The Friend was an American religious and literary journal edited by Robert Smith. The quotes below are taken from an article published in the August 1834 edition written by an anonymous American contributor who had visited Gibraltar in 1820. The editor introduces it as follows:
The annexed is part of the manuscript journal of an intelligent individual who resided some time at Gibraltar a few years ago. It was written solely for the gratification of his friends at home, by one of whom the copy has been furnished, with permission to publish it. In one respect, its containing so much of the array and apparatus of war, it may be thought out of place in a journal advocating pacific principles.
That, however, is a feature inseparably connected with the nature of the subject, and as a graphic and glowing description of a place and scenery so celebrated in both ancient and modern times, the result too of personal inspection, by one of our own countrymen, we could not hesitate in believing that it would be read with interest by our readers.
The Rock of Gibraltar and Bay from a Spanish beach ( Early 19th century - William Ashford )
Gibraltar, Dec. 27, 1820 - We arrived here, my dear E., on the 16th inst. after a rather short passage from the River Plate. I have already written to you to inform you of my arrival, and of the reception of your interesting letter, &c. I must now finish this long journal, as a vessel will sail for New York very shortly, and I think I can put nothing more interesting into it than a description of Gibraltar. . . .
The island of Tariffa (sic) on the Spanish side of the strait, (see LINK) appeared particularly interesting and romantic. . . . we approach a point which, as it recedes on our left, gives us by degrees a view of the singular "Rock of Gibraltar."
Vessels bound into the Mediterranean pass straight on; but those bound to Gibraltar turn this point or cape to the left, and immediately enter the extensive bay of Gibraltar. This bay is in the form of a horse shoe - the open part connecting with the straits. It is about six miles wide, and about eight miles from the edge of the straits to the extreme edge of the bay; directly opposite the en trance to this bay, and on the coast of Africa, about ten miles distant a rough and apparently inaccessible mountain called Ape's Hill, (see LINK) rears its giant head about 1600 feet above the sea, one could almost fancy it to be the ever watchful van guard of Africa, eternally frowning upon Europe, and particularly directing its gaze immediately into the bay of Gibraltar.
The Bay of Gibraltar ( 1829 - Edmund Patten )
Supposing that you enter about the middle of this bay from the straits, you have the Spanish town of Algeziras (sic) on your left; in front, about five miles inland, on a height, is the town of St. Roque, also in Spain; behind these rise the mountains of Spain—making the whole circle on your left, in front—and thence stretching off to the right, and pursuing the course of the Spanish coast up the Mediterranean. . .
I must bring you to an acquaintance with that wonder of the world, "the Rock of Gibraltar." On your right whilst entering the before mentioned bay, rises, in lonely majesty, this celebrated rock; it is about three miles in length, and about three miles of low, sandy ground connects it with the main land of Spain. This neck of land is about half a mile in width; it is not more than ten feet above the level of the sea, and yet from this low level sand, inconceivable as it may be, rises the north end of the rock of Gibraltar, in perpendicular grandeur, to the height of 1470 feet; as you stand upon the plain and gaze upon the height, your head becomes giddy with the view.
“Rises the north end of the Rock of Gibraltar in perpendicular grandeur rising to 1470 feet” ( Mid 19th century – Unknown )
On your right is the bay of Gibraltar, on your left the bound less Mediterranean sea; but in front you be hold nothing but vast, stupendous perpendicular rock, to which but few of the most hardy shrubs adhere, on which even the mountain goat does not attempt to clamber, and where nothing relieves the eye except the embrasures for the cannon, which I shall hereafter describe.
But I have wandered. From the straits I have turned to the left into the bay, and thence to the right on the land, making a complete figure S for the sake of looking at the north end of the rock. Let us now again, however, place ourselves in the bay. Vessels are anchored about a mile from the north end on the same parallel of latitude.
The Town - From this anchorage ground we have a full view of the town of Gibraltar, which, in the refined language of the military, is called "the garrison." There is a level strip of land along the foot of the rock, bordering on the bay, sufficiently wide for a road along the town wall, and one principal street (Main Street – See LINK) parallel to it; all the other streets enter this in one direction or other.
From hence the town continues a short way up the rock, spreading itself along and making a very considerable appearance. From the above mentioned street the ground, or rock, rises with great precipitancy, inaccessible except by winding paths, till you attain the summit, a stupendous and giddy height which is often enveloped in clouds whilst the town basks in sunshine.
