The People of Gibraltar
2019 - Castle Steps Patios and Beyond - Gibraltar

Patio Bosco - Patio Fromów - Patio Barredores  
Patio Ondo - Patio Policia - Patio Schott

In a pamphlet on place names in Gibraltar published in the 1950s Dorothy Ellicott wrote:
Below the Moorish Castle we have Castle Road, Lower Castle Road, Castle Steps and Castle Street, which is not a street at all but steps! Woe betides the new arrival who tries to find an address with Castle in it!
Yes indeed! And not just new arrivals - I lived on the Rock for quite a few years as a young man and I can’t remember ever having set foot on too many of the above - and none of them from start to finish.

Quite embarrassing as a quick search through modern maps of the town reveals an even longer list of passageways in Gibraltar which include the word Castle. Apart from the ones mentioned by Ms Ellicott some of these also identify Castle Ramp, Castle Tank Ramp - now Tank Ramp, Castle Gully, Upper Castle Gully and Upper Castle Gully Steps. Let me try to take them one by one.

Castle Street

Just when I was getting to grips with the names of all our Castle pathways I discovered that although I can trace the name of Castle Street right back to 1749, the name disappears in 1777 and is replaced by Castle Lane. Luckily it did not catch on and by the early 19th century we are back to Castle Street

Reference to a house in the upper end of Castle Street - probably at the junction with Castle Ramp    (1749 - Bland’s Court of Enquiry)

Reference to Castle Lane - Henry Cowper was the fellow responsible for the Theatre that led us to name the Lane “Calle Comedia” (1777 - List of Inhabitants)

Castle Street begins at the north-eastern corner of Cornwall’s Parade and continues due east until it reaches a first junction with Castle Ramp. The view up the steps from Cornwall’s Parade has always been a favourite for photographers from the late 19th century onwards. 

Early 20th century photos of Castle Street from Cornwall’s Parade

Street sign identifying Castle Street - with Castle Ramp leading off towards the north and the Road to the Lines

Castle Street was probably stepped during the 19th century and appears on some modern maps as Castle Steps thereby giving the entire series of steps from Cornwall’s Parade to Willis’s Road a single name.

1833 - A “stepless” Castle Street in the early 18th century - The artist’s view was from a barrack’s window just opposite in Bell Lane    (1833 - Frederick Leeds Edridge)

There are several different version of Castle Street’s original Spanish name:  "Calle de la Cuesta" and "Calle Alta" but I have a feeling that both actually refer to the old Spanish name for Castle Road, a completely different pathway to Castle Street. 

Post 1704 the colloquial name of “Calle Comedia” first appears in 1890 in a list compiled by Rodolfo Bandury - then Deputy Librarian of the Garrison Library. The name comes from a “fives” court that existed there in the 18th century and which was later used as a theatre in which members of the Garrison put on amateur productions. At the time the word "comedia" referred to any theatrical production and not to a "comedy" as such. The theatre was owned by a local Goldsmith called Henry Cowper.

In the 1770s, it was still going strong. Productions which would be considered nowadays to be rather politically incorrect were commonplace. Works such as "High Life Below Stairs" , a farce by James Townley which includes dialogue such as  - ‘I would have forty servants if my house would hold them" and "why, man, in Jamaica, before I was ten years old I had a hundred blacks kissing my feet every day" - were very popular.’ 

A visitor to Gibraltar at the time saw ‘Miss in her Teens’ written by David Garrick.  Both plays, ‘were extremely well performed; the actors were military gentlemen and actresses are so by profession.’ One of them was probably a girl called Jane McKenzie. She was 39 years old and listed on the 1777 census as one of Mr. Cowper’s servants. 

Several other single English girls are also listed as living in his various addresses. Their professions are given as ‘maidservants’. No names are given of the families they may have worked for and the most charitable guess is that they were probably ‘actresses’. In other words Castle Street during Gibraltar’s relatively early days under the British must have been quite a busy place in more ways than one.

And after such a lengthy introduction I have to admit that I cannot come up with the name of a single patio in this street. - It's rather unfortunate as I am sure that there must have been quite a few.

Castle Ramp

The first junction towards the north from Castle Street is Castle Ramp which was also a favourite with photographers during the early 20th century.

Captioned Castle Street which is where the photo was taken - the steps leading away into the distance is a small section of Castle Ramp  (Postcard)

Similar to the one shown above this photo was bought by a visitor in 1923

Castle Ramp continues more or less northwards and upwards toward another alleyway known as The Road to the Lines which was also sometime known descriptively as Callejon sin Sol - basically it was the way to the Castle hence its Spanish name of Calle del Castillo.

