The People of Gibraltar
1749 - Captain John Fleming - And His Friend William

Humphrey Bland and Alice Cullum - Major Clenahan and Mr Emmerton
Mr Stone and Mr Macfarland - Mr Blake and Dr Hall

Contemporary print of the Rock of Gibraltar

John Fleming was born in 1702 and served in Gibraltar as a Lieutenant in the 7th City of London Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. He may have come to Gibraltar when the regiment first arrived in 1731. If so he would have been a 29 year old lieutenant at the time. 

He also happened to be a nephew of Major General James Fleming. This uninteresting statement indirectly explains why it was that William Hargrave - the regiment’s colonel in 1739 - not only took John under his wing but got him promoted to Captain and - more importantly from a financial point of view - made him his personal secretary and general factotum. William Hargrave it seems was a very good friend of Major General James Fleming. 

William Hargrave

Hargrave was finally recalled to England in 1748 after an eventful eight years as Governor of Gibraltar. The British Government long accustomed to turning a very blind eye to the dubious activities of many of its colonial governors had obviously felt that in Hargrave’s case enough was more than enough.

Financial Document possibly compiled on the orders of Humphrey Bland in 1750

The document shown above gives us a glimpse as to just how dubious these activities were. It reads - where legible - as follows:
The ground rents used by Gen Hargrave according to the list left by Captain Fleming amounted to 717 dollars per month of which is 8604 dollars per annum. And that rate in the nine years and two months, the time he commanded in Gibraltar, amounted to 78870 Dollars or £13 802. 5 shillings @ (-) per dollar 
The duty on wine raised by General Hargrave (-) per Butt for all wine bought by Sutlers. And the quantity by the Books and Declarations of the Governor appear to be about 3000 Butts per annum for the first seven years and 2000 butts per annum for the rest of the time which in the whole amounted to 37950 dollars. 
Or . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £6 641.5  
Which adding to the Rents . . 13 802.5  
Makes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £20 443.10 
Besides these Rents and Duties Gen Hargrave also receiving from a Jew, four hundred dollars per annum for the liberty of distilling and making brandy and wine for the need of the African forces in this Garrison.
That twenty odd thousand quid can be calculated today as being worth anything between two and forty six million pounds - it was money that was legitimately due to the King.

When his master finally had left his post in Gibraltar, Fleming - who could read the writing on the wall - followed him to England almost immediately afterwards. Hargrave was to enjoy a comfortable retirement with his ill-gotten gains for another eight years but in 1757 he finally packed it in. If Fleming was ever distraught by the loss of his friend it was more than made up for when he made aware that he had inherited the bulk of Hargrave’s estate. The ex-governor was buried in Westminster Abbey where a large monument in his honour can still be seen. 

Monument in honour of William Hargrave
The inscriptions reads:
To the memory of WILLIAM HARGRAVE Esqr. Lieutenant General of his Majesty's Forces, Colonel of the Royal English Fuziliers, and Governor of GIBRALTAR who, having been 57 years a commissioned officer, died the 21st of January 1750/1, aged 79 years. His body is interred close to that of his friend Lieut. Genl. FLEMING and near to this monument.
According to local historian Tito Benady, General Henry Seymour Conway who would one day become the leader of the House of Commons wrote about what he thought about the man and his memorial in a letter to Horace Walpole:
But I’ll tell you one I heard since which pleases me much better for since vice and insignificance have entitled people to an instalment in Westminster Abby one General Hargreaves(sic) has slipped in among the crowd and on his tomb is represented as rising from the dead - a Westminster boy wrote on the tomb:

"Lie still if you are wise, you’ll be damned if you rise.

General Henry Seymour Conway

The memorial was paid for by John Fleming. It was not the only occasion in which he honoured his friend and benefactor - or partner in crime perhaps? He named one of his sons Hargrave William.

Fleming’s reputation as a dishonourable cad is mostly based on his attempts to seduce a young local resident called Alice Cullum - a subject which is dealt with more fully elsewhere. (See LINK) - nor did his close association with William Hargrave during his years as his secretary do much for his credentials as an honest man either. But there was more.

In 1749 Governor Humphrey Bland (see LINK) was ordered by George II to set up a Court of Enquiry in order to investigate the legality or otherwise of land titles on the Rock. 

George II of Britain    (Thomas Hudson )

The fact that Fleming was no longer living in Gibraltar failed to stop him from being among those who made the largest number of claims for properties on the Rock. That the more prosperous merchants and traders should own numerous houses which they rented out to others is understandable. That somebody who was simply a government employee should do likewise is not.

Humphrey Bland - Governor of Gibraltar from 1749 to 1754

Fleming’s claims were dealt with by his lawyer - probably a Major Clenahan - the first being for a house on the east side of Main Street. Despite the fact that the claim appears to be rather dubious as no proper deeds were forthcoming the Court found in his favour.

His attorney also successfully claimed another house on the foot of the hill leading to the Hospital also bought from Emmerton - despite the deeds not being forthcoming as they were “in England”. 

Another house on the west side of Main Street in which a certain Mr Stone occupied the upper apartment, was claimed without producing and Title Deeds.

A house on the east side of Main Street which he claimed to have bought from a Mr Macfarland basically passed muster simply because his lawyer testified that Macfarland had told him that he had sold it to Fleming. 

In another rather convoluted hearing he successfully claimed a house to the North Gate of Governor’s House and in which his attorney - Major Clenaham - testified that Mr Blake - the attorney for the previous owner of the house Dr Hall, had offered to sell it to him but had then withdrawn the offer a few day later because it had already been sold to Fleming. 

Fleming also claimed a sixth house with a yard, this one in the French Parade - known today as Governor’s Parade. (See LINK

Back home presumably still raking in the rent from his Gibraltar properties, Fleming went on to prove that it is not the meek who will inherit the earth but the scoundrel. His inheritance from Hargrave was large enough to allow him to buy the Brompton Park Estate in Kensington - a site which is today occupied by the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

His wealth also bought him a title - he was created a baronet in 1763 and when he died that same year it was seen fit to have his remains buried in Westminster Abbey not far from Hargrave’s memorial.

During Hargrave’s period in office Town Range Barracks was built. The square between it and Charles V Wall was called Hargrave’s Parade in honour of the Governor - It is still know as such today - However, the artist responsible for the above sketch calls it the Sappers’ Parade Ground      ( 1820 - Henry Sandham ) (See LINK)