The People of Gibraltar
1462 - Gibraltar - The Spanish Fortress - Part 6
Other Developments


In parallel with the improvements on the Muralla de San Bernardo, the medieval Puerta de Tierra was replaced by the Puerta de España - also in accordance with modern criteria. Just in front of the gate and the wall a moat was dug out from the rocky ground. Although this moat is attributed to Bravo de Acuña by Montero it certainly must have taken quite a few years to construct as confirmed by Captain Messia Bocanegra in 1618. 
It would be useful from a defence point of view and important for the town if the moat that is being built by la Puerta de Tierra were finished
This means that the use of mining - as technique much used in medieval construction was avoided as were the attendant risks. Excavating mines reached an important state of development during the 16th century. It was dangerous work to risk the terrible effects of exploding barrels of gunpowder placed inside or dug under galleries or walls.

Later during the 17th century Bravo de Acuña ordered the counterscarp of the moat to be converted into a glacis which added to the difficulty of descending into the moat with the intention of scaling the walls of San Bernardo. It also removed the possibility of an attacker arriving from the isthmus finding any protection.

The moat with its maximum width of 17 meters was capable of being inundated. It could be crossed via a portcullis which could be reached through an anteport reinforced by a palisade. It is curious to note that as with the Baluarte de San Pablo this section of the northern defences of the town has remained faithful to the original Spanish design of the era we are studying.

The pedestrian bridge still occupies the same space as the original and the palisade is today used as a barrier to vehicles. The moat has remained unchanged for four centuries other than to harbour weeds and old huts until its recent clean up. The angled passageway of the Puerta de Tierra - as it is now once again known - is the same as the one improved upon by by Bravo de Acuña from that built by Calvi.

The land in front of the Puerta de Tierra is a glacis which extends from the sea shore to the side of the Rock. It was defended by a pathway of the same width that extended from the foot of wall of San Juan to the sea.

In the interior of the Muralla de San Bernardo is the Barcina which was once the residential area of the local bourgeoisie - in contrast with the poorer conditions suffered by the inhabitants of la Turba.   La Barcina had wide streets and its houses enjoyed gardens while some Moorish style houses with towers still survive. It is supposed that these were used by the Moors in their prayers to Mohamed. 


La Barcina occupied the area which is today the Grand Casemates.

The atarazanas were still there - now stranded from the sea they must have served some other purpose. The following was written in 1587
In front of the gate known as of the sea there is a taraçana (sic) which is useless because so much needs to be done to it. It would still be serviceable if it were not that it leaks when it rains which make the wood inside of it rot. It is well constructed and can withstand having a roof built on it which would therefore remedy the problem of leaking.  It would be useful as another place to store sails and other equipment used by the galleys. It would be an easy job and could be done using the slaves.
Atarazana translates into English as a dockyard. The word is used by just about everybody in indiscriminately in both singular and plural - atarazana or atarazanas - although the few identifiable illustrations usually depict it as a single domed building.

This part of the town suffered the devastating effects of the Spanish artillery during the successive sieges of the 18th century and much of it was destroyed. To the north of the Barcina military barracks were built in 1817 part of it on top of the atarazanas. It still exists and is known as Casemates Barracks.


Casemates Barracks on the left         (1875 - J.H. Mann)

Another improved that was developed during the 17th century is the reconstruction of a wall that ran across a cliff from the Calahora to the Salto del Lobo. The name persists today as the Woolf’s Jump (sic) where the British constructed Queen Charlotte’s Battery.





Plan of Gibraltar  showing the “Woolf’s Jump” (sic)     (1874 - Engraved by G Muller - detail)

“Woolf’s Jump” is a wrongly spelt translation of the Spanish “Salto del Lobo”. It was usually refered to by the British as the Wolf leap - well-known because Willis’s Battery was constructed on the flat plateaux above the precipice. According to an early 19th century travel guide:
Here the feu d’artifice on the Queen’s birthday begins. The effect is very striking.

Queen Charlotte’s Battery     (21st century)


The Fortifications of Gibraltar      (1859 - Detail)

As shown on the plan above Queen Charlottes’s Battery  is actually on the southern end of the Wolf’s Leap, whereas Willis’s takes pride of place at the very top.

