in Gibraltar were living there illegally and were more than savvy enough to make sure that they would not appear on any census.(10)

Theoretically the town’s combined districts - probably still known by most of the civilian population by their old Spanish names of of Villa Vieja, La Barcina and la Turba (11) had been originally large enough to accommodate around 6000 people before it had been taken over by the British. Heavy bombardments during the subsequent 12th siege, however, had left the town in ruins and many of it houses were in a more or less derelict condition

The 12th Siege followed on almost immediately after the 11th -  the capture of the Rock in 1704 by Anglo Dutch Forces   - this picture probably depicts the 11th siege      ( 1704 Louis Boudan ) 

Moreno was actually one of the lucky ones - both he and his brother Francisco were owners of their family homes on the Rock.  Juan Ambrosio, his wife Magdalena and his two sons, Domingo and Pedro and a daughter who was also called Magdalena, lived in a house on the east side of Calle Real which he had bought from somebody called Pedro Kalvaron in 1717 - He even had the sale documents to prove it.

Francisco’s house was also in Main Street, opposite Simeon’s Lane. (12) It had been granted to him by the Prince of Hesse - the Dutch commander who was generally in charge during the 1704 takeover - for services rendered during the 12th siege.

Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt   (Early 18th century - John Smith )

But there was little doubt that things were about to change for the worse in Gibraltar. Persistent rumours had convinced Juan Ambrosio that the Spaniards were preparing for yet another Siege in the very near future. The Treaty of Utrecht (13) may have handed Gibraltar over to the British but treaties were always there to be broken and Juan Ambrosio was beginning to realise that life in Gibraltar would soon become even harder than it was before. 
“Mira Antonio, yo ya estoy seguro que va haber guerra. Este tipo que acaba de llegar de Minorca ha ordenado que las mujeres y críos de los españoles que viven aquí se marchen de la Plaza. (14) Ya he mandado a mi mujer y mis hijos a España pero también me gustaría que cuando zarpes les llevara - si fuera posible - un baúl con algunos tiestos”.
Antonio nodded his head - he too suspected that war was imminent - which was why he wanted to leave as soon as possible.
“Cuando quieras hombre - termina tu trago y vamos a tu casa para recoger lo que sea.”
It did not take long for Antonio to collect Moreno’s ”baul” or chest. Apart from a few more or less valuable possessions it also contained a considerable amount of money. A few hours later it was on board the ship that would take Antonio to Spain. Moreno was certain that his chest was in safe hands. Antonio Alarpeck was well known by the locals for his honesty. Hopefully Magdalena and his children were now safely away and that she would be able to reclaim his money and other possessions in due course.

Meanwhile the rumours of an impending war were no longer rumours but fact - the entire isthmus which connected the Rock to Spain was now a hive of activity swarming with thousands of Spanish soldiers. Gibraltar was undoubtedly about to suffer yet another of its infamous sieges. Juan had gone to la Puerta de Tierra area in order to have a good look at the scene for himself. While he was there he met Pedro de Salas.

During the early years of the British occupation the authorities had quickly realised that British soldiers on detached frontier duty were prone to desert leaving their claustrophobic life in Gibraltar for a better one in Spain. The solution was the setting up of a special contingent known as the Spanish Guard. It was made up of local men who had their families and homes on the Rock, as these were very unlikely to make an unauthorised exit.

They were commanded by a Sergeant, a Spanish officer called Pedro de Salas, who had originally come to Gibraltar to support the cause of the Archduke Charles. In addition to his frontier duties, he also assisted the British Town Major in his dealing with the Spanish and Genoese inhabitants. As such he could almost have been classified as a sort of local policeman and because of this was perhaps not particularly well liked by the rest of the population. 

But he got on well with his British bosses who used him as a conduit for their instructions. It also made him the source of much of the news circulating around the garrison in so far as it affected the locals. When asked by Moreno as to what the siege would mean for the Spanish civilians living on the Rock, de Salas was able to give him chapter and verse.
“Pues si, Moreno, habrá guerra. Pero la verdad que a pesar de todas estas nuevas fortificaciones que vemos en los arenales blancos (16) Gibraltar permanecerá en manos Inglesas.(19) “ Nuestro problema es otro. Este señor Kane que han mandado para organizar la defensa del Peñon es toda una pieza. (17) Me cuentan que se marcha de Gibraltar dentro de poco. Cuanto antes mejor” 

Spanish plan of the isthmus or “arenales Blancos”   (1727 )

