The People of Gibraltar
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar – Part 2

Blackstrap Cave 
The name of the cave appears without any comment on several lists.  The name “Blackstrap”, however, appears to have been the name of both a Bay and a Cove in Gibraltar – Blackstrap Bay was once the name of the entire bay in front of Eastern Beach and appears as such on several mid-19th century maps. As for Blackstrap Cove I know exactly where this was and possibly still is as I very often swam here as a young man. It lies just to the north of Sandy Bay and may be more familiar to younger readers as Miami Beach

Plan of Gibraltar (1874 - G Muller – detail adapted)

So, what was “blackstrap”? A quick search reveals several definitions two of which are a drink consisting of rum and molasses or a common red wine of the Mediterranean.Both definitions are  often associated with the Royal Navy. During those early days when Nelson and other naval heroes of the British Empire ruled the world it was customary to keep crews happy while at sea with periodic issues of alcoholic drinks which would vary depending on availability. 

Sailors – it seems - approved of rum - whether diluted with water or beer and affectionately renamed it “grog”- a reference to the nickname of Admiral Vernon who had first introduced it and who was himself nicknamed Old Grogram. 

The men the on ships that plied the Mediterranean, however, were theoretically supposed to be issued with beer when entering the Straits of Gibraltar but were regularly given red wine instead. It was presumably easier to obtain and less expensive. It was not popular with the men who called it by the derogatory and general term for bad quality red wine – blackstrap.

They were not the only ones who drank this gut-rot – It was sold indiscriminately to soldiers and civilians in Gibraltar’s many taverns of the 18th and 19th century. Allan Andrews writing about garrison life under Eliott just after the Great Siege comes up with:
. . . they would buy blackstrap, a heavy, rough, Catalonian wine 
Captain Thomas Walsh visiting Gibraltar in 1800 was somewhat more critical:
Drunkenness is no crime in the garrison, except in those who are on duty; and every man coming off a working party is ordered to be paid eight pence on the spot, which he immediately proceeds to spend in a kind of  bad wine, called black strap.  Houses for the sale of this pernicious liquor are found at every step, and furnish no small part of the revenue.
However, the reason why Blackstrap Bay and Cove came to be associated with that of the “pernicious liquor” is less easy to explain. One theory offered by local historian Tito Vallejo is as follows.

The east coast

Surface tidal currents across the Straits of Gibraltar are invariably from east to west – a phenomenon that caused considerable problems for the Royal Navy during the days when sails were the main means of propulsion. It meant that whenever the winds were not powerful enough to counter the current while attempting to leave the Mediterranean, their warships were becalmed on the eastern side of the Rock and held up for lengthy periods of time. 

For the crews the result was a diet of heartily disliked Blackstrap for much longer than they would have desired – hence the ironic names given to those bits of the Alboran Sea where the ships 

View of the north west part of harbour - Top (1870 - Unknown) Bottom (1868 – William Burger)

Incidentally ships caught out on the west side of the Rock with the wrong wind blowing had equal difficulties and often had to wait more than a month to make their way out of the gut as shown on the photo above – the top photos shows mostly hulks and the odd merchant ship the bottom one shows numerous ships simultaneously either getting ready to leave or actually setting sail.

None of which offers a clue as to the location of the cave, although on the whole I would opt for a place close to the Cove as against the Bay. The rocky surroundings make it a much more likely terrain than that of the sandy area of eastern Beach.

But there is a second alternative. As mentioned by Francis Elizabeth Davis writing in 1841: 
And then for its localities what strange and satanic sobriquets . . . and for simply queer names there are Blackstrap Hill . . . 
The only clue as to its whereabouts is also by Ms Davis.
At the north end of the South Parade immediately above Black-Strap Hill, from which it is, or was, divided by a long strip of garden-ground, there stretches a terrace. Skirted by a low range of officers' out-quarters . . . 
In other words, I simply haven’t a clue as to where this cave is or was.

Boat Hoist Cave (Bulman's Cave)

Boat Hoist - a good example of a semi-submerged cave (Adapted from the Heritage Site nomination document)

This large sea cave with a relatively small entrance on the east side of the Rock, Boat Hoist - or Boathoist - lies to the north of Vanguard Cave. It is accessible via man-made tunnels from inside the Rock. During World War II it was intended to be used as part of an escape route for the Governor if the invasion of the Rock by the Germans – Operation Felix – had succeeded.  

Boat Hoist Cave (With thanks to Nicholas Fleming)

This cave is listed as one of many other caves such as Bennett’s, Gorham's, Vanguard Cave, Ibex Cave and other that show evidence on the presence of Neanderthal communities in Gibraltar.


Bray’s Cave
This cave which is very small can be found below St. Michael’s Road and south of the viewing platform at the northern end of Douglas Path.   Nobody as yet has been attributed as its discoverer. Excavations carried out in 2002 revealed an Iron Age burial which is unique in the region. 