Patio Ondo

Less than a few dozen steps up Castle Ramp and on its east side was Patio Ondo. It must have been quite big as it has several Castle Ramp entrances as well as one on Serfaty’s Passage a cul-de-sac to the east of Castle Ramp. Serfaty’s Passage was also known as El Callejon de Tady - in honour of a much frequented local shop. 

Plan showing Serfaty’s Passage in relation to Castle Ramp

Patio Fromów

A first junction from Castle Ramp towards the east leads to the cul-de-sac of Parody’s Passage and to Patio Fromów. There was once a plaque on the wall of this building which gave both a name - Joseph Fromów - and a date - 1898 - clues as to the person who bought the patio and when. According to a member of the Fromów family, the patio was built by Joseph Fromów and should by all accounts have been known as Patio Fromów. Gibraltar being Gibraltar, Fromów proved too awkward to pronounce and the place was invariably referred to as Patio Formón.  

Castle Steps

Shortly after the junction with Castle Ramp, Castle Street divides into Castle Steps and Hospital Ramp. Castle Steps continues it narrow and rather complex passage eastward towards Castle Road which it crosses and continues its lengthy journey right up to Willis’s Road - an epic series of steps by any standards.

Junction at the end of Castle Street with Castle Steps to the left, Hospital Ramp to the right

A view from the opposite side - Looking down from Hospital Ramp, Castle Street to the right, Castle Ramp right across to the other side and the start of Castle Steps to the right

At the junction with Castle Road there was an unusual feature known as el Caño Real - or Main Drain - at one time an important feature of the Spanish era. Over the centuries its surface had been worn smooth - much to the delight of local children who soon adopted it as an exciting slide.

El Caño Real with bridge going over it - Castle Steps

There are quite a few picturesque photos of the upper reaches of Castle Steps but I have always found it hard to tell whether the photos refer to the section below Castle Steps or that above it.

Patio Bosco 

One particularly interesting Castle Steps patio was Patio Bosco. An inhabitant whose future wife lived there at the time with her parents was - as one can well imagine - a frequent visitor. He describes it as consisting of several flats consisting of a single bedroom and a kitchen. The exceptions were a couple of flats that had an extra room.

The doorway on the left is la Tienda de Barcelo - much frequented by Patio Bosco residents as their patio is just opposite on the right.

The patio had an underground reservoir from which water was accessed by means of a hand pump. Depending on its water level, the caretaker decided how many buckets of water each family could draw. Water was also available from another source - a fountain which was known as “la fuente”

It was opened daily by a lady who was contracted to do so by the local government to look after supply and demand.  The cost was about 2 to 3p a bucket.  As was the case with many others houses in Gibraltar that lacked running water, most families in the Patio kept a large ceramic jar  - usually in the kitchen - known as a “tinaja”. It was always kept as full of water as possible and used for general home consumption. Families also used tin barrels which were filled with collected rain water or from "la fuente". It was used for laundry and house cleaning. 

Inner courtyard of Patio Bosco

As regards hanging their washing at the top level - los corredores - there wasn’t enough space for everybody so turns were taken. It so happened that during his courting days, there were only two families who owned a television of which one of them was his future in-laws Every night other less fortunate neighbours would visit them to watch their favourite programs. Toilets were at a premium - there were only four which were shared by everybody in the patio.

Two fish selling ladies taking a rest on Castle steps  . . . or so it seems - Actually they were not fish sellers - They were residents of Patio Bosco posing for an official R.N. photographer (1936 - A.W Ames, official photographer HMS Apollo during her maiden voyage)

A typical tinaja

Castle Road - Castle Upper Road

Southern section of Castle Road from Prince Edward’s Road to Willis’s Road

Northern Section of Castle Road from Castle Steps to Lower Castle Road

This was a road which I visited quite a number of times but only during week days and never during school holidays. I was, as some might guess, a Sacred Heart Grammar School boy. As I lived in Alameda House my journey was invariably via Prince Edward’s Road. Unbelievably I don’t think I ever ventured any further north than the most southern section of the Road where Prince Edward’s Road joins it.

Prominent features such as el Patio Schott - one of the largest patios in Gibraltar, the old Police Barracks and the back of the Colonial Hospital, all occupying a large expanse of the eastern side, were uncharted territory for me. As for the rest of the road leading upwards to Lower Castle Road and beyond . . . I never even knew it existed. 

Near the junction between Castle and Prince Edward’s Roads looking north - the bit I can certainly recognise

Near the junction between Castle and Prince Edward’s Roads looking south towards Lime Kiln Road on the left - The building on the right is part of el Patio Schott 

Castle Road - Back of the Colonial Hospital on the right

The Colonial Hospital from the other side

Patio Barredores

Confusingly similar names such as Patio Barredores or Basureros are also mentioned by residents or by those who remember their parents living in them. Both Barredores - or street sweepers - and Basureros - garbage collectors - were pretty common in the early 20th century. 

