The People of Gibraltar
1704 - Joseph Corrons - Alcaide de Mar

Prince George of Hesse and Thomas Stanwix - Stanhope Cotton and Antonio Carreras
Josefa and Maria Corrons - Thomas Corrons and Humphrey Bland
Pedro de Salas and John Shrimpton - Roger Elliott and the Earl of Portmore
John Baptist Ravina and Sebastiana Reynado - Marcos Cassola and Bartolome Danino 
Jane Williams and Menahem Nahon - Giovanni Battista Sturla and George Rooke
Pedro de la Peña, Giacomo Andrea Rombado and  Samuel Chalmers


The evidence is rather vague but as far as I can make out a group of about 200 Catalans had formed part of Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt Hesse forces during the capture of the Rock in 1704 in the name of Charles III Pretender to the throne of Spain (see LINK). Most of them left soon after but Joseph Corrons seems to have been one of the few to have stayed on.


Map of Gibraltar as it was in 1704/1705   (  Colonel D’Harcourt )

Following the end of the the Spaniard’s haphazard attempt to regain the Rock during the 12th Siege, Charles III made a short visit to his newly acquired property. Among the few civilians that he must have been introduced to was Joseph who had only a few days previously been appointed by Hesse as “Alcaide de mar de esta ciudad y presidio de Gibraltar”.  

It was an important and lucrative post in the sense that it lent itself to all sorts of financial shenanigans which Corrons almost certainly made more than good use of long after both Charles III and Hesse had disappeared from the scene. He was still there long after the Treaty Utrecht had been signed in 1713 (see LINK) by which time he had managed to make himself an unpopular figure with the rest of the local population. 

His activities seem to have attracted the attention of both Brigadier Thomas Stanwix, appointed Governor in 1711 and Colonel Stanhope Cotton who was Lieutenant Governor from 1716. No doubt they were upset that he was making money from managing the port - money that they would have preferred to pocket for themselves.

Nevertheless Corrons seems to have managed to evade most of the unwanted attentions of his English and later British military superiors with plenty of time left over to marry and produce six children - two boys and four girls. I don’t know the name of his wife but one of the sons was called Thomas. Also I only know the name of two of his daughters - Josefa and Maria - and that one of the four married a certain Antonio Carreras although again I don’t know which one.

Many years later during a sitting of the Court of Enquiry of 1749 set up by the then Governor Humphrey Bland (see LINK) to find out who was legitimately entitled to own certain properties on the Rock, a certain Pedro de Salas revealed that Joseph Corrons was not just in charge of the Port but was also its “Prattick Master” - which probably meant that his was the final decision as to whether ships calling at Gibraltar would be allowed to discharge their cargo or whether they should be held in quarantine. 


Part of a deposition by Pedro de Salas   ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry )

Pedro de Salas was an interesting character. During the early years of the British occupation of Gibraltar British soldiers on frontier duty were prone to desert. A local militia known as the “Genoese Guard” was therefore raised from men who had their families and homes on the Rock, as these were not likely to make an unauthorised exit.

They were commanded by Pedro de Salas a Spanish officer who had come to Gibraltar to support the cause of the Archduke Charles. He was given the rank of “Serjeant” and in addition to his frontier duties he also assisted the Town Major in his dealing with the local Spanish and Genoese residents. After the Siege of 1727 (see LINK) when enemy set up their land barriers it became almost impossible for soldiers to desert. The Genoese Guard was therefore disbanded, but Pedro de Salas retained his policing duties. 

De Salas made quite a few depositions during the 1749 Court of Enquiry. According to his own testimony his status as a local policeman allowed him to come into close and personal contact with many of the local non-British claimants and he was therefore in a good position to confirm or refute their claims.


Deposition by  Pedro de Salas   ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry )

Corrons’ residence on the Rock corresponded with that of at least half a dozen Governors of Gibraltar. The Prince of Hesse may have been the first but he didn’t last long. In 1705 he was off to Barcelona never to return. The next Governor was Colonel John Shrimpton who was appointed by Hesse just before he left. He was followed in 1707 by Major-General Roger Eliott - the first British appointee and then by Thomas Stanwix in 1711. 

Roger Elliott - Governor of Gibraltar

The Earl of Portmore was sent over in 1713 in an attempt to clean up the kind of corruption that had been going on in Britain’s newest possession. He did not succeed and the man who ended up at the chalk face from 1716 was his lieutenant Colonel Stanhope Cotton who was far more interested in making money than in the proper administration of the Fortress.


Earl of Portmore - Governor of Gibraltar

The first few Governors do not seem to have interfered overly in Joseph Corrons’ personal and professional life and it was perhaps during their terms of office that he appears to have invested some of his earnings in local property. One such was a house that lay between an Officer’s and a Soldiers Barracks - No. 41 and No. 17 to be precise, although I am at a loss to place them within a modern context as they have long disappeared.

Corrons rented the house to two local residents - John Baptist Ravina and Sebastiana Reynado. John Baptist earned his daily bread as a supplier of provisions, and “other services” to the Garrison and had occupied his part of the house as a shop or store since 1709.  Sebastiana had rented the place since 1714. She was still living there 35 years later.


Gibraltar  (1720 - Pierre Husson )

The various depositions and testimonies given in the 1749 Court of Enquiry instigated by the new Governor Humphrey Bland confirm the arbitrary nature of Bland’s predecessors as regards their views on local housing - which was essentially to consider the lot as their own private property to evict and to rent as they pleased in order to make as much money as possible out of what was in fact the property of the British Sovereign.

