The People of Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 10 – Moorish Wall, Aqueduct and Town


Today known as Phillip II Wall, it lies more or less parallel to and north of Charles V Wall. Although it has been thought of as of as “Moorish” at least since 1704 – it has now been acknowledged that it was actually built in the mid-16th century during the Spanish era. Unfortunately, the name stuck and even today it is often still referred to as “The Moorish Wall”. 

(1939 – Crop of a Plan of Gibraltar)

Perhaps one reason why it has continued to be known as such is the following comment by a 14th century Islamic writer as it appear in an aside in the Rihla – the story of Ibn Battuta’s Travels
Ibn Juzayy 
It is called also the Mount of Conquest because the conquest began there. The remains of the wall built by Tarik and his army are still in existence; they are known as the Wall of the Arabs, and I myself have seen them during my stay at the time of the Siege of Algeciras (1342-1343) (may God restore it!) 
Unfortunately, it seems impossible to determine what wall he was writing about although there is some evidenced for a wall in the south near the new mole area. On one of his many notes on the subject of the Rock's defences, Gibraltar’s Chief Engineer at the time, William Skinner, made a curious observation. During the battle for Gibraltar in 1704, the British troops were required to 'escalate' the remains of a 'Moorish Line' which according to him, ran roughly in line with the New Mole.

The line or wall is marked with a cross – by me (1740 – Lieutenant General William Skinner)

An early 18th century visitor also left a record of this same wall in one of the illustrations to his book.

(1726 - John Durant Breval – Remarks on Several Parts of Europe) 

Ignacio Lopez de Ayala (1782)
En 1571 se abrió en los arenales colorados un conducto para prever agua a la ciudad. I a pesar de las expensas que se habían hecho, i de la necesidad que había de fuentes dentro de la población se vio aquel, pocos años adelante, roto.
Presumably, they must have repaired them. Alcantara must have taken his comments on the aqueduct from here:
Thomas James – History of the Herculean Straits - 1771
A small aqueduct may be made against the bank on the south side of the above gully, or barranca: this aqueduct is extremely well executed; it was begun by the Conde de la Corfana, under the directions of a Jesuit, taken from an aqueduct at Carthage: but it must be remembered, that the Moors had an aqueduct before the Spaniards, and their pipes made of earthen ware, and let into each other, went along and within the masonry of the Town line wall. . 

The Aqueduct (1771 - Colonel Thomas James)

The water carried by the aqueduct ended up in a fountain on the north west side of the Parade -todays Piazza. Thomas James gives 1694 as the date when the fountain was built but not that of the aqueduct itself. A more or less contemporary historian questions the quality of the work:

The fountain in the Parade (1771 - Colonel Thomas James)

During the 18th century, the Red Sands area under which the water flowing through was supposed to have been “purified by filtering through an immense body of sand” was also used as the main garrison cemetery. In 1756, the then Governor Lord Tyrawley decided that this was not a good idea and issued the following instructions:
Occurrences at Gibraltar MS. 1756 – From Kenyon P50
Great inconvenience arising from burying in the Red Sands which were almost covered with graves, Lord Tyrawley sent out the Town Major and Camp Colourmen to mark out a Burying Place without Landport towards the Devil’s Tower designing that both soldiers and sailors should bury there for the future . . . The burials began to-day (1st November 1756) on the north side.
The oldest record of a burial in North Front apparently dates from 1804. It must have taken a while for things to be put into practice. Records of the cholera epidemics of the later 19th century also mention the possible effects of collecting drinking water running over graves - which leads me to suspect that burials in the Red Sands may have continued for quite a while longer post 1756.

The North Front Cemetery – (Late 19th century J.H. Mann)


I am not entirely sure why Alcantara has included Thomas James’ description of what the town was like in 1755 which was when he was stationed in Gibraltar.

 Plan showing possible development dates for constructions of the Castle and other main districts of medieval Gibraltar (Adapted from Kevin Lane and Ángel J Sáez Rodríguez)

As far as I can make out of all the four main districts of the town only the Castle area, Villa Vieja and the Barcina were the most likely areas for Islamic architecture to have survived when Thomas was stationed there. And these three places would have been for all intents and purposes either entirely demolished by the enemy during the 1727 so called Gunners’ War – the 10th Siege – or by clearing up operation by the British after it had ended.

La Turba – essentially the newest district in town - was practically built over the 250 years after the Spanish take over. In my opinion, when the British did likewise in the early 18th century they inherited what was essentially a Spanish town.

To read the booklet without any interruptions from me - click on the link below:

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