On the whole, however, I think that Patio Barredores is the correct name and that it referred to a building on the opposite side of the Sacred Heart Church next to the Police Barracks in Castle Road.  

After the War the Government embarked on a long overdue building programme and the road sweepers who had previously lived in this patio were able to apply for housing in the same way as everybody else. In due course the patio became vacant and was used to house police recruits.

Castle Road - Police Barracks just behind the cameraman on the right

Patio Policia

This large building occupied an area bounded by Castle Road, Hospital Hill, Police Barracks Lane and Frazer’s Ramp. It was built as a barracks for the civilian police in 1909 right next to the Patio Schott building with the “Colonial Hospital” on the other side.

Police Barracks under construction   (1909)

Looking south down Castle Road - Patio Policia on the right   (Mid 20th century)

The view of the back of Patio Policia from Fraser’s Ramp

Patio Policia from Willis’s Road looking south

The Patio was renowned for its "Verbenas" and "Fiestas en el Aire’. I remember going to a few in the 1960’s.

Fiesta en el Aire - Patio Policia   (1956 - Eric Chipulina)

Patio Schott

Although most people in Gibraltar would be hard pressed to tell you who the Schotts were, their surname has been locally immortalised by a particular set of buildings which lie along Castle Road just opposite the Church of the Sacred Heart of which one of them - Fernando Schott - was the owner. It is referred to by everybody - to this day - as El Patio Schott.

Castle Road - Patio Schott on the left 

There were in fact three separate patios. Patio Schott Nos. 1 and 2 had their entrances in Castle Road. Patio Schott No. 3 had its entrance on No 7 Johnston’s Road and was interconnected with Patio No. 2.

Showing a healthy disrespect for ant sort of consistency, Johnstons Passage has appeared in official documents, directories, street signs and lists - as well as being known to the people who actually lived there - as Johnstone's, Johnstones, Johnston's or Johnstons Passage. In the 1871 census no 10 was occupied by Moses Benzaquen. The address given was Johnson's Passage. I suspect the correct - or at any rate original name - is "Johnston's" named after a local merchant called Robert Johnston. 

So . . . . Which one?

The three Schott patios are dealt with in a separate article. (See LINKS below)

Let me end this section on an ever older historical note and offer yet another name for Castle Road. During the 16th century the soldier and historian Pedro Barrantes Maldonado wrote an account on an infamous attack on Gibraltar by Algerian pirates. In it he mentions a street which he calls Calle de la Cuesta part of which may very well have been Castle Road. 

In the 16th century the pathway would have run more or less parallel with Main Street but further up the mountain, starting at Charles V wall on the south and ending somewhere near the Gatehouse of the Moorish Castle precinct:

Los Turcos  . . . entraron por la calle principal del arrabal y fueron saqueando la calle adelante hasta llegar al monasterio de Sant Francisco, y  . . . despojaron el monasterio y pasaron adelante, unos por la Calle de la Cuesta, saqueando y robando mujeres, doncellas, niños, con todas las cosas de alhajas que pudieron llevar y venir á sus manos . . . . 

Castle Gully, Upper Castle Gully and Upper Castle Gully Steps 

All these names - including variants using “Ramp” “Lane” and so forth appear in many census addresses over the decades. None exist today and I am very unsure of the names of the pathways that replaced them. Of one thing I am almost certain - I never set foot on any of them. But then I was probably not the only one. In fact it’s good to know that some unknown architect also had problems in 1903 confusing Castle Steps with Upper Castle Gully. If somebody hadn’t corrected the address they would probably still be looking for these three Crown Properties. The mistake might be a clue, however,  as to the general area in which all of them were once found.

Crown Property house plans (1903)

2019 - Patios of Gibraltar - Introduction

2019 - Patios of Flat Bastion Road - Gibraltar
2019 - Patios of Lynch’s and Turnbull’s Lane - Gibraltar
2019 - Patio Arengo - Gibraltar
2019 - Downtown Patios - Gibraltar
2019 - Rosia Patios - Gibraltar
2019 - Patios de la Buena Vista - Gibraltar
2019 - Castle Steps Patios and Beyond - Gibraltar
2019 - Upper Town Patios - Gibraltar
2019 - Patio Schammarri - Gibraltar
2019 - The Patios of Fraser’s Ramp - Gibraltar
2019 - Other Patios - Gibraltar
2019 - Patio Schott 1 - Gibraltar
2019 - Patio Schott 2 - Gibraltar

2019 - Los Patios de Gibraltar - A Disappearing Way of Life