1838 - George Wright - A Filthy Appearance
The Reverend George Newenham Wright was born in Dublin, became an Anglican clergyman, a teacher of classics and the author of - among other publications - a book with the enormously long title of The New and Comprehensive Gazetteer being a delineation of the Present state of the World from the most recent Authorities, arranged in Alphabetical order, and constituting a systematic Dictionary of Geography, in which he describes Gibraltar at length.
The Rock of Gibraltar ( 1830s - J.M.Van Braam )
But perhaps it would first be appropriate to reveal the ending of his chapter on the Rock in which he offers the following quote from his fellow Irishman, Robert Montgomery Martin ( see LINK )
. . . may the day be far distant when treachery and dissension at home shall cause this noble fortress - the protector of our flag, honour, and trade, in the Mediterranean, to be neglected or condemned ; for upwards of a century it has been a part and parcel of our oceanic empire, enabling us the better to hold our footing in the eastern part of Europe, and to wield with effect the destinies of the world.
The following are extracts from the book and my comments.
Gibraltar town is built on the NW. face of the promontory, extending from the Landport to the Southport Gate, the main street, ending directly between the two gates . . . The streets are as level as the generality of those in English towns, though the town would appear to be built on the precipitous slope of a hill.
It is not a question of appearing to be level - it is in so far as the main streets are concerned. They simply follow the level contours of the Rock from North to South. Traversing these streets, however, there are either steps, ramps or steep lanes or pathways.In the principal streets the houses are generally three or four stories high, built after the English model ; in some parts the Spanish, or probably Moorish, construction prevails, there being a central court-yard, into which the rooms of the dwelling open: but the roofs are not flat or terraced, as in Malta . . .
Houses with communal central courtyard were - and still are - known as patios de vecinos. Some houses in Gibraltar did have flat roofs and terraces similar to those that were very common in the surrounding Campo area but on the whole they probably resembled those extant in the 1870s as shown on the photograph below with sloped, tiled roofs.
The town looking North ( 1950s - Francis Frith )
The town of Gibraltar, though much improved of late years, is still confined, ill ventilated, and over-crowded with inhabitants; the number of which have, however, been diminished by the erection of villages at Catalan bay and on the neutral ground. As may be expected, in a town subjected to bombardment, the public edifices are neither numerous nor beautiful; the governor resides in a building which was formerly a Franciscan convent, and has a delightful cottage at Europa Point . . . .
As in other warm climates, the insect tribes are numerous, and the mosquitoes in summer are particularly annoying to new comers.
The erection of villages in the Neutral Ground must refer to those set up during the last yellow fever epidemic ( see LINK ) of 1828 well within a decade of the publication of the book. In this respect the reference to mosquitoes is both interesting and ominous.
'Villages' at the Neutral Ground ( 1830's - Piaget et Lailavoix - Detail )
Along the sea line Gibraltar town is . . well protected, and nature has lent her aid by means of a shoal of sharp rocks, extending along the front of the fortification far into the bay, and thus preventing ships of very large burden from approaching close to the walls.
Map showing dangerous rocks just off the fortifications of the Line Wall ( 1799 - Guillaume Dheulland )
. . there is an English and Spanish church, and an exchange, session-house, library, &c. The barracks are on an extensive and substantial scale, consisting of easements and detached buildings, the latter principally occupied by married people. The hospitals are on a superior scale, principally the naval one, which is unsurpassed in any part of the globe; it is situated on an open space below Buena Vista, 130 feet above the level of the sea, and is capable of accommodating 500 patients.
The Naval Hospital - which no longer exists - was built in the mid 18th century by the Chief Engineer James Gabriel Montressor ( see LINK ) . It was indeed one of Gibraltar's few large buildings although it could be argued that both the Town Range and South Barracks - also designed by Montressor - were both equally impressive.
The old Naval Hospital in the early 20th century and the original 18th century plans
The remains of an old Moorish castle still exist, situated on the NW. side of the hill; it is an extensive inclosure . . within which are several houses occupied by officers and soldiers; the walls and remains still extant denote the energy and grandeur of the Saracen invaders of Spain.
The promontory is well supplied with water, and the aqueduct, originally planned by the Moors, is a very noble work. The present structure was commenced in 1571, after the plan of a Spanish Jesuit, and finished in 1694: the aqueduct begins in the South and terminates in the centre of the town; the water with which it is supplied filters through the red sand, running through weep holes made of brick, into a reservoir; from whence, after rising to a height of 18 inches, it is conveyed in earthen pipes to various parts of the town. The aqueduct is chiefly fed by the autumn and winter rains, and also supplied by infiltration from the body of the mountain.
