General Fraser and Captain Donnelly - Lieutenant Mitchel
Born in the 18th century, an MP and a Fellow of the Royal Society, William Jacob is an unknown quantity - at least to me. Whoever he was, in 1811, he published a book which he called Travels in the South of Spain in letters written AD 1809 and 1810 and which he introduces in his preface as follows:
The following pages contain the substance of Letters written to my family and friends during six months which I passed in Spain; they have, however, undergone such alterations as were necessary to render what was originally intended for private amusement, not totally unfit for public -perusal . . .Taken from the book, the following quotes are restricted to those which make reference to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar from Spain ( 1810 - Noel, Daudet, Baugean )
Gibraltar - We continued coasting with a fair but gentle breeze through the straits till about ten o'clock, when we opened the bay of Gibraltar, and caught a first view of the Rock with its fortifications, of the town of St. Roque, and of the distant mountains of Granada, with their tops covered with snow.
As we advanced into the bay, the town of Algeziras appeared in sight, and the sublime Trocha; a hill of prodigious height, rising behind it with light white clouds on its summit. . . We anchored in the bay about twelve o'clock and landed immediately.
After viewing so long the fortifications of Cadiz, those of Gibraltar appeared deficient in beauty, and had even an air of meanness, which, however, is amply compensated by the superiority of their construction. The bay was filled with commercial and warlike ships, and among the rest two Portuguese men of war stationed here to watch the Algerines, with whom at present Portugal is in a state of hostility. . .
The fortifications of Gibraltar - "an air of meanness" ( From the book )
I was fortunate in finding at Gibraltar two highly valued friends, to whose civilities I have been much indebted, General Fraser the Lieutenant Governor, and Captain Donnelly who has the command of the ships of war. After the time I have passed in Spain, to fall again into English society and English comforts is an indescribable luxury. To a person coming direct from England, Gibraltar will not appear a very pleasing place of residence, but after passing a few months in the best cities of Spain it appears a paradise.
This place is so well known, and has been so often described, that I have few observations to make which have any pretensions to novelty: the principal batteries are casemated, and traverses are constructed within them to prevent the mischief which might arise the explosion of shells. The principal strength of the place depends on the shortness of the line of defence, and the prodigious flanking fires which may annoy an enemy from the projecting parts of the rock on the north-east.
The most extraordinary works are the galleries, (see LINK) excavated from the, solid rock, in which loop-holes are formed for the reception of cannon of large calibre; these guns are pointed to the narrow causeway, which alone gives at passage to the town; but the most striking part of the galleries is that called St. George's Chapel, which is scooped out of the solid about four hundred feet above the level of the sea, and is filled with cannon.
Over this, Willis's battery is situated, having its artillery pointed in the same direction. On a level with the entrance is placed another battery called the Devil’s tongue, which flanks the entrance, and on which, I think I was told that six hundred pieces of artillery might be brought to bear on any attacking enemy. . .
The Devil's Tongue ( Unknown )
An attack upon Gibraltar would at present require long and expensive preparations; the traverses by which the enemy made their approaches are now all destroyed, and their traces alone are visible on the sand of the neutral ground. The Spanish lines are in a bad state of repair, and the two forts on them will be blown up if the French penetrate into Andalusia. The cannon which were placed forts, on the lines have been transported, since the revolution, to Valentin and other parts of the coast . . .The French did eventually "penetrate into Andalusia" and the forts of Sta Barbara and San Felipe were blown up by common consent in 1810.
When the present revolution broke out . . . large quantity of gunpowder and of ball cartridges was discovered in the two forts before Gibraltar, which had been left there ever since siege of that fortress: this was immediately converted to the public service and is said principally to have contributed to the capture Dupont’s army at Baylen.
Our friend Lieutenant Mitchel of Artillery has been my Ciceroni at Gibraltar, and I have prevailed on him to accompany Mr. Ridout and myself in our intended tour to Malaga, Granada and Ronda.
We have ascended to the top of the Rock in the highest part and went on horseback as far as the horses would ascend; the servants then conducted them to the other side where we were to meet them. The object most worthy of notice is St. Michael’s cave. . . The entrance to this cave is by a natural excavation. .
From St. Michael's Cave we ascended to the top, and had a view from the cliff, which is perpendicular, towards the Mediterranean, about one thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea. A tower has been built at the highest point, with the intention of viewing from it the motions of the ships in the bay of Cadiz; but from its height it has been frequently struck by lightning, and is now a heap of ruins.
