The People of Gibraltar
1861 - Benjamin Browning - Part 6 - Gibraltar 

Browning’s album contains nine photographs of Gibraltar - all of them dated 1861, eight initialled BB, one of them B Browning. My guess is that all of them were the work of Benjamin Browning Jnr and that they were taken in 1861 during a visit to the Rock on HMS Cockatrice in which he was employed by the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon.

Artillery Quarters Europa - and a crop of the photograph

The choice of venue is odd - it is hardly one of the most picturesque on the Rock. The cliff above the quarters is part of a plateau known as Windmill Hill on which a signal station usually visible on the top right hand side of the cliff had not yet been built. 

Neither had a tunnel which was excavated behind the quarters and lead to Little Bay on the western side of the Rock. To the right and not shown, were the Brewery Barracks - named after an initiative instigated by the Duke of York in the very early 19th century when he was Governor of Gibraltar. It had been built in order “to secure a supply of wholesome beer for the troops”. It didn’t last too long and was soon converted into a barracks. The historically important Nun’s Well which still exists and possibly dates back to the Moorish era, stood right next to it. 

The Wellington Memorial in the Alameda Gardens

One of two memorial columns with busts on them in the Alameda Gardens the other honouring General Augustus Eliott, Governor and hero of the Great Siege. On the photograph the fellow on the left with the uniform is probably a postman.

It is an unusual perspective in that the Wellington memorial is invariable photographed from the side. The memorial itself is also odd in that Wellington had very little to do with Gibraltar.  The bust was designed by Richard Westmacott and ordered to be placed in a prominent position in the gardens by the early 19th century Governor - General Don.

It was made from melted down bronze from guns captured by the Duke and the finished article was placed on top of marble pillar from Lepida. Not cheap. With his usual parsimony however, Don made sure that it would not be his department that would bear the costs - he simply withheld one day's pay from each and every member of the garrison. 

The classical side view of the Wellington Memorial and two crops from the same photograph

The fellow on the right with the white coat is Benjamin Browning junior. It is the only Gibraltar photograph in which anybody from the family is depicted.

The Eliott memorial

This one is possibly the least exciting of the Gibraltar set. The view is unimaginative and the composition is poor. Adding insult to injury poor Eliott had his name misspelt.

A view of the South Mole and Rosia harbour looking north

This proved to be a classic view which would be endlessly copied and used as postcard fodder over many decades. The wall at the top of the cliff on the right encloses a large uninhabited area known as the Devil’s Bowling Green. The entire cliff was destroyed when it was used as a quarry for the stones needed during the massive harbour improvements carried out during the late 19th and early 20th century.

The end result was the disappearance of both “Bowling Green” and cliff and the formation of a small beach at the bottom. It was official known as Little Bay and locally as “el Kwari” for obvious reasons.

An insignificant looking South Mole on the distant left hand side on the photograph would eventfully be considerably extended with stones obtained from this area. The blurred white building in the middle is a battery known as Parson’s Lodge which overlooked Rosia Bay, Once upon a very long time ago it was Gibraltar’s only deep water harbour.

Martelli’s Horse

Having chanced upon the top photo first I speculated that this was a military horse, perhaps owned by a member of the Garrison - or even by the Governor at the time William Codrington. Having later come across the bottom one led to a change of heart. No bingo moment however, as I cannot find any Martellis registered in any Gibraltar census taken during the 19th century.

Another classic view which would be repeated ad nauseum for at least a century. 

The buildings in the center of the photo were known collectively as the
Governor’s Cottage. They were built in the very early 1800s for Governor Charles O’Hara ostensibly as a summer residence. It has been suggested that the real reason was so that the Governor - the “Cock of the Rock” might keep his various mistresses apart.

In 1861 the light house was exactly 20 years old and on the whole there is very little difference between this view and many others taken right up to the late 19th - except as mentioned for the very first photo shown above, the signal station is absent from the top of the cliffs of Windmill Hill as it had yet to be built.

The Sand Pits - and various crops

This one is undoubtedly the most striking and important of the entire Gibraltar set. The main photo looks south towards various historically interesting buildings.

The first crop shows South Chapel under scaffolding and without its roof. It would eventually become the Protestant church of the district as well as a Protestant school.

The second crop shows St Joseph’s Church. It was built by a very well-off Maltese merchant The date given for its construction is usually 1863. The photo suggests that its outer walls were completed perhaps just over a year before the church itself was ready to be consecrated and used. As can be deduced from the crop, the belfry was probably minus its bells at the time.

To the right and south of the church are the North and South Officers’ Pavilions standing in front of South Barracks, the entire complex having been built during the early 1700s by the then Chief Engineer, James Montressor. South Barracks itself lies to the east of the Pavilions and lies hidden on the other side of the church. The path leading up to the church was and still is Witham’s Road.

Almost the entire area on the third crop was known as Witham’s gardens with Witham’s cemetery in the middle of it. Witham was a Captain of the Royal Artillery during the Great Siege and is best remembered as an officer who tended to “made things very lively”. The inhabitants apparently all left town when they got to know that he would be in charge of the batteries. As a reward for his services, the authorities granted him a pension which was derived from the area covered by the third crop. Later, a mental hospital - the “lunatic asylum” - and a school building known as Plata Villa, were built within this area.

During the 18th century this area was reserved as a place to hang people - a few dacdes into the future and the place was used for clay court tennis. As far as I know the Sandpits Lawn Tennis Club still exists at the time of writing.   

Generally, there is no doubt that the choice of subject matter of these 1861 photographs is both eclectic and odd - but they are worth taking a closer look at - if only because of their age.