De Salas shook his head disapprovingly. Unlike the rest of the population he was more than aware of Brigadier Richard Kane’s rather authoritarian methods. 
“Primero” continued de Sala, “me pidieron que le dijera a la población española que sus mujeres y los críos tenían que alargarse de Gibraltar. Los barones se podían quedarse o irse como quisieran. Luego que no. Los hombres no tendrían opción - tenían que permanecer en Gibraltar. Y entonces todo lo contrario - todos fuera de Gibraltar. Y tú qué vas hacer?”
Moreno hesitated a few seconds before answering. The truth was he didn’t really know what he was going to do.
“No estoy seguro”, he answered finally. “Todavía no he escuchado nada en concreto pero según me dicen algunos el problema está con aquellos que son dueños de sus casas - como yo. Si te vas de Gibraltar, la pierdes.
De salas nodded sympathetically.
“Si, ya sé de algunos Españoles que han estado en Gibraltar desde 1704 que han anticipado esta posibilidad. Han vendido sus casas y se han marchado.”
Moreno was taken aback. This was really worrying news. 
“Me puedes dar nombres?
“Que yo sepa,” answered De Salas,” Francisco Ximenes, Esteban Oñate y Jose Palomino, (18)  todos han vendidos sus casas y se han marchado aunque no se adonde. Incluso Teresa, la hija de Don Alonzo de la Capela (19) también ha vendido la casa de su padre a un oficial ingles.”
Even as he was chatting with Pedro de Sala, Juan Ambrosio had already made a decision. He had to leave as soon as possible. The later he left it the more likely that he would be forced to stay on the Rock. As regards the house, he would ask one of his nephews to look after it until the siege had come to an end. There was always a chance that he would be able to return in due course.

Over the next month or so Moreno managed to secretly sell off all his possessions. Since talking to Pedro de Sala he had heard that Kane had issued precisely the order that he had long feared. Nobody was allowed to leave and if they did they would forfeit their property. Admittedly the news was very much hearsay. An acquaintance of his, Nicolas de la Rosa, told him that the Town Major had been given these new instructions verbally by Kane. It was time to move.

Moreno had arranged for transport to Spain by boat - there was no other way as the land route was blocked by Spanish troops. A French Tartan was anchored in the New Mole waiting for him. On his way to the Mole by pure chance Moreno met De Sala. They talked for a while but Moreno kept his plans to himself. As regards his house he had opted for it to be looked after by his brother’s son Domingo and another acquaintance called Paul Besciano. 

Soon after Moreno had left the Rock an unofficial version of events surfaced among the locals. It suggested that his hasty exit from the Garrison had been more or less forced upon him - the so-called honest Don Antonio had failed to deliver the chest and its money to his wife and this was the real reason for his decision to leave the Rock. A second more tragic bit of gossip was that Juan Ambrosio had died 15 days after he had set off on the French Tartan and that the cause of his death was the “vexation” - as they called it - that the affair had given him.

As regards his Main Street house, the town Major had allowed Domingo and Paul to hang on to the place throughout the siege on the condition that they would look after it properly - which they did. They even managed to make some extra money by converting it into a lodging house and renting it out to Genoese workers employed by the military authorities. When the Siege ended the Genoese were unceremoniously evicted and the house was used as officers’ quarters. 

By 1728 the new Governor Jasper Clayton decided it was time to intervene in order to increase his personal income. He confiscated the property making it his own and then sold it for 30 pistoles - illegally - to a local resident called Lawrence Van Ness. 

Several years later a new Governor - General Humphrey Bland (20) - set up a Court of Enquiry to investigate the legality or otherwise of land titles on the Rock. Juana Van Ness, daughter of Lawrence Van Ness, duly claimed that she was now the legal owner of Moreno’s house.  The court agreed with her and a counter-claim made by Juan Ambrosio’s children was rejected out of hand.

Governor Humphrey Bland

Meanwhile some thirty years after she had left the Rock on her husband’s instructions Moreno’s widow remarried somebody called Caesar and returned to Gibraltar. 


(1) 30th Cambridgeshire Regiment of Foot - Heritage Journal No 14

(2) As far as I can make out during their first decades of ownership the British simply used as barracks whatever building they considered suitably. I doubt whether any proper barracks until South Barracks was built in the 1730s by the then chief military engineer James Gabriel Montressor. (See LINK

The building on the right was known in British Gibraltar as the Spanish Pavilion - Prior to 1704 it had been used as a barracks by the Spaniards. It no longer exists    (1950s )

(3) Main Street    (See LINK)

(4) I am not entirely sure whether the The Bull and Dog was a tavern - but it sounds like it. It was on the west side of Main Street and in 1725 it was owned by Joseph Roberts - whoever he might have been.

Minutes of Humphrey Bland’s Court of Enquiry  (1749 )

(5) Juan Ambrosio’s brother Francisco Moreno is included in a list of some 40 Genoese immigrants who were granted permission to buy property in Gibraltar between 1705 and 1723. However . . .  the surname Moreno couldn’t be more Spanish. On the whole I think the evidence is that Juan Ambrosio Moreno was a Spaniard.  

(6) Identified as described in the court of Enquiry of 1749.

(7) Thomas Cockayne - the first of a long line of “Colonial Secretaries” of Gibraltar spent some time in the Tower of London after being accused of making a false statement. He had declared that a cargo of hides imported from England had been in bond for over six months and was therefore exempt from duty – ‘to the loss of her Majesty’s revenue.’ As usually happened with this kind of thing his friends in London managed to get the thing deferred for another day. He returned as if nothing had happened and ended up owning quite a few properties on the Rock.

