Description of the
Rock, with the fortifications and town of
As the History which is to be the subject of the following pages, will be more in detail than the preceding narrative, it may on some accounts be necessary, and tjannot on any, I flatter myself, be disagreeable, to present the reader with a short description of this celebrated Rock, and the fortifications which have been erected for its defence.
The Promontory, or rock, at the foot of which stands the town, is upwards of 1300 feet in height; projecting into the sea several miles from the continent, to which it is connected by an isthmus of low sand. This appearance makes it not improbable that Mons Calpe has, in former ages, been totally surrounded by the sea. The north front of the peninsula, which presents itself to the main land, is of various heights. The breadth of the isthmus, at the foot of the rock, is about 900 yards; but it grows considerably wider towards the country. Across this isthmus, (which, with Gibraltar and the opposite coast, forms the bay) the Spaniards have drawn a fortified line at about a mile's distance from the garrison, extending 1700 yards, and embracing both shores ; a fort of masonry is erected at each extremity, mounting 23 or 24 guns each; they are of different forms, and are called St. Philip and St. Barbara. The former of these forts commands the best and the usual anchoring place of our shipping and small craft, and, by forming a crossfire with fort St. Barbara on the neutral ground, prevents all communication between the garrison and the country.
The Rock, as I have
mentioned before, is upwards of 1300 feet perpendicular above the level of the
sea; and is separated by a ridge from north to south, dividing it into two
unequal parts. The western front or division is a gradual slope, interspersed
with precipices; but the opposite side, looking to the
The town is built at the foot of the northwest face of the hill, and is fortified in an irregular manner. The communication with it from the isthmus, is by a long narrow causeway (serving as a dam to an inundation), which is defended by a curtain, with two bastions, mounting 26 pieces of cannon, a dry ditch, covered way, and glacis well mined. These, with the causeway, are warmly flanked by the King's, Queen's, and Prince's lines; works cut in the rock with immense labour, and scarped to be almost inaccessible.
Above the lines are the batteries at Willis's, and others at different heights, until they crown the summit of the rock, where several batteries are erected for cannon and mortars. These batteries, the lowest of which is upwards of 400 feet above the neutral ground, mount between 50 and 60 pieces of heavy ordnance, and entirely command the isthmus below. Exclusive of what are here mentioned, additional works of a singular nature were projected in 1782, which, with others in the lines, on a similar plan, that are (1789) executing under the direction of Majorgeneral O'Hara, will render Gibraltar (almost) impregnable in that quarter. The Old mole, to the west of the Grand battery, forms also a very formidable flank, and, with the lines, a crossfire on the causeway and neutral ground. This battery has been found so great an annoyance to the besiegers, that, by way of distinction, it has long been known under the appellation of the Devil's tongue. 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.
From the Grand battery,
along the sealine, looking towards the Bay, the town is defended by the North,
Montague's,* Prince of
* These bastions and the connecting curtains were so much injured in the last siege, that it was thought necessary to strengthen this part of the town, by an extensive line of new works, projecting some distance into the sea, the foundations of which were laid in 1788. Some additions ar« also in contemplation for the Grand battery and Landport.
lately. The latter is a very complete piece of fortification, commanding the Bay from New to Old mole heads, and mounting twelve thirty two pounders, and four ten inch howitzers in front, ten guns and howitzers on its flanks, and has casements for 800 men, with kitchens and ovens for cooking. Montague's is much smaller, mounts only 12 pieces of cannon, but has a casemate for 200 men, communicating with the Old mole. In 1782 the engineers began a cavalier upon this bastion for two guns ; but it was not finished till after the grand attack in September. Another work of this nature was likewise erected in the beginning of the blockade for five guns, on the north bastion of the Grand battery. The town on the sealine is not less protected by natural defences, than by fortifications. A shoal of sharp rocks extends along the front far into the Bay, and prevents ships of large burthen from approaching very near the walls.