The north end of the shore, as above described, is occupied by the commercial part of the town. In this part resides the governor, almost all the men of business, and a great part of the military; it is very thickly built, and I should suppose contains about 15,000 inhabitants; the only entrances to it from abroad are, the land gate (see LINK) opening into Spain, and the "water port" gate (see LINK) which admits those who arrive in the bay into the "garrison;" it is strongly fortified on all sides.
Land Port Gate and wooden bridge ( 1828 - H. A. West ) (See LINK)
These gates are at the north end; to the south of the town are two other land gates strongly fortified, which open on what is called the south end. After passing them a very different scene opens on your view; instead of the compact town and houses crowded together with an overcharged population of busy people, you now step into the field of nature, where all is beauty, grandeur and quiet. From these gates the south end extends about two miles to point Europa, which is the southern point of the rock, and the most southern of Europe.
A common mistake. Europa Point is not the most southern of mainland Europe - it is in fact Tarifa. As regards the two southern exits would have been South Port and Prince Edward’s.
There are a great number of buildings and dwellings here; on the shore in some parts, particularly at the dockyard, (see LINK) there is quite a town; in a great many parts you see beautiful cottages as they are called, constructed with much taste amid wild scenery, and many larger mansions, some of which have extensive gardens filled with fruits and flowers.
South Port Gate on the far left ( Mid 18th century – Charles Anderson )
The ivy and the grape seem to contend which shall form the most elegant bowers; the darksome pine and the "trembling aspen" with its silvery leaf, stand side by side; various species of geranium form lofty hedges to numerous winding gravel walks, which are laid out with great taste, enclosing not merely beds, but small fields of the most brilliant flowers, and most beautiful shrubbery, and leading you about to those situations which are most commanding, and which present the most interesting views.
On two of these heights are erected elegant pavilions, where companies may repose themselves whilst the eye wanders over the bay and the straits, on Europe and Africa, on the shipping at anchor, and perhaps fleets under sail; while the sound of the bugle and the continual movements of martial bands, now among the cultivated scenes I have described, and now winding around inaccessible rocks, suspend admiration on the charm of variety.
The “elegant pavilions” were the officers’ quarters of a larger complex of buildings known as South Barracks, (see LINK)
Looking north towards South Barracks with the South Pavilion on the left - the woman is wearing the traditional red cloak worn by local women ( 1844 - George Lothian Hall ) (See LINK)
Alameda Gardens - Look which way you will, you see cannon and all the implements of war. Near one of the pavilions stands a colossal statue of General Elliott, (sic) (see LINK) who so bravely defended Gibraltar against the combined land and naval forces of Spain, France, and Holland; he looks with a lofty countenance on Spain, and at his side are the mortar, the shell, the furnace, with balls and other destructive implements; passing beyond, over a rustic bridge of earth laid on the branches of large trees which are planted in a deep ravine, you see a huge figure of Neptune standing upon rocks, through which torrents of rain rush from the heights, and sticking his grainse, or in classical language his trident, into a sea dragon. This was once the head of the largest ship of war Spain ever had - taken by Lord Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar.
Thus, my dear E, have I given you a mere outline of the inhabited part of Gibraltar. It is impossible for language to give an adequate description of its beauties and grand features.
The area under discussion is the Alameda Gardens. (See LINK) The huge wooden memorial to General Eliott was removed and taken to the Convent – it may still be somewhere there for all I know. It was replaced by a tall pedestal with a bust of the general on top of it.
The Governor of Gibraltar - General Edmund Ironside – standing in front of the wooden statue of Eliott inside the Convent in 1938 - Ironside was six feet four inches tall and weighed seventeen stones. His closest and dearest called him “Tiny” ( Unknown )
German tourists sitting under the Eliott Memorial in the Alameda Gardens – Eliott is looking north towards the Grand Parade ( 1911 - Oswald Lübeck ) (See LINK)
The statue of Neptune, however, no longer exists. It is mentioned here and there by other early 19th century visitors one of which – James Williamson (see LINK) – suggested that it was of “colossal size, and of no great merit,” and that the sea serpent was in fact a dolphin.
