The People of Gibraltar
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 6

Genista Cave 1
Genista Cave 2
Genista Cave 3
Genista Cave 4
During the mid-19th century Captain Frederick Brome was the governor of the Military Prison in Gibraltar. He was also a keen archaeologist. From 1863 to 1869 he made use of quite a few convicts to help him out in archaeological excavations in various caves around Gibraltar. When the War Office got to know of Captain Brome's little hobby, they made their feelings known in no uncertain manner - He was dismissed not just from his post but from the service. 

Long before this, however, Captain Brome was able to accumulate perhaps one of the largest collections of archaeological treasure trove ever uncovered in Gibraltar, of which - despite a remarkable lack of enthusiasm on the part of the British authorities in Gibraltar - were recorded for posterity thanks to the efforts of his friend George Busk who just happened to be at one time or another president of both the Ethnological Society and the Anthropological Institute.



George Busk


The two men had probably met during Busk's visit to Gibraltar in which he famously took back to Britain the Neanderthal skull discovered by Captain Flint in 1848 - eight years before the one unearthed in the Neander Valley and which rather unfairly gave the species its name. Busk published many of Brome's cave findings in various articles quoting at great length directly from letters received from him – in particular those that referred to his discovery of the four Genista caves.


Genista Cave, No. 1 - The first excavations were commenced on November 12, 1862, for the new boundary walls and tank (in Windmill Hill). The space marked out for the tank, under which the cave was discovered.



Genista 1 – Unfortunately a folded copy therefore missing the middle cavern


Genista Cave, No. 2 - On examining the ground between the large magazine on Windmill Hill and the West Cliff, I observed two small apertures, which led into a cavity nine feet deep. As appearances looked promising, I obtained the necessary sanction from the authorities, and commenced operations there on November 3, 1864. 'The place had never been explored, nor were there any indications that excavations had been made in it. On the removal of stones and earth, a small cavern was found . . . about 1,000 yards distant, and to the south, and probably also connected with the continuation of the eastern Genista fissure . . .



Genista Cave, No. 2

Genista Cave, No. 3 - This cave appears to me to have been a seaboard one. It is situated on the east side of Windmill Hill, about 150 feet from the cliff over the Governor's cottage, and not far from the ruin of an old windmill. 

One of my sons was the first to draw my attention to this spot; he said that his dog had gone into a very small hole a considerable distance after a rabbit, where he could just hear his barking. I examine the place, and set the prisoners to work immediately to excavate it . . . The excavation was pursued to a distance of eighty feet. After this, I considered the cave explored to the utmost, and abandoned it.'




Genista Cave No. 3


Genista Cave, No. 4 - This is a seaboard cave, and has its entrance in the face of the east cliff nearly over the Governor's stables at Europa, and about forty feet under the summit. A rope-ladder was lowered down to the entrance, and the first object found was the skull of a large bird, probably a vulture.


Genista Cave No. 4

As regards the name s given to these caves Busk hoped that they would be:
. . . known to all time by the name which has been given to them, in allusion and in honour of their discoverer and explorer.
The "allusion "is the rather heavy joke that the captain’s name - Brome – is similar to “Broom” which in turn is the common name of a Mediterranean shrub which also bears the Latin name of Genista. 


Somewhat more recently, local historian Freddy Gomez in a short article on Gibraltar’s caves probably written in the late 20th century suggested that scientific cave exploration on Gibraltar began with the Genista caves which were easily accessible from Windmill Hill, and yielded rich deposits of fossil bones including human remains in the more accessible ones. 

By 1947 the Gibraltar Schedule of Antiquities - which Gomez considered to be “a very unreliable source of information” - placed the main entrance to Genista somewhere underneath the Genista Magazine at Windmill Hill, the entrance to the cave and the top cavern having been blasted out of existence during the construction of an ammunition store in 1895. Although Gomez does not specify which of the four Genista caves he and the unreliable Gibraltar Schedule of Antiquities are referring to, the inference is that the entire Genista  complex has been lost.