Bray’s Cave, possibly taken in 2002 (Unknown – Adapted)

In 2005 the cave was considered unsafe as excavations had created several large crevices. A note in the Nature Reserve document makes the point that the cave should be made safe, the costs being borne by the Gibraltar museum. Whether they did something about this or not I really don’t know.

Brown’s Cave.
See Collin’s Cave

Buena Vista Cave
There are at least two places in Gibraltar which are invariably referred to as “Buena Vista”. For example, Buena Vista Barracks above the gorge of Glen Rocky. Built in the 1840’s by Major General Sir John Thomas Jones it was once known rather appropriately as the Stone Block. 

Buena Vista Barracks on the middle left with Glen Rocky below it – The Judge’s Cave is found in the garden area of the now long disappeared Chief Judge’s House in the middle of the photo  (Mid-19th century – J.H. Mann)

The building itself hardly looks promising for a cave but the surround terrain is – particularly as the Judge’s Cave was discovered at the same time as the barracks was being built.

The second “Buenavista” is an upper town district which without being too precise lies between Castle road on its west side, Calpe Road and Palace Gully to the east and with Willis’s Road in the middle acting as a sort of eastern side Main Street.

Plan showing Gibraltar’s Buena Vista district

The area has a long social history. During the 18th and early 19th housing [n the upper reaches of the town was made up mostly of rented accommodation for the poorest of the poor. Many of the tenants were originally seamen who had crewed the boats that had contributed so much towards Gibraltar’s remarkable prosperity during the Peninsular War and of which very little had come their way.

Several decades later, the war a distant memory, a new era of prosperity arrived in Gibraltar. It was fuelled by coal and as merchant shipping and visits by the squadrons of the Royal Navy increased so did the wealth of the ultra-rich, local coaling merchants.

Meanwhile the houses and patios of la Buena Vista were taken over by a new set of poverty-stricken tenants such as the coal-heavers who had the honour of being the worst paid people in town. Even in the 1960 when I lived on the Rock, the term “la gente de la Buena Vista” was often used to describe anybody who was considered by the local upper and middle classes as beyond the pale. That the district was known locally as “la Buena Vista” is of course ironic – the poorest residents with the worst houses in town had ended up with the very best views. 

As regards caves, the fact that the upper eastern section of the district lies next to the wester cliffs of the Nature Reserve suggest that it is not outside the realms of possibility that a cave might be found in this area. However, I have no idea whether either of suggestions might be the right answer as to where the cave might be found.

Buffadero Cave
This is what W.L.H. Duckworth had to say about it in 1911.
A cave near the Buffadero Battery on Windmill Hill was entered. This cave seems to correspond with Genista Cave 3 . . . The entranced resembles a well or shaft. At a depth of nearly twenty feet a floor is reached and there are indications that the shaft continues to a greater depth . . . 
The name Buffadero as applied to both the battery and the cave has been described by Kenyon as of doubtful origin and by others as the name of a community that once lived in this part of Windmill Hill. Lyell in his Elements of Geology mentions that the Spanish word “Buffadero” – actually “Bufadero” translates as a “Blow-hole” in English.

Buffadero Battery just above Governor’s Cottage - The cave is not identified (Early 20th century Plan  - detail)

I am not entirely sure whether Duckworth’s Genista connection is still the accepted version.

Caleta Palace Cave

Caleta Palace built on a rock at the far end of the beach (1965 – Jack Metzer)

The hotel was built in the early 1960s and I would imagine that the cave in question may have been discovered while its foundations were being excavated. And that is about all I can offer.

Camp Bay Cave (Parson's Lodge Cave)
Catalan Bay Road Cave
Nobody seems to know why the battery on a promontory between Rosia and Camp Bay came to be known as Parson’s Lodge – the earliest known mention is on a 1771 armaments list and again in the Earl of Chatham’s standing orders of 1825 as Parson’s Lodge Magazine.

Parson’s Lodge on an outcrop from inland looking south   (1880s – German Engraving)

One theory involves the old Spanish Church of San Juan el Verde which once occupied the ground on which the battery was built. Perhaps considered as the “home” of a Catholic priest, this description is supposed to have been corrupted by the British into the Parson’s Lodge. Not a particularly believable theory but that’s the only one available at present. 

Parson’s Lodge from Camp Bay looking north    (Mid 20th century)

As regards the cave its name and general location appears on several lists. 

Plan showing the location of Catalan Bay Cave as “B” (Undated and unattributed)

In 1846 E.F.Kelaart mentions a cave that might be one of the two Catalan Bay ones:
There are several other caves of smaller dimensions with more or less of the same stalactitic and stalagmitic formations; the principal ones are Martin’s and Monkey’s; there is also one at Catalan Bay, but which is seldom visited 

French plan identifying three caves at the back of Catalan Bay village - One of them is named “Anna Viva” who might very well be that of the occupier (1830's - Piaget et Lailavoix)

Catalan Bay village showing a rocky area on the upper northern side of the beach which looks promising (1850s - Edward William Cooke-Catalan)