Let me now give you a short description of my two days' journey in search of curiosities. We commenced our ascent about nine o'clock, and passed in the first place through the remains of an ancient Moorish castle, (see LINK) which time and the cannon balls of the Spaniards have nearly destroyed.
Moorish Castle ( 1833 - David Roberts ) (See LINK)
Soon after we came to the residence of a commissioned officer with a guard, where we had to show our passports and obtain a sentinel to accompany us through the excavations.
The Excavations and the Galleries - We continued to ascend, pausing at intervals to observe the various, wonderful scenery which presented itself to our view. Every spot we passed which afforded facilities for fortifications was planted with cannon, mortars, etc after seeing a great number of these, and ascending several hundred feet of perpendicular height, we came to a huge rock through which we passed by an excavated road of about fifteen feet in width, twelve feet in height, and flanked on the left by square chambers of about twenty feet square; in each of these is a large cannon pointing through an embrasure of sufficient dimensions to let it play.
We travelled, as nearly as I could judge, about 230 feet through this rock, and then came again into the open air; again we entered another rock, with a similarly excavated road, chambers, embrasures, and cannon. This road I should suppose to be nearly 400 feet in length; a third excavated way, still higher than the others, received us into the bosom of that immense height which I before described at the north end; we now looked down on the plain from the embrasures, and supposed ourselves to be elevated about 600 feet above it, and to have more than that thickness of solid rock over our heads. By a spiral staircase we descended sixty broad steps, which led us into a large excavation, containing several cannon, called "Cornwallis's Hall;"
Cornwallis’s Hall and spiral staircase ( 1820 - Henry Sandham ) (See LINK)
We re-ascended the stairs, and after pursuing our route some distance along the suite of chambers and cannon, we descended a similar number of spiral steps into another excavation, called "George's Hall;" the entrance into this from the stairs is equal to the portico of a large church; from this portico we descend two long and well hewn steps into the hall, which is hewn out of a protuberance on the rock; from the embrasures, which I believe are five in number, you look on the bay to the left, in front on Spain, and at the Mediterranean to the right.
The floor of this hall is hewn as smooth as marble: its ceiling is a dome in form, the apex of which I should suppose to be twenty feet high. Its shape is the section of an oblong circle, nearly resembling what we call in Philadelphia an octagon room. The situation of this hall, and the views which it commands, are singularly grand and romantic. In summer, parties frequently send refreshments up here, and pass the heat of the day, where the sun has but little power.
Not “Georges Hall” but St George’s Hall ( Late 19th century – Beanland Malin and Co ) (See LINK)
We now ascended the steps, and made our exit from the third suite of excavations at the same place at which we entered. Here our sentinel left us to wander up the rock at pleasure. We had now seen the whole of the excavations, all of which are perforations of the solid rock. I endeavoured to count the cannon, but the stupendous effects of human labour, and the various scenery, caused me to fail in the account. I should suppose their number to be upwards of fifty.
Top of the Rock - We now continued our ascent: we left the north pinnacle, which is the highest part of the rock, unexplored; and pressed on with great labour to the signal house, which is on another summit, about three fourths of a mile to the south of the other. Cannon are planted on both these summits. The first, I have mentioned before, is 1470 feet above the level of the sea, and the second comes but few feet short of it.
Here is stationed a signal master, with a guard and a number of signals to give notice of the approach of men of war, packets, transports, &c. either from the Atlantic or Mediterranean seas. A very neat cottage with vines, flowers, &c. and a small vegetable garden, is erected here.
We stopped some time to refresh ourselves, and then began a descent to some distance for the purpose of ascending to the south point of the summit of the rock. This is about half a mile to the south of the signal house, and I judge about the same height. Here Gen. O'Hara erected a tower of hewn stone, and built some fortifications. The tower was struck by lightning, and one side of it shivered to pieces. The other remains a monument of what is called "Gen. O'Hara's Folly." (See LINK)
Another common mistake - the “northern pinnacle” is not the highest part - the third peak once crowned with O’Hara’s Folly owns that record.
Signal Station looking north ( Possibly mid 19th century – Unknown )
Again we descended for the purpose of pursuing a winding path which leads us to a pinnacle of the rock between the south point and the signal house, and which is the only place where the rock is crossed by human footsteps. If I have refrained from giving you a description of the view from the signal house and south point, it has been that I might sum it up here.
