The People of Gibraltar
1705 - The Picardo Family - Master Gardeners

Bartolome Canovas and Antonio Picardo - George Picardo senior and George Picardo junior
Agustin Picardo and John Picardo - Ignacio Reyes and Lorenzo Picardo

The defeat of the “Floating Batteries” during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (See LINK) - The well-cultivated areas shown on the right are probably continuations of a more southerly  garden known as the Vineyard     ( Thomas Davis )

The “Vineyard” was considered by both locals and visitors alike as one of the Rock’s most attractive places - but don’t take my word for it. The following is how Robert Poole (see LINK) describes it in his Beneficent Bee which was published in 1748:
 . . . we visited what is here called the Vineyard. It is a pretty large piece of garden, lying upon a descent, in the occupation of one who rents it, maintain himself and his family by the profit thereof. . . .
In fact his description suggests that its name - the Vineyard - was something of a misnomer. 
Here are plenty of lemons, quinces, pomegranates etc also garden greens, peas now in bloom and other still younger coming forward. By the side of the garden is a locust tree  . . . It bears pretty large pods  . . . said to be used only as food for asses, here called 'Borekers' (Borricos). In various places . . .  plenty  . . . of the aloe plant  . . . Here are also prickly pears and several palm trees . . .
A few years later Thomas James (see LINK) in his History of the Herculean Straits confirms this view:
Between the Sailors’ Hospital and the military barracks (there) is a large enclosed piece of land called the Vineyard. In it are many trees, plenty of root vegetables, salads etc in their proper season and is by far the most pleasant spot on the Rock.

A clearly marked if unlabelled Vineyard between South Barracks on the left and the old Naval Hospital on the right   ( 1779 - Juan Cavallero )

It was a Genoese gardener by the name of Bartolome Canovas who was originally given permission - possibly by the Prince of Hesse in 1705  - to live in ‘a cottage and garden near the New Mole’ where he produced fruit and vegetables which he sold in town. When Canovas died his widow married Antonio Picardo, another Genoese gardener who took over the cottage and - more importantly - the garden.  

In 1708 Major-General Roger Elliott who became Governor the previous year must have decided to settle for the status quo - as long as Picardo kept paying him the required ground rents - which were due to the King but which he in fact pocketed for himself - he could stay there and work the gardens. 

Plan showing the Vineyard as S. Rosia - or the site of the old Spanish Hermita de Santa Rosa
The Naval Hospital and South Barracks had not yet been built       ( Early 18th century - Guillaume-Nicolas Delahaye - Detail )

In 1749 or some forty years later General Humphrey Bland was sent to Gibraltar as Governor. One of his first administrative chores was the setting up of a Court of Enquiry to investigate the legality or otherwise of land titles on the Rock. Antonio’s son George Picardo - who was by now married to a local girl called Ventura and identified on the 1777 census a Master Gardener - must have thought it prudent to make sure that the families rights as regards ownership of the Vineyard would meet with the approval of the authorities and made the appropriate claim.

The Court agreed that they had title both to a new house that they had build on the property as well as the garden which surrounded it. The decreed, however, that the “other garden ground” belonged to the King - They nevertheless agreed to allow George to work on it as a tenant after payment of a suitable amount in rent. In other words, the Vineyard no longer really belonged to them.

By 1777, George had died and his son - also called George - had probably taken over the running of the Vineyard. It must have been in their genes but the Picardos generally seem to have been superb horticulturalists. To such an extent that I am inclined to suppose it was this family perhaps more than any other that gave rise to the local tradition that the Genoese were the best gardeners in town. They probably were.

From the Census of 1777 - All of them were born in Gibraltar - but young George hadn't yet made it as Master Gardner 

Agustin Picardo - who may or may not have been related to the Vineyard family - also owned another 'huerta' inside the old moat south of Charles V Wall. (See LINK) He had bought it from a Spaniard, Ignacio Reyes for 400 duros in 1714.  

His son Giovanni (John) Picardo inherited the property when he died and later with the approval of Governor William Hargrave rebuilt the house from scratch. His claim of legal ownership of this property which was identified as being “near South Port” (see LINK) was approved in 1749 by the Court of Enquiry.

Not all the Picardos in Gibraltar were gardeners. Lorenzo Picardo, for example, bought some property on the Rock as early as 1705. He must have made himself useful during the first decade after the take-over of the Rock by the Anglo-Dutch (see LINK) as he was also was granted a house in 1718 for services rendered. He may have used this to set up a coffee shop in town as he is recorded as having been the owner of one of them. 

During the Great Siege of Gibraltar - which began in 1779 and lasted about four years - the town took a bit of hammering. Not even the Vineyard which lay well to the south of the main Spanish batteries on the northern section of the isthmus was spared the occasional bombardment. According to Samuel Ancell‘s Circumstatial Journal  . . . of the Great Siege . . . (see LINK) published shortly after the end of the conflict: 
This day ( Nov 14th 1781) a shell fired from St Carlos, fell near George Picardo's vineyard,  where it burst, but did no damage. . . 

Main Street area during the Great Siege  ( 1782 - Unknown - detail )

B. Cornwell (see LINK) in his Description of Gibraltar which covered at least the start of the same Siege tells us that:
  . . . part of a shell . . . fell into the house of a Mr. Maxwell at Black Town, and made its way through the bed of Major Baugh . .  the same day one fell between George's Vineyard and the South Pavilion . . 
In both cases the reference to George Picardo suggests that the name had become part of a much admired Gibraltar institution. But nothing lasts forever and by the turn of the century, as Major-General E. R. Kenyon (see LINK) reminds us in his 1911 book on Gibraltar, the Vineyard had now simply become:
 . . . the name given to a site now occupied by the Gasworks, but it serves  . . . to preserve the memory of a time when Gibraltar was not dependent on Spain for its grapes.
Not the most elegant ending to what had been from the earliest 18th right up to the 20th century one of the most attractive places on the Rock. 

Site of the Gibraltar Gasworks - but I am not sure I can identify where exactly the Vineyard used to be    ( Early 20th Century Postcard )