From the South bastion
(which is considerably higher than the rest of the works, in order to protect
the town from the eminences on the red sands) a curtain extends up the face of
the hill, and concludes, at an inaccessible precipice, the works of the town. In
this curtain is the
Charles the Vth's walls, is the signalhouse; whence, on a serene and clear day, the guard have almost an unbounded view of the Mediterranean, and can just observe a part of the Atlantic ocean over the Spanish mountains. Signals formerly were made at this post, on the appearance of topsail vessels from east and west; but soon after the commencement of the late war, we discovered that the Spanish cruisers were more frequently informed of the approach of our friends by our signals, than by their own. The signals were therefore discontinued.
The above comprehends a general description of the fortifications of the town, avoiding too minute a detail of each work. I shall therefore proceed in describing, in the same general manner, the works to the southward.
From the South bastion a linewall is continued along the beach to the New mole, where an irregular fort is erected, mounting 26 guns. This linewall is divided by a small bastion of eight guns; and in its rear is a retired work, called the Princess of Wales's lines; in which are several strong batteries for the sea. Near the South bastion, though without the town, is a wharf called Ragged Staff, where the supplies for the garrison are usually landed, being convenient from its vicinity to the victualling office and stores. The communication to this quay, is by spiral wooden stairs, and a drawbridge opening into the covertway; in front of which is a small work of masonry, mounting two guns. At the foot of the stairs is the bason, where shipping take in water. Two tanks are also appropriated to this purpose, near the eigh tgun bastion.
In the New mole there is
depth of water sufficient for a ship, of the line to lie alongside the wharf,
and heave down.. At the
molehead is a circular battery for heavy metal, joined to the Newmole fort by a
strong wall, firaised; having a banquet for musquetry, with two embrasures
opening towards the Bay. This mole, with the Old mole at Waterport, were built
for the accommodation of trading vessels: the former however is generally
occupied by men of war; and the latter, not having more than six feet at low
water, only admits small craft to the wharfs; merchantmen of large burthen are
obliged therefore to anchor about half or three quarters of a mile from
Waterport, in seven or eight fathoms. But in time of war this anchorage is
commanded by the Spanish forts: they are consequently, in case of a rupture with
The Rock continues to
ascend from the south point of Rosia Bay, by Parson's Lodge (behind which, upon
an eminence, is a new battery, en barbet, on traversing carriages), to Campguard,
and Buena Vista; so called from the beautiful prospect of the Bay and
neighbouring kingdoms of Barbary and Spain, which is there presented to a
spectator. A linewall is raised, notwithstanding the rock being inaccessible,
with cannon at different distances. At
The rock then descends by
The preceding description, it is hoped, will be sufficiently explanatory to point out the improvements that have been made within these few years. The new bastions on the sealine were planned and executed, by and under the direction of the present Chief Engineer, Majorgeneral Sir William Green, Bart. Lieut. Gen. Sir Robert Boyd, K. B. laid the foundationstone of the King's bastion, in the absence of General Cornwallis, the governor. The garrison also underwent considerable alterations whilst he commanded; Windmill Hill was fortified, and other changes were effected at the southward. The improvements on the northern front were carried on under the direction of Sir George Augustus Elliott, K. B. since he was appointed to the government. The communication, or gallery leading to St. George's Hall, above Farringdon's battery ; Queen's lines battery, and communication; two works of the same nature, which extend under the Queen's battery (WillisV), and in the rock above Prince of Hesse's bastion; are all so singularly contrived, and of so formidable a nature, that all direct attacks by land, henceforward, may be considered as quixotism and insanity.
Before the interior part of the place is described, it will not be improper to conclude the description of its outer works, by inserting an abstract of the guns, howitzers, and mortars, mounted upon the different batteries. The original, from which this was copied, was taken in the beginning of March, 1783.
The Gallery under the Queen's battery has been continued by General O'Hara, and now communicates with the Prince's lines ; it is called the Union Gallery.