The 2018 - Heritage and Antiquities Act seems to confirm this assumption in that it does not list any of the caves but simply includes in its schedule a stone tablet outside the eastern entrance to QM Block at Lathbury Barracks. Poor Captain Brome is as out of luck today as he was when he was Governor of the military Prison Governor of Gibraltar all those years ago.


In 1937 the British Museum acquired the molar tooth of a Neanderthal man. It was discovered in Genista Cave in 1865 by Capt. F. Brome. Yes, just a tooth but . . .  

George’s Bottom Cave
Also, according to the 2005 Nature Reserve document this cave was:
Obviously named after George Palao, the precise sequence of events that led to this remains a mystery that we have not dared to investigate.

George Palao assembling pottery from fragments found in the caves of Gibraltar (c1977)

Never let it be said that there is no such thing as a speleological sense of humour.


In 1965 an expedition of the Gibraltar Cave Research Group, searching for new came upon a small hole on the slope just below Spur Battery. The entrance was obstructed by a large boulder. With the use of heavy lifting equipment, the boulder was removed. The entrance is small and opens out into numerous chambers and fissures on six different descending levels, the lowest of which according to Palao might connect to Levant Cave. The chambers are difficult to manoeuvre in, and in places only allow for crawling space. Formations are plentiful and include curtains, columns, straws, helictites and corals.

Gibbon’s Cave
According to the 2005 Nature Reserve document:
Further east along the Levant Cave tunnel is another much smaller cave was discovered and named Gibbon’s Cave . . . 
Which neither gives a date for when it was found or who found it. The cave was practically destroyed through tunnelling action but there are some bits with formations. 

Glen Rocky Cave
See Judge’s Cave

Glen Rocky Shelter
Found on the north side of Glen Rocky and not especially close to the Judge’s or Glen Rocky Caves Other than that . . .

Goat's Hair Twin Caves
These two caves lie side by side 30m above the path leading to Martin’s Cave. Both caves have a large, triangular entrance tapering off some 15m towards the end of the cave - hence the “twin caves” bit.


The “Goat’s Hair” part of the name is supposed to have been given to it in the past because the cave had indeed been full of goats’ hairs.  The suggestion was that the cave had been in constant use as a goatherd refuge during the 19th century. To complicate matters still further the cave was also known as Sewell’s Fig Tree Cave after Captain Sewell the discoverer of another one - Cave S or Sewell’s Cave.



Goat’s Hair Twin Caves   (Gibraltar Underground – adapted)


One of these caves was then heavily excavated and emptied of all deposits by the Gibraltar Cave research group, led by George Palao in November 1969 reaching the caves bedrock in June 1970. During these excavations, a ‘prehistoric ceremonial burial’ was discovered on the northern wall of one of the two caves. It consisted a human skeleton surrounded by various pottery vessels, bone pendants, flint blades, armlets and anklets. 

Descriptions of both the excavation and findings exist and from what I gather the findings were put on display for a while. Sadly, there is no record of these finds having ever been deposited within the Gibraltar Museum.



Unsightly graffiti added post 1966 removed digitally (Gibraltar Underground -adapted)

The northern cave was still untouched in 2005 and the twin caves are listed in the 2018  Heritage and Antiquities Act.


2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Introduction
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 1 - All’s Well - Beefsteak
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 2 - Blackstrap - Buena Vista
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 3 - Cave S - Coptic
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 4 - Devil’s Fall - Devil’s Tower
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 5 - Europa Pass - Forbes’ Quarry
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 6 - Genista - George’s Bottom
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 7 - Gorham’s - Harley Street
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 8 - Holy Boys - Ibex
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 9 - Judge’s Cave - Martin’s Cave
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 10 - Monkey’s - O’Hara’s
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 11 - Poca Roca - Ragged Staff
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 12 - Spur Road - St Michael’s -
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 13 - Star Chamber - Viney Quarry