The People of Gibraltar
1462 - Gibraltar - The Spanish Fortress  - Part 7
The Coastal Defences


The litoral front of the Rock that faces the Bay is surrounded on the north by the walls of la Barcina and on the south right up to Europa Point by a very long wall which was built in the 14th century to protect the urban zone of la Turba. It was crenellated:
 . . .  in the old style nine feet in thickness and twenty five in height.
In other words two and a half meters thick and seven meters in height until it was completely rebuilt by Bravo de Acuña in 1627.




A view north from the New or South Mole area showing the impressive sea defences of the Line Wall after considerable extra work by the British, from Kings Bastion on the far distance to Jumpers on the right    (Mid 19th century - detail)


That same year (1627) the watch tower of the “breakwater” (Espolón) that jutted out at an angle from the south east of la Barcina flanking its Puerta de Mar was built. It was called the Torreón de San Andres. The smaller previous version which it replaced had been known as la torre de Gonzalo Garcia.


The old mole with the Torreón de San Andres at its eastern end and el Baluarte de San Pablo to its north (1627 -  Luis Bravo de Acuña)

When Alvaro de Bázan’s was in charge of the Rock the Barcina had several townhouses next to the defensive wall hence weakening it from a defensive point of view. The Mayor’s efforts at having them removed proved impossible. Andres Suazo de Sanabria, a prominent knight that had distinguished himself during the defence of the town in 1540 owned a house with a defensive tower within the Barcina despite the entire neighbourhood being walled.  It was here that many of the people fleeing the tragic event known as the Turkish Raid had taken refuge. 

The construction of the Old Mole west of the Torre de Andres had been lingering on during the 16th an 17th century. During the 16th, Spannocchi had built an artillery tower at its western end. Its purpose was to offer protection to the anchorage and to discourage any aggressor that happened to enter the Bay.

In 1609 a similar project had been suggested by Bautista Antonelli, brother of the Juan Bautista who had also visited Gibraltar 20 years previously.
. . . . I intend building a diamond shaped ending to the mole and if your Majesty agrees a platform might be constructed above it to hold four guns - two long range “Culebrinas” and two cannons.


An undated and anonymous Italian plan showing the state of affairs on the Rock just after the Anglo-Dutch assault and subsequent siege - The Old Mole shows a defensive square rather than a diamond shaped ending      (1704-1705)



Plan of the Old Mole   (1770s - William Green)

When the Anglo-Dutch siege took place in 1704 the head of the Old Mole was defended by a small fort which was later considerably enlarged by the British engineers. It is here that the Torre de San Leandro is supposed to have existed but this appears to correspond to a misinterpretation.


“Gibraltar from the anchorage in front of the Old Mole” - Small fort at the end of the Mole as rebuilt by the British   (1830s - Richard Batty)  

Fortifying the Old Mole was absolutely necessary in order to avoid a similar disaster to that experienced in 1607 by the Galleys of Juan Álvarez when he was attacked by the taller ships of Admiral Heemskerk. 


The lack of any artillery support from the land resulted in a big advantage to ships designed to navigate the Atlantic that were easily capable of defeating smaller Mediterranean ships dependent on a combination of sailing and rowing. Both admirals lost their lives in this combat. Antonelli made mention of this confrontation suggesting that an armed old mole would have proved of great advantage in this particular conflict.


Ottoman Galleys overwintering in Toulon - Admiral Álvaro de Bazán would have used the relative shelter of the breakwater in the north of Gibraltar to do likewise with his fleet  (Late 15th century - Matrakçı Nasuh)

The fortifications at the end of the Old Mole have been named as the Torre de San Leandro. It was supposed to have been blown up during the 1704 attack by the Angle-Dutch attack. It is, however, by no means certain that this is correct. Ayala mistakes it for the Torre de Tuerto which blew up during the engagement when a group of English Marines landed nearby and killed many of them. Vallés suggests that it was destroyed by enemy artillery. It has also been identified as “Fort Leandro” and as part of the Baluarte de San Pablo.




All three pictures show Anglo-Dutch troop on their way to invade the isthmus - the explosion shown in all of them at the northern end of the Rock is often said to be that of the destruction of the mysterious San Leandro but in more likely to have occurred either on or near el Baluarte de San Pablo    (Unknown)

Nevertheless it is not mentioned by Bravo de Ayala or in any of the many maps of the Franco-Hispanic sieges of 1704 - 1705 - or of any ruin structures that might fit the bill. The Ceuta historian Correa de Franca an expert in the subject does not mention it at all, nor is it ever referred to by any of the British engineers who continued fortifying the Rock from this date onwards. All of which suggests a confusion between the towers in the new and the old mole and that of San Andres.

Whether San Leandro existed or not the British took advantage of the extension of the mole in order to accommodate cannon all along its entire length. These were very active during the various duels that took place against the Spanish trenches on the isthmus. During the Great Siege it became known as la Lengua del Diablo. 


The Rock from the Devil’s Tongue (1878)

In his magnificent book, John Drinkwater, a Captain of the Royal Manchester Volunteers considered it a modern addition to 18th century artillery.

This battery has been found so great an annoyance to the besiegers, that, by the way of distinction, it has been known under the appellation of the Devil’s Tongue. 

Captain John Drinkwater Bethune       (1839 edition of the History of the Siege of Gibraltar)
               
Nevertheless Luna reproduced a map by Bravo de Acuña of the 17th century in which a “Punta del Diablo” appears.  Drinkwater also stated that the Spaniards called it the “Mouth of Fire”. 

The Drinkwater quote given above continues as follows:
Indeed, the ordnance in the lines, upon the Grand battery, and the Old mole, all together, exhibit so formidable an appearance to a spectator on the causeway, that the entrance into the garrison is called by the Spaniards, the Mouth of Fire.

French plan showing the Devil’s Tongue - the Old Mole - being put to good use during the 1727 Gunners’ War or 13th Siege of Gibraltar    (1727 - Nicolas Fer)

The only tower that defended the Old Mole was la Torre de San Andres as well as any flanking fire that might be available from the Bastions of San Pablo and Rosario. According to the technicians in 1610 the height of San Andres ought to have been increased to 40 meters. Other priorities decided upon by the Council of War, however, delayed any work in this direction and it was never put into effect during the Spanish era despite other reforms carried out at the time.

According to Bravo it was modernised but in fact what was carried out was simply a question of repairs as can be seen in a map which identified these with colours as was the norm at the time the end result being that San Andre ended up as just a modest platform. 

Nevertheless, given its position it required better conditions as a platform so that if could continue to contribute towards the defence of the Old Mole. Decades later during the British era the tower was substituted by Montagu Bastion.


Montagu Bastion executed     (William Green in 1774)


Colonel William Green and Gibraltar with its distinctive littoral Line Wall  (After George Carter)

The new British bastion built by Green over la Plataforma de San Andres may have been named after Ralph Montagu, Marquis of Monthermer although nobody seems to know why. As far as I can make out the good Marquis never set foot on the Rock.


Ralph 1st Duke of Montagu

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