Cockayne incidentally was a mason - which may have been mutually convenient as regards his co-brethren.  In 1749 he was still at it claiming no less than five storehouses and a small adjoining building all on the Esplanade which may have been within the area now known as the Casemates. He had built the complex in 1720 together with a certain Sam Levy Bensusan but had since bought him out. The Board tamely gave in and let him have them.

Storehouses and adjoining building on the Esplanade which may have once been owned by Thomas Cockayne   ( 1750s - James Montressor ) (See LINK)

(8) Thomas Stanwix was Governor for about a month in 1713 - but - as mentioned in my article - was left in charge when Portmore took over in 1713. Less than one year after his appointment and for doing precisely nothing Portmore was awarded a royal bounty worth £1000 for the ‘’extraordinary charges’ he had made during his trip to Gibraltar.

This business of having absentee Governors - and there were quite a few down the years - sometimes makes it difficult to figure out which lieutenant Governor was actually in command in Gibraltar at any given moment. Mainline Histories of the Rock are rarely in agreement. To quote historian William Jackson - a Governor of Gibraltar himself:

Many of the lists of Gibraltar’s Governor’s, including that in the Convent (see LINK) dining hall tend not to distinguish between governors, lieutenant governors and commanders. In Portmore’s case, Jackson tells us that he was appointed in 1713 but gives no date as to when he ended his tenure. My guess is that it would have been when he died in 1730 with Joseph Sabine taking over - or could it have been Lieutenant-Governor Francis Columbine . . . ?

(9) John Macky, a spy of the early 18th century, wrote a biography in which he included many of the people he had once spied upon. In it he mentions Portmore’s wife Catherine Sedley who had once been the mistress of James II. 

Catherine was considered one of the ugliest women of the era – she was very thin, too old when she married and she had a squint. But she was also one of the wittiest. Commenting on her relationship with the King she once said that she couldn’t understand what he saw in her. It couldn’t have been her beauty because she didn’t have any and it couldn’t have been her wit for he had ‘not enough to know’.

When she met two other mistresses of various past King’s of England during the coronation of George I in Westminster Abbey she is reputed to have accosted them in a voice loud enough to have resonated throughout the church.

 ‘Who would have thought’, she cried, ‘that we three whores should have met here?’

Perhaps a more realistic portrait of Catherine Sedley?

(10) Illegal immigration was the norm rather than the exception during the 18th and 19th century. Apparently notices concerning orders and requirements issuing forth from the British authorities were written in both Spanish and Genoese as well as English and posted here and there. The residents had a nasty habit of tearing them down.


Rough plan of the principle town areas in 1727

(12)  Simeon’s Lane must have been one that that either crossed or gave out on to Main Street. No street by that name exists today - but it did in the 1720s. 

(13) The Treaty of Utrecht (See LINK)

(14) Gibraltar was often referred to by Spaniards as “La Plaza” - a term which gradually fell out of use possibly before the beginning of the 19th century.

(15) Puerta de Tierra (See LINK

(16) “Los arenales blanco” - the white sands - was the name given to the isthmus that joined the Rock to main-land Spain so called to distinguish it from the Red Sands found in the south and indeed the town itself.

(17) There was a certain irony in Kane’s eventual expulsion of the Spanish population as he is also said to have recommended the setting up of a civil government for the Rock, one of the first and for over a hundred years the only military man to think in these terms. No doubt he was influenced by his successes in reforming the legal system and imposing a new constitution on Minorca in the teeth of local Roman Catholic opposition. His recommendations, in so far as Gibraltar was concerned, were never put into practice.

Kane belonged to that species of Governor of Gibraltar whom most commentators remember as decent colonial administrators devoted to the people in their care. These writers were as usual invariably English and their viewpoint might not always have coincided with that of the local population. Kane’s undoubted administrative successes in Minorca for example, depended to a large extent on his moving the capital town from Ciudadela to Mahon, a thoroughly unpopular move with the local population. As regards his thoughts on the civilian population of Gibraltar he is quoted as having said that:
. . .the greater number of British Protestants shall be here and the fewer foreign papists, the greatest security it would be for the garrison and the greater would be the traffic for British goods.
They were thoughts that cannot have endeared him to non-British civilians. He was also very aware of the contradiction between the provisions of the Treat of Utrecht which forbad Jews residence in Gibraltar and those of the later treaty with Morocco which allowed it. He wrote about his anxieties several times to his bosses in London who wrote back telling him that although the situation was ‘not strictly comfortable with ye Treaty’ he should just forget about it and get on with it.

The end result was that although many of the Spaniards were thrown out, the Genoese and the Jews were allowed to remain on the Rock. And quite a few of them did so. When Clayton - who eventually took over from Kane - ordered the organization of two large working parties made up of 500 men, 200 'adult male Genoese' and 100 'male Jews' ‘volunteered’ for the job. The wealthy, anticipating discomfort, took themselves off of their own accord - the Jews to the Coast of Barbary, the Protestants to England and the rest to Lisbon and Cadiz. 

(18) Included in a list of about 40 families who are reputed to have opted to stay on in Gibraltar the Anglo-Dutch assault.

(19) Don Alonzo de la Capela (See LINK)

(20) General Humphrey Bland (See LINK)