The town is built on a bed of red sand, similar to those eminences without Southport, which originally extended from Landport to the foot of the ascent to the south barracks. The buildings, before the town was destroyed in the late siege, were composed of different materials, principally of tapia ;* though, since the English have been in possession of Gibraltar, many have been built of the rockstone, plastered, and bluewashed on the outside, to break the powerful rays of the sun, which otherwise would be too glaring, and prejudicial to the eyes. The modern houses were in general covered with tiles; but the flat terraced roofs remained in those erected by the Spaniards, and in some, the mirandas or towers, whence the inhabitants, without removing from home, had a beautiful and extensive prospect of the neighbouring coasts.
Of the buildings that are most deserving of notice, the old Moorish castle is the most conspicuous. This antique structure is situated on the northwest side of the hill, and originally consisted of a triple wall, the outer inclosure descending to the water's edge: but the lower parts have long since been removed, and the Grand battery and Waterport fortifications erected on their ruins; and the first, or upper wall, would long ago have shared the same fate, had it not been found of service in covering the town from the Isthmus, in case of a siege. The walls standing at present form an oblong square, ascending the hill, at the upper angle of which is the principal tower, where the Governor or Alcaide formerly resided. The ruins of a Moorish mosque, or place of worship, can be traced within the walls ; as also a neat morisque court, and reservoir for * A cement consisting of mortar, made of sand, lime, and small pebbles, which being well tempered, and wrought together in a frame, acquires great strength and solidity.
water: but the latter
cannot, without great difficulty, be discovered by a stranger. A large tower on
the southeast wall has long been converted into a magazine for powder; and in
different places quarters were fitted up, before the late siege, for officers
and two companies of soldiers. This castle was erected, as I have mentioned
before, by the Saracens or Moors, on their first invading
The other principal buildings are the Convent, or Governor's quarters; the Lieut. Governor's house, which is a modern structure; the Admiralty house, formerly a monastery of white friars; the Soldiers barracks, Victualling office, and Storehouse. Besides these, there are the Spanish church, the Atarasana, or galley house, and some other buildings, formerly of note, but now in ruins from the fire of the Spaniards during the late siege.
At the southward, are the
South Barracks and the
Besides the remains of Moorish architecture which have already been mentioned, the following have been esteemed not unworthy of notice. Within the town we find the Galleyhouse, and part of the Spanish church; also the Bombhouse, adjoining the linewall: and at the southward, ruins of Moorish buildings are discernible on Windmill hill, and at Europa. The former are situated on an eminence, but no antiquarian can determine to what use they were appropriated: some are of opinion they were burying vaults for persons of rank 5 others suppose them a prison; whilst in the garrison, the whole is generally known by the name of the Inquisition. At Europa, opposite the guardhouse, may be traced the remains of a building erected by the Moors, but used by the Spaniards as a chapel, and called Nuestra Senora del Europa. Along the water's edge, without the fortification, are also several ruins of Moorish walls: and towards Europa advance is a Moorish bath, called by the garrison, the Nuns well. It is sunk eight feet deep in the rock, is 72 feet long, and 42 feet broad, and, to preserve the water, has an arched roof, supported by pillars. To the left of this bath is a cave, under Winmillhill, known by the name of Beefsteak cave; which was a common residence for many of the inhabitants, during the late siege.
The hill abounds in cavities, that serve as receptacles for the rain. None, however, is so singular and worthy of notice as St. Michaers cave, on the side of the hill, in a line with the south barracks, about 1100 feet above the level of the sea. At the entrance are the remains of a strong wall. The mouth is only five feet wide; but on descending a slope of earth, it widens considerably ; and, with the assistance of torches, the openings of several smaller caves are discovered. The outer cave is about 200 feet long, and 90 broad. The top appears to be supported by pillars of vast magnitude, formed by the perpetual droppings of petrifying water, the whole bearing great resemblance to the inside of a gloomy Gothic cathedral.
