The People of Gibraltar
2019 - Patios of Lynch's and Turnbull's Lane - Gibraltar

Patio de Afuera del Medio y de Adentro
Patio de los Gatos - Patio Fortunato
Patio de la Loca - Patio del Pozo

Patio de Afuera del Medio y de Adentro

These three Gibraltar patios formed part of a series of buildings in Lynch’s Lane, a narrow alleyway that is part of a four street junction made up of Crutchett’s Ramp, Cooperage Lane and Main Street, an area that was once known as Cuatro Cantos. The lane took its name from an Irish Catholic merchant called Peter Lynch, who was also the Danish consul in Gibraltar during the mid 18th century. 

Cuatro Cantos from Main Street on the Cooperage Lane side, Crutchett’s Ramp turning the corner to the left with Lynch’s Lane leading away in the center - The shop on the left was owned by Andre de Torres, the father of a good school friend of mine   ( Mid 20th century- G. Felipes)

The old Spanish name for Lynch’s Lane - including Castle Ramp - was the somewhat unimaginative “Calle que sube al Castillo”. Post 1704, however, our ancestors decided to improve on that and added yet another layer of history to this somewhat small section of the known world.  They called it “el Jardin de Glin” a reference to a garden that lay to the east of an upper section of the Lane. 

To complicate matters, there were in fact two gardens facing the southern wall - as confirmed by Dr John Hennen - one time Medical Superintendent to the Garrison. In his Sketches of the Medical Topography of the Mediterranean which was published posthumously in 1830 he wrote:
. . . . a small garden . . . about the centre of the town . . . attached to the quarter of the Chief Engineer, and close to it, another belonging to Mr. Glynn, an inhabitant . . . 
A curious bit of research carried out by Alex Panayotti, also revealed that Charles Glynn was:
. . . a prosperous merchant who lived at 1 Turnbull's Lane . . . at the entrance to what is now Lynch's Lane.  Charles Glynn was one of the subscribers to the Exchange Building in 1817, and acquired fame by suing the Lt-Governor Sir William Houston for false imprisonment in 1839 - winning a landmark case and large damages. Peter Lynch . . . . most likely a business partner of Charles Glynn, lived at the same house, 1 Turnbull's Lane. Lynch's Lane first appears in the 1868 census . . . it must have been formed in what had been the garden to 1 Turnbull's Lane.
Ten years after Lynch’s Lane made its first appearance, a new census confirmed that the name was probably here to stay - although Gibraltar being Gibraltar one has to add the caveat - “but not quite”. In 1891 the Lane was divided into two separate sections and partly renamed.

The house numbering during the 19th century was - at least to me - incomprehensible, but it seems that those with lower numbers such as 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7 - presumably the ones nearest Main Street, retained the Lynch’s Lane name, whereas those with higher numbers - 15, 16, and 17 - were now found in what must have been the upper stepped portion of the lane which had now been renamed Lynch’s Ramp.

In 1911, house No 1 was inexplicably added to the Ramp addresses although thankfully  three years later Lynch’s Ramp disappears from the records. The name of the lane from Main Street right up to the end of its cul-de-sac was now and has so remained - Lynch’s Lane.

Nevertheless it is pretty obvious that despite the change of name, this was a solidly working class area in which a very large proportion of the residents were coalheavers, (see LINK) labourers, servants, seamen or others involved in the tobacco processing as choppers, cutters, cleaners and pressers. 

The tobacco industry was huge in the 19th century and the number of people employed was out of all proportion to a town the size of Gibraltar. The reason, of course, was that most of the stuff was being smuggled into Spain. No smugglers in Lynch's Lane - these were mostly Spaniards from the Campo area - and certainly none of the local merchants who were making huge fortunes out of the "trade". (See LINK)

Some of these very badly paid gentlemen could very well have been residents in Lynch’s Lane    (1915 )

Improvements in living standards throughout the 1930s and then after WW II will no doubt have changed the overall class spectrum of the residents of Lynch’s Lane’s - including those who lived in its patios - but  I suspect that it may have retained at least some of its working class credentials right through into  the 1950s and perhaps beyond.

During the mid 20th century and for non-residents - Lynch’s Lane's main claim to fame was a small restaurant known as Smokey Joe (see LINK) which catered indiscriminately for the needs of locals, members of the Garrison, Spanish workers, Liberty Men - as well as the odd multimillionaire yachtsman - In other words it was something of an institution. It was managed with consumate skill by Manolo Martinez.