To the westward you look down upon the town, whose streets are all open to your view, where men, like pigmies, are moving to and fro; you command the view of the south end beneath, with all its walks, cottages, gardens, parades; to the left you see the fortress of Ceuta in Africa, held by the Spaniards as a balance to the " rock" taken from them by the British, the mountains of Africa, the straits opening into the boundless Atlantic; in front, and to the right, the mountains, towns, and cultivated fields of Spain.
But turning your back on these, and looking to the east, you see on the left, the distant mountains of Malaga, and to the right those of Africa, distant, at least, 100 miles, and generally covered with snow. . .
Between them is the Mediterranean sea spreading into a viewless extent, and the high shores of the two continents gradually receding from each other, till the eye loses both of them. Leaving these and turning your attention to the eastern side of this long rock, you look down upon the Mediterranean apparently almost beneath your feet, but in reality a considerable distance from you, and on the right and left, upon masses of perpendicular rock, which are astonishing and indescribable.
Catalan Bay - The winding path which has been made at great expense and labour, by which we descended, is generally skirted by the palmetto and other rock shrubbery, which, intermingled with stones and rocks form a very wild appearance. Apes and monkeys inhabit the crevices of this uninhabitable side; not a cottage is to be seen on this side of the rock. The small and singularly romantic village of Cattalan (sic) (see LINK) is built at the very foot, and as you may say under the stupendous rock. But it is on the sandy shore of the sea, and is so close as to be washed by its spray. In descending the winding path above described, I could not but confess that it was the most wild and romantic scene I have ever viewed.
Catalan Bay – ( Mid 19th century – C. Reis )
After descending about 600 feet we came again to a small platform of artillery, and pursuing our only path toward the south end, we entered two successive excavations of the solid rock in situations where it was impossible to make any other pathway.
St Michael’s Cave - We now were winding round the south end of the rock, elevated about midway above Point Europa, and came again to the western part, which we again ascended for the purpose of seeing St. Michael's cave on its side. The entrance to this cave is like an immense barn door.
After passing the threshold, you are astonished with the vast appearance of what may be called the first part of the cave; you gaze into an extent that far surpasses the hall of any cathedral; you descend into it by a winding way, and when you get to the bottom you look up to a ceiling of 100 to 120 feet in height, with columns of petrifactions extending from roof to floor. Here you are in a vast room of perhaps 200 feet diameter; you now climb up ascents, which are only accessible with torches, into the second part; here the height of the ceiling is greater than before: the columns of petrifactions far more numerous, and you are only enabled to proceed by the light of torches, for every step has danger in it.
St Michael’s Cave ( 1830s - Arnaut )
There is in this part of the cave a small crevice in the rock above, which admits light; this dim light gives an indistinct view of a most magnificent part of the cave which it is impossible to explore; its long spreading petrifactions, sometimes in the form of pillars, sometimes imitating the most tasteful drapery, overhanging the dark gloomy and yawning caverns below, surpass any that I have ever seen of the works of nature; winding round these petrified pillars where you are continually at the hazard of sliding into an abyss, you come to what may be called the third part of the cave.
Into this, as tradition tells, a general of the rock and a lieutenant of the navy have penetrated by ladders until the torches which they carried were extinguished by the fetid air. The eye can form no idea of its shape or extent; we threw stones and heard them for a long time striking and reverberating from rock to rock.
We now returned home after travelling, as we supposed, about seven to eight miles, and being six hours on the journey. The next day I went to see some of the same scenes in an opposite direction. I travelled round the south end and ascended the Mediterranean stairs, which we had descended the day before. This is the scene of which I am most particularly fond.
I found it much more grand in ascending, and when looking up on the wonderful heights, which l have described, and down on the ocean below, I frequently felt my head dizzy, and had to shut my eyes and cling to the rocks until I recovered my serenity. I again visited the cave, and found it even more wonderful than I before thought it.
“Looking up on the wonderful heights” - Windmill Hill and the “Sugar Loaf” with O’Hara’s tower just visible on top ( Mid 19th century - Frederick Richard Lee ) (See LINK)
The editor of “The Friend” was right. I am certain the article would not have ruffled any of his readers’ anti-war feathers. The piece is basically a travelogue written by somebody who was smitten by the place. Hardly a mention of the locals – but then nor were the military.