The several gradations in
the progress of these petrifactions are easily discovered. In some may be
observed small capitals, descending from the roof, whilst proportionable bases
rise underneath: others again are formed of very small diameter ; and a third
class, immensely large, seem to support the roof of this wonderful cavern. Few
There are several other caves on different parts of the hill, in which the water possesses the same petrifying qualities. One under MiddleMil, called Pocoroca, was fitted up, previous to the bombardment, for the Governor's reception ; but was afterwards converted into a powder magazine, being very convenient for the batteries on the heights.
Amongst the natural
The hill is remarkable for
the number of apes about its summit, which are said not to be found in any other
Red legged partridges are often found in coveys; woodcocks and teal are sometimes seen ; and wild rabbits are caught about Europa and Windmill Hill. The garrison orders forbid officers to shoot on the western side of the rock; parties however often go in boats round Europa Point to kill wild pigeons, which are numerous in the caves.
Eagles and vultures
annually visit Gibraltar from Barbary, in their way to the interior parts of
With regard to the climate
The appearance of the Rock
is barren and forbidding ; as few trees or shrubs, excepting palmettos, are to
be seen on the face of the hill: yet it is not entirely destitute of vegetation;
wild herbs, of different kinds, spring up in the interstices of the rocks, when
the periodical rains set in, and afford some trifling nourishment to the
bullocks, sheep, and goats, that browse upon the hill. The first rains generally
fall in September, or October, and continue at intervals to refresh the garrison
till April or May. When they cease, and the powerful rays of the sun have
withered the little verdure that appeared on the hill, nothing offers to the eye
but sharp uncouth rocks, and dried palmetto bushes. The soil collected in the low
ground is however extremely rich and fertile, producing variety of fruits and
vegetables. Colonel James, in his elaborate history of
The garrison, before the blockade of 1779, was chiefly supplied with roots and garden stuff from the gardens on the neutral ground, which, being on a flat, could almost constantly (even in summer) be kept in a state of vegetation. The proprietors of these gardens were obliged totally to relinquish them when the Spaniards erected their advanced works: from that period General Eliott encouraged cultivation within his own limits, by every possible indulgence. Many plots at the southward were inclosed with walls, the ground cleared of stones and rubbish, and soil collected from other parts: so that with assiduity and perseverance, after some time, the produce, during the winter season, was so increased as to be almost equal to the consumption ; and probably, in the space of a few years, the garrison may be totally independent, in this article, of any assistance from the neighbourhood.
The present military establishment* of Gibraltar consists of six companies of artillery, nine regiments of the line, and a company of artificers, commanded by engineers ; composing an army of upwards of 4000 men, officers included. Before the late bombardment, the troops were quartered in the barracks at the southward, % and in quarters fitted up out of the old Spanish buildings in town. The officers were distributed in the same manner; but in case of reinforcements, and that government quarters were not. sufficient for their accommodation, billet money was allowed in proportion to rank, and the officers hired lodgings from the inhabitants.
The regiments, on their
arrival in the garrison, are entitled to salt provisions from the stores, in the
following proportion. One ration for each Serjeant, corporal, drummer, and
private, consisting of 7 lb. of bread, delivered twice a week, beef 2 lb. 8 oz.
pork 1 lb. butter 10 oz. pease half a gallon, and groats 3 pints: every
commissioned and warrant officer, under a Captain, receives two rations, a
Captain three, a Major and Lieutenant Colonel four, a Colonel six. In times of
profound peace, officers generally receive a compensation in money for their
provisions, or dispose of them to the Jews, of whom there are great numbers in
the garrison, who are always ready to purchase, or take them in barter. The
troops are paid in currency, which, let the exchange of the garrison be above or
below par, never varies to the non-commissioned and privates. A Serjeant receives
weekly, as full garrison pay, one dollar, six reals, equal to ninepence
sterling, per diem; a corporal, and drummer, one dollar, one real, and five
quartils, in sterling about sixpence per diem; and a private, seven reals, or
fourpence halfpenny sterling, per diem.