A Smokey Joe-less Lynch’s Lane in the 1920s and more or less the same view in 21st Century

The entrance to Smokey Joe was almost opposite the two sailors if a bit closer to the camera. It was guarded by saloon doors. In those days the entrances to quite a few cabarets in Gibraltar consisted of these “cowboy doors” - as they were often referred to by the locals.

The junction just past Smokey Joe turned into Turnbull’s Lane.  In the mid 20th century this corner was a favourite resting spot for Tobaila, at the time Gibraltar’s one and only tramp. (See LINK) Nearby was a pump where water for drinking and washing was made available to residents every couple of days
Turnbull’s Lane taken from Lynch’s Lane  - The Rialto Cinema was the very last doorway on the left hand side of the lane     (Undated - Acknowledgements to Eliott Cocklen)

The patios in Lynch’s Lane were probably known generically as just that. The folk who lived in them, however, considered them as three separate if adjoining buildings which they distinguished by naming them as el Patio de Afuera - which was the one nearest Main Street - el Patio de Adentro, the one furthest away, and el Patio del Medio - the one in-between.

Section from a modern plan of Gibraltar centred on Lynch’s Lane and the adapted to identify the various patios discussed in this essay - The entire area has changed considerably since the early post war years                    ( 2019 - Google Maps )

There were separate entrances to each of the Patios. One of them - the last one - had an archway which is probably still standing. The flats consisted mainly of a couple of rooms and a kitchen - all of them kept immaculately clean by the tenants, as were the corridors. None had toilets or bathrooms which meant everyone had to make do with zinc baths and the use of communal toilets on each floor. All the patios had terraces or “azoteas” and washrooms. Rainwater was collected in underground reservoirs which were checked and cleaned more or less every five years by the tenants. 

All in all these were the days in which neighbours tended toward true neighbourliness creating what was essentially a safe environment in which children were able to enjoy the pleasures of outdoor activities without their parents having to worry too much about them.

Overcrowding was, of course, a problem to a certain degree - not just in Lynch’s Lane but just about everywhere in Gibraltar. During the aftermath of WW II and subsequent return of Gibraltarian evacuees, the Ministry of Defence - or the MOD as it was known locally - ended up owning perhaps two thirds of the entire habitable area of the Rock. It meant that living accommodation in Gibraltar after the War was at a premium - and it probably still is. 

What some Gibraltarians thought of the Ministry of Defence and its all powerful PSA - the Property Services Agency in Gibraltar       
( 1977 - with acknowledgements to Leo Rodriquez ) 

Patio de los Gatos

The patio complex also boasted another small section known as el Patio de los Gatos. This was a small, narrow space that existed between the end building - el Patio de Adentro - and the face of the Rock. It was known as el Patio De Los Gatos, because of the number of feral cats that visited it periodically. 

The cats normally roamed “el Jardin de Glin” - the wooded area behind the patios - and gathered every so often in this particular space. Every so often the people from “la Sanidad” - the council’s Public Health Department (see LINK) - would set traps in an attempt to control the problem - which it did up to a point although fewer cats, more rats - and as would have been the case for most of us, the tenants much preferred the cats.

The cat patio, incidentally, was also made use of by humans. It was used by ground floor tenants to wash and hang up their laundry to dry - as they did on most of the other open air corridors around the blocks. The rest of the tenants - from the first floor upwards - made use of the “azoteas”.

In those long gone days - although it probably still hasn’t changed as much as it should have - it was the women who did most if not all the domestic chores. Washing was done manually with large blocks of soaps known locally as “jabon azul” which must have played havoc with many a user’s hands. 

My own mother (see LINK) eventually had to stop doing this chore and was forced to employ a lady from La LĂ­nea to do it for her. Jabon Azul was also used “para fregar de rodilla los suelos” which didn’t do much for anybody’s knees either. A lack of running water also meant extra trips to the pumps on washing days. Nevertheless, for most women it was well worth the trouble - nothing quite like showing off scrupulously clean floors and laundry.

Patio Fortunato

There was also another Patio in Lynch’s Lane known as Patio Fortunato. The main entrance was in Turnbull’s Lane but the Patio spread itself right across the block to Lynch’s Lane as well. I don’t really know too much about it other than that its name was a corruption of its real one  - a classic case of the Llanito version (see LINK) always opting for the most common to the detriment of the obscure. It should have been called Patio Portunato, the name of its original owner or resident family, an unusual name in Gibraltar at the time and probably still unusual today. Fortunato, on the other hand is still as common as is the east wind on the Rock.

Cloud formed by the east wind or “el levante” over the Rock   (1944)

Patio de la Loca - Patio del Pozo