This proposal from the mayor Álvaro de Bazán intended to stop any possible access from the north to the western side of the Rock that might serve to attack the Castle or - even worse - to infiltrate the town via its unprotected eastern flank once it had neutralised the great tower. Presumably the work was not carried out during his mandate as according to José Carlos Luna Sanchez in his Historia de Gibraltar:
The just demands of the city were not attended nor were proposals put forward by its mayor.
The wall could possibly have been of medieval origin and part of the defensive complex which Abu-l-Hasan carried out in Gibraltar. La Calahorra is its most conspicuous element and the wall may have been a fundamental complement to the tower, given what happened during the Siege against the Moorish holders by Alonso XI during the 5th siege.


Perhaps one of the oldest extant plans of Gibraltar and its isthmus - It one of the very few which identify the tower above the Calahorra known as la Torre de Don Alonso

This defensive element is also possibly identified by various 16th century sources as the wall of the “Ajarquia”. It appears in a particular statement in a document of the Council of War dated 1597:
 . . .  foundations required for the wall known as el Ajarquia which should join with the wall of the Salto del Lobo.
These foundations referred to a wall that was practically in ruins at the start of the 17th century and was by now known as San Ignacio, as described by Luis Bravo de Acuña in 1627.
At a place with a broken boulder which is found near a tall tower the redoubt of San Luis and the wall of St Joseph have been constructed. On the rock that traverses the Reducto de San Ioaquin and the Muralla de San Ignacio eighty large rocks commonly known as “galgas” which can be toppled over down the mountain by one man and which would ruin and destroy anything in its path. 
In other words the space immediately to the north of the Calahorra and its zigzag wall with its Puerta de Granada which existed until sometime between the 16th and 17th century was the “Ajarquia” or “Axarquia” as it is still known in other places in Andalucia. During the early years of the 18th century it was identified in French and Dutch maps and British documents as  “Larquia” 


Detail of a general plan of Gibraltar which identifies L’Arquia indirectly - The caption for H is “The Breaches in the line from L’Arquia upwards “      (1704 - Colonel D’Harcourt )


Detail of a similar map identifies L’Arquia as a wall connecting la Muralla de San Juan with that of the Castle just below la Puerta de Granada    (1727 - BS Von Shutz)

The medieval wall that served as a defence to the Puerta de Granada which ran along the top of the cliff which flanked the Puerta de Tierra was known in the 17th century as the Muralla de San Juan. It was reconstructed and access was made more difficult by having two palisades at the foot of the Reducto de San Juan and a cornered, camouflaged gate on the northern. Later a fortified enclave known as la Torre Redonda or el Pastel was built here. 


French Plan of the northern defences - La Torre Redonda or el Pastel appears on the middle left   (1709 - Nicolas de Fer)

It became the most prominent of all the external northern defences. It was constructed by the engineer Diego Luis in 1703. The rest of this fortification was more discretely camouflaged and protected by the cliff behind it. During the siege of 1704-1705 it became the target of the Spanish artillery. Because of this there is some discrepancy as regards the date on which it was destroyed although the reconstruction of the defences of this area in 1720 by British engineers might offer a clue. 


Known as the Round Tower by the English, El Pastel came under attack by French Grenadiers during the Great Siege      (Unknown)


Plan of the North Front of Gibraltar ( 1756)

The above plan suggests el Pastel no longer existed and that la Muralla de San Juan had been replaced by the King’s Lines on the southern end and the Queen’s on the northern. The plan was ordered by Baron Tyrawley , Governor of Gibraltar during the mid 18th century  who was both keen on defence and ready to spend enormous sums of other people's money on fortifications and other more exotic constructions. 


Baron Tyrawley on the right, unknown in the middle and John, 2nd Duke of Montagu on the left - Montagu Bastion may have been named after him - but I don’t know why  

Despite his grandiose building schemes during Tyrawley’s term in office I can’t really tell from the map which bits were built during his tenure. 

The following is a quote from a letter he sent to Charles James Fox, Secretary of State for foreign Affairs.