Officers receive their subsistence according to the currency: thirty six
pence per dollar is par. During the late bombardment, the exchange, for a
considerable time, was as high as forty two pence, by which those gentlemen who
were under the necessity of drawing for their pay, lost sixpence in every three
shillings; and it seldom was lower than forty pence whilst the siege continued.
The coins current in Gibraltar are those used in
The Bay of Gibraltar, formed by the headlands of Cabrita and Europa Points, is commodious, and seems intended by nature to command the Straits: there are opportunities, however, when a fleet may pass unobserved by the garrison; for such is the impenetrable thickness of the mists, which usually prevail during the easterly winds, that many ships have baffled the vigilance of the cruisers, and gone through unnoticed: the southwesterly winds, particularly at the equinox, are also often attended with such thick and rainy weather, that vessels have passed through and got into the Bay without being seen.
Algeciras lies opposite to
Whilst the Moors kept possession of Gibraltar, which was now in its turn become a city of importance, the Spaniards never attempted to rebuild Algeciras; and still less did they esteem it an object worthy their attention, after Gibraltar fell into their hands. The town, therefore, remained in ruins and desolate, excepting a few fishermen's huts, till the Spaniards, in the beginning of the present century, thought proper, after the cession of Gibraltar to Great Britain, to repeople and secure it by a few batteries towards the sea, which also might occasionally protect their cruisers in time of war. Since that period, from the constant intercourse and trade which subsisted between it and Gibraltar before the war of 1779, Algeciras is become a town of some consequence and wealth ; and, as a late writer has justly expressed, " like a phoenix, has risen " out of its own ashes, after being for ages in ruins.**
The new town is built to
the northward of the old city (whose venerable ruins still remain,) and is
defended to the southward by a battery of nine or ten guns, erected on an island
some distance from the shore. To the northward of the town is another battery of
six guns, and a little farther, on an eminence, one of 22, which was raised by
Admiral Barcelo, when he was apprehensive of an attack from Sir George Rodney in
1780. Between the island and the town, small craft find tolerable shelter; but
ships of war, or of large burthen, anchor to the northward. The lands round the
town are of late much cultivated, and, with the shipping, form, in the spring, a
pleasantly variegated and beautiful prospect to a spectator at
To the northward of
Algeciras are the rivers Palmones and Guadaranque: the former is the broader and
deeper of the two, and was the principal retreat of the Spanish gun and mortar
boats, when they wanted repairs, after bombarding the garrison.
Admiral Barcelo in this river also prepared the fireships he sent over in
June 1780. On the east
banks of the Guadaranque, near Rocadillo Point, where there is a small fort or
tower, are the venerable ruins of the once famous city of
Halfway between the
Guadaranque and the garrison, is another fort and tower, called Point Mala, or
Negro Point, to the northward of which is the inland village of St. Roque. This
is a small insignificant town, though delightfully situated, at about five miles
I cannot help remarking in
this place, that, among the evils of the late siege, the Garrison have to regret
the interruption of that friendly intercourse which before subsisted between
them and the neighbourhood, and which is now prohibited by the Spanish
government. When the
communication was free and
unlimited (except in point of introducing a contraband traffic in Spain),
the strictest intimacy subsisted between the British military, and the Spaniards
resident in the adjacent villages. Parties were reciprocally visiting each
other, and the officers constantly making excursions into the country. These
excursions, with others to the coast of Barbary (which in the season
superaboundfl with various species of game), were pleasing relaxations from the
duties of the garrison, and rendered
On the whole—whether we
consider Gibraltar as commanding the entrance of the Mediterranean, and
consequently, as capable of controlling the commerce of the Europeans with the
Levant; or whether we consider it as almost impregnable by nature, and
consequently as most susceptible of the improvements of art; its situation is,
perhaps, more singular and curious than that of any fortress in the world. These
circumstances, and the degree of consequence which it confers on its possessor,
in the opinion of the