An interesting and informative review of Gibraltar's water supply in the early 19th century which is correctly identified as having been put in place by Abd-al Mu'min ( see LINK ) when he built the original town in 1160. A more detailed description of the aqueduct is given by Thomas James in his monumental History of the Herculean Straits. ( see LINK )
The fountain at the Grand Parade supplied by water from the aqueduct ( 1771 - Thomas James )
Of the different kinds of fishes, upwards of 70 are observed at the market of Gibraltar; in former times the bay was so celebrated for its fishing of tunny and salmonettas, that coins were struck in which these fish are represented. Considerable quantities of the tunny are taken at the present day, both for immediate food, and for exportation, dried, salted, or preserved in oil. Bonito, mackerel, and anchovy, are taken in great numbers; the latter, in particular, forming a valuable export to the Genoa market. The swordfish is frequently brought to market, and the Gibraltar eels are much prized.
Salmonettas are almost certainly red mullet or salmometes and all the fish mentioned are still caught - if in far lesser numbers - to this day. The reference to Gibraltar eels is an enigma as eels are rarely available. The name might refer to the Conger or Moray eels both of which are quite common.
Swordfish on their way to market ( c1950s )
Foxes formerly abounded, and a pack of hounds was kept by some of the merchants; hares and rabbits, wild cats, rats, and mice, are prolific. Large flocks of goats browse over the rocks, and their milk and flesh are excellent.
A couple of hounds were indeed imported to try to get rid of a few foxes but when the two hounds became a pack, the Calpe Hunt was born ( see LINK ) and the vermin were given a new lease of life. The hounds may have been kenneled in Gibraltar - but the hunting was done in Spain.
Gibraltar became at length the centre of commerce which considering the number of inhabitants, was, perhaps, without its equal in the world; an idea of the extent to which it was carried may be gathered from the fact, that in one year the value of British manufactured goods imported into Gibraltar direct from England, and exclusive of colonial produce, was nearly £3,000,000 .
Today this would translate into well over a billion pounds in purchasing power.
It is more than probable that, while in the early possession of the Moors, Gibraltar was thickly peopled by that enterprising nation. A list of constant inhabitants, taken March 20, 1753, gives a total of 1793. In 1831 the population was nearly 17,000. There is much poverty among the poorer classes at Gibraltar, especially among the aliens ; the lower order of Moors and Jews have a filthy appearance ; they wear a sort of frock composed of flimsy blanketing, with a hood and sleeves for wet weather, loose cotton drawers open at the knees, the legs bare, the feet in clumsy slippers, and skull cap of greasy woollen ; this garb is frequently worn night and day, until it drops to pieces.
The lower orders looked filthy because they did all the filthy work. Also the comment on poverty among the poor smacks of tautology. When one juxtapositions this with the obscene amounts of money the author suggests were being made by the privileged few, the word 'insulting' comes to mind. Wright, of course, was not necessarily being unduly insensitive - he was just a man of his time.
Local ladies and a Jewish Porter of Gibraltar ( 1835 - P. Blanchard )
The chief dish of the lower orders is called gaspacho, and is composed of water, vinegar, oil, capsicum, garlic, and salt, into which bread is broken : all the family sit round the bowl, each person helping himself with a wooden spoon. The usual beverage is Spanish wine, from Malaga, and Catalonia.
The recipe for gaspacho is interesting for two reasons. The first is that it is quite different to the ordinary thickish cold soup one associates with it. The second is that right up to the end of the 20th century the very same recipe was indeed concocted in many a household in both Gibraltar and the Campo area. My family knew it as gaspacho Andaluz.
Various circumstances have occurred to diminish the trade of Gibraltar; among the most prominent are the creation of a free port at Cadiz, the establishment of manufactories in the eastern arts of Spain, and the various royal orders of the Spanish government, which place Gibraltar almost in a state of commercial non-intercourse with Spain, under the plea of preventing smuggling into the provinces adjacent to the fortress. Yet with all these disadvantages the trade of Gibraltar is still worth annually upwards of a million sterling; and there is more probability of increase than decrease.
The inference as regards smuggling is the usual one for most British commentators of just about any era - it was really of no concern of the British and the Spaniard were using it as a rather feeble excuse to make it inconvenient for business. The fact is that smuggling from Gibraltar was reaching epic proportions at the time and was proving extraordinarily damaging to the Spanish economy. A large chunk of that three million pounds was as a result of smuggling.