The tower was built around 1790 on the orders of General O'Hara, governor at the time. It was struck by lightning - killing one of its guards - and was never repaired. It proved unfit for purpose as the intervening mountains made it impossible to see the Bay of Cadiz from it. It soon became known as O'Hara's Folly. (See LINK)
We descended the Rock on the eastern side by steps, hewn with much labour out of the stone, till we reached a small battery, whence a path wound to the south end of the rock, where the horses were waiting for us.
The upper part of the Rock consists of excellent limestone. . the crevices of the rock was the resort of apes . . . they sometimes greatly incommode passengers, by rolling down broken fragments of rock. No one is permitted to shoot them; indeed the strictest orders are issued that no gun shall be fired on the rock, which as the place abounds with game, proves to sportsmen a great mortification.
Some laws are meant to be broken - the east side of the Rock ( Unknown )
I was much pleased with the houses built, for some of the officers of the garrison, towards the south; the naval commissioner especially has a charming residence, and a garden, stocked with every species of tropical fruit. The first-rate society in Gibraltar is very good, and a taste for elegance, united with economy, generally prevails.
The view from Mount Pleasant - known colloquially as the Mount - "The Naval Commissioner's charming residence " ( Unknown )
A public library, instituted by the late Mr. Pitt, and furnished with a valuable collection of books, to which all the military have access forms a great acquisition to the garrison. This institution together with the sensible and polite conversation of the engineer and artillery officers, most of whom are men of education and liberal minds, gives a tone to the society and manners which is highly agreeable.The Library mentioned is the Garrison Library. It was anything but public. The entire local population were obviously considered neither as men of education nor of liberal minds as none were welcome to make use of it. (See LINK) The library has always been associated with Captain John Drinkwater - whose idea it was. The reference is to the British Prime Minister - Pitt the Younger - who simply nodded his agreement and had the Government foot the bill.
The Reading Room of the Garrison Library (1846 - J. M. Carter ) (See LINK)
Nothing, however, can be more miserable than the appearance of the civil inhabitants of the town, whether Moors, Jews or Christians. They live crouded (sic) together, in habitations resembling barracks rather than houses, which are filthy as their persons.
The commerce of Gibraltar has been very considerable since the communication with Spain has been free; but like other markets in similar circumstances, it is now so overloaded that there is scarcely room for the various commodities collected, and serious fears are entertained that if a siege were to commence, a great quantity of property must be sacrificed for military accommodation, as there are neither store-houses sufficient to contain it, nor shipping enough to convey it to places of safety.
The markets . . are well supplied from Spain . . . and . . live bullocks are brought over from Africa . . but although wheat is abundant in that country, their religion allows none to be exported for the use of Christians.
A rigid discipline is kept up in the garrison; no person can pass through certain gates unless provided with a passport, and the civil inhabitants are prohibited walking the streets at night without a lanthorn. Indeed so strict are the regulations, that having dined one day with Captain Donnelly onboard the Invincible and landed in the Dock-yard, we could not pass the gates, but were under the necessity of climbing over the wall by a rope ladder to get to our lodgings.
We shall leave this place tomorrow . . . By means of my friend Mr. Viale, (see LINK) the Sicilian consul who is connected with the post-office in Spain, we had hired horses for our journey to Granada . . . .
The author also mentions other places in Spain with Gibraltar connections:
Estepona - A fishing village containing nearly one thousand families but it suffered so much during the fatal epidemic (see LINK) that the population is small in comparison to the number of families, almost all of whom subsist by fishing or fruits which they cultivate, and convey to Gibraltar.
San Roque - We found a posada equalling in comfort an English inn. It is the resort of the officers from Gibraltar who make excursions into Spain; and the host has learned from his visitors, to accommodate his house to their habits, for which, however, he takes care to charge sufficiently high.
Seville - I shall begin with noticing a public building . . . it was erected for the purpose of carrying on the manufacture of tobacco, which being an article subject to heavy taxation has become a royal monopoly, so that no tobacco or snuff is permitted to be sold, in this part of Spain, which does not belong to the crown. . .
It is two hundred yards in length, and an hundred and five in breadth. . It contains upwards of an hundred mills for grinding the snuff; which are turned by horses and mules, while some hundreds of men and boys are employed in rolling leaf tobacco into segars; but at present, either from the diminished consumption or the contraband trade from Gibraltar, (see LINK) there is not one-eighth part of either the mills, or the apartments for other branches of the manufactory employed.