You will find I am not so thoroughly satisfied that Gibraltar is so formidable a place as the common cry thinks it ; but that it would want money, time, and ability in the distribution of both to make it so. That Gibraltar is the strongest town in the world, that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen, and that London-bridge is one of the seven wonders in the world, are the natural prejudices of an English coffee-house politician.   
I am doing some little matters here that I think add to the strength of it ; but much more ought to be done that I cannot take upon myself to work upon without orders. I really grow tolerably weary of Gibraltar, which is in all respects upon the most scandalous foot that ever town was, that pretends to call itself “une place de guerre;” though so exactly consistent with our notions of this sort of things, that I assure myself it will never take any other form. 
Curiously, Tyrawley’s son Charles O’Hara - the appropriately nicknamed “Cock of the Rock” - was also appointed Governor in the very late 18th century. 


General Charles O'Hara'     (Christopher Bryant)

Ironically O’Hara  was responsible for ordering the building on the highest part of the Rock of what must go down as the most useless defensive construction ever built in Gibraltar - O’Hara’s Tower. It was known as O’Hara’s Folly.


(1844 - George Lothian Hall) 


It was supposed to act as a watch tower to spy on naval activity in Cadiz. O’Hara failed to take into account the intervening mountains.

Nevertheless Italian engineers employed by Madrid had already long made their various proposals - Antonelli in particular, was in favour of fortifying the area where the British would eventually construct Willis’s Battery, later known as Queen’s Battery:

On the heights of the second cliffs there is a plateau which would be able to any enemy settled in Eastern Beach and la Torre de los Diablos. In this place you can see everything and on it is possible to create an area where a large number of artillery pieces might be set up. All that is required is a parapet of about 4 or 5 feet in height as the rock is broken up and the enemy would have nowhere to hide other than beneath our artillery. 


Willis’s Battery . . . “a plateau which would be able to any enemy settled in Eastern Beach and la Torre de los Diablos”    (1820s - Thomas Staunton St Clair)


Plan showing the Queens, Princess Anne’s Princes Emilia’s (Amelia’s) and Princess Caroline’s batteries    (1732 - Jonas Moore for the Governor Joseph Sabine)

The name of Willis’s Battery - named after Marine lieutenant Thomas Willis who installed its first guns in 1704 - has continued into the present causing havoc in the use of apostrophes ever since. Willis’s Road is Gibraltar’s main north eastern road.

The imprecise location of the albacar of the town which is mentioned in many documents from the 16th century onwards might coincide with an unpopulated area within the walls of the Castle precinct or Alcazaba which Hernández del Portillo describes as:
. . . fruit trees, vines and vegetable gardens, and woods with rabbits and perhaps deer and other animals . . .

Plan showing “an unpopulated area within la alcazabar” - a possible site of the old albacar of the town   (1620s - Luis Bravo de Acuña - detail)

The fact that houses are identified within the albacar of Gibraltar during the 16th century seems to confirm this hypothesis. Certain commentators have located it towards the north of the town between the walls of la alcazaba and la Muralla de Sant Joseph. The improbable existence of this later wall during the medieval area and the acute slope within this terrain make this a rather dubious assumption - although we know that Alonso Hernández del Portillo was a councillor for a neighbourhood of the albacar.
A el Jurado Alonso Hernández del Portillo con la gente de su Collación que era los de vecinos de la Barcina, Albacar y Villa Vieja, el Baluarte del Canuto, dicho ahora de San Sebastián y Puerta de Mar y de Tierra
“Albacar” is yet another name for what is referred to elsewhere as the Alcazabar, Qasbah, Quasbah, Castle precinct and so forth.  According to the Spanish Arabist Mikel de Espalza Ferrer “Albacares” were walled areas forming part of Moorish fortresses such as the one in Gibraltar. They were not primarily meant to have a defensive role and were often used to keep cattle. 
. . . es  una  parte  amplia  de  una  fortaleza,  dentro  del recinto amurallado, pero sin ninguna construcción de tipo militar o civil. . . . la función del albacar en las fortalezas musulmanas  es fundamentalmente  alimenticia  y  ganadera: es  el  sitio  donde los  habitantes  del  castillo-fortaleza-población  guardan  sus  reses.
Nevertheless it is by no means certain that the Albacar in Gibraltar was in fact inside the Castle walls.


OTHER LINKS