That house between the two barracks which was had been given to Corrons by Hesse was also claimed by another resident called Marcos Cassola. He said that it had been given to him by the Governor Roger Elliott who also charged him ground rent. Another influential resident - Bartholomew Danino who happened to be the Genoese Consul in Gibraltar at the time - testified that when Ravena left the Rock for good in 1709, Cassola had moved in and that he had paid his rent for the house during the intervening thirty odd years. 

Cassola was also of Genoese descent and Danino may have just been giving a helping hand to one of his own. Nevertheless his testimony in favour of Cassola was supported by other residents although this was offset by Cassola’s own further interventions. He told the court that he had indeed originally paid Corrons rent for the house but that he had been ordered by the Governor Roger Elliott to stop these payments and to do so directly to him.

Corrons had protested about this to the Governor and had gone as far as petitioning Queen Anne about the injustice of it all. A big mistake as the end result was that Corrons was thrown out of town by Governor Thomas Stanwix - or at any rate that was Carreras’ version of events. 


Antonio Carreras’ deposition  ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry )

Another resident, Jane Williams thought it had been Governor Stanhope Cotton who had thrown him out and that the petition had been to King George.


Jane Williams’ deposition    ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry )

The Court’s decision was nevertheless favourable to the Corrons’ family. They were of the opinion that he was “a very serviceable man to the Garrison during Queen Ann’s War” - which is what that part of the conflict which took place in North America during the War of the Spanish Succession was known - making it a curiosity that it should be referred to as such in Gibraltar.

The Court also went out of its way to mention that the Prince of Hesse had actually given Corrons several other houses and that he had been “turned out of the town and deprived of his possessions for no reasonable cause appearing for that treatment.”


Judgement of the Court of Enquiry   (1749 )

Cassola - who must have been a man of some influence among the locals at the time - refused to take the Court’s decision lying down and asked for a second hearing. He claimed that “he had not then been fully prepared” the first time round.


Marcos Cassola’s petition for a second hearing (  1749 - Court of Enquiry )

This time Cassola made sure that his claim would be backed by what he must have thought of as believable witnesses. The first of these was Menahem Nahon who was anything but. Nahon was Jewish which is neither here nor there other than that theoretically and according to the conditions laid out by the Treaty of Utrecht he shouldn’t have been a resident of Gibraltar at all. 

Much more importantly, however, he had once been secretary to Giovanni Battista Sturla (see LINK) a man who had already been a resident of Gibraltar long before Prince George of Hesse - with a little help from Admiral Rooke - had taken over Gibraltar. Sturla stayed on and made himself useful to his new masters.

A year later in 1705 it was pay-off time. Prince George, in the name of the Archduke Charles of Austria - alias the Pretender to the Spanish throne, Charles III - decided to issue twenty-six property grants to certain Gibraltar residents in recognition of services rendered.  The properties in question were those of people who had left after the surrender of 1704 . Sturla was one of the beneficiaries - as had been Corrons.

The grant was not to be sneezed at. It stretched from 142 Main Street (see LINK) to 91 Irish Town, an extensive piece of real estate by any yardstick. A forceful personality if ever there was one, Sturla made good use of his new-found wealth and became one of the most influential civilian residents of the Rock. He must have come into contact with Corrons at some time or the other as it was he who was responsible for collecting an illegal tax on foreign boats landing goods in Gibraltar as concocted by the Governor Roger Elliott. Among other things, Sturla was officially made French Consul - unofficially he was de facto that of Genoa as well.

Menahem’s testimony in favour of Marcus Cassola turned out to be a thoroughly unbelievable rigmarole. Basically he claimed that the house in question had originally been granted by Hesse to John Baptist Ravina and that he in turn had sold it to Cassola. The reason he knew this was that the deeds had been signed in Mr. Sturla’s parlour in the presence of a local Parish priest called Pedro de la Peña, another Genoese resident called Giacomo Andrea Rombado as well as Ravina, Cassola, and Mr Sturla himself. Menahem had just happened to be passing by and witnessed the deal through an open window - although on the whole he wasn’t all that sure as to what exactly was taking place.


Menahem Nahon’s deposition in favour of Marcos Cassola’s claim  
(  1749 - Court of Enquiry )

A much more credible witness from the Court’s point of view was that of the ubiquitous Pedro de Salas Gibraltar’s one and only civilian policeman. Salas’ deposition - in which he made sure that his name would appear on the Court’s minutes as Peter rather than the Spanish Pedro was essentially a hatchet job on Corrons. In fact reading between the lines, de Salas didn’t have a clue as to who actually owned what or even when they owned it. 
He (de Salas) remembers that Corron’s had some dispute with Gov Cotton and was turned out of town but doesn’t know the particulars. That with time the Town Major went in person to receive the Rents from the inhabitants for the Governor and for that reason Corrons could not collect the rent. That he knows nothing of Corrons exacting money from Cassola but in general he was ill beloved by the inhabitants and accused of laying them under hardship and doing them ill offices with the Governor unless they made him some present or gratuity . . . .

Pedro de Salas deposition in favour of Marcos Cassola’s claim  - or should I say against Corrons    ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry )

Not surprisingly the Court was having none of that and refused to overturn their original ruling. 


Court’s decision on Cassolas second claim Corrons   ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry )

The Corron’s family house - or at any rate one of them - was on the on the east side of Main Street opposite the 16th century Spanish Convent of Santa Clara. It may very well have been the first one given to him by the Prince of Hesse shortly after the 12th Siege.


The plan shows Main Street running horizontally at the top with Irish Town just below parallel to it - The street that connects them is today’s Tuckey’s Lane - The entire block to the left or north of Tuckey’s Lane was the Convent of Santa Clara - Joseph Corrons’ house must have been any one of those shown just above it on the opposite side of Main Street      (1753 - James Montressor - detail )  (See LINK

This house was also the subject of a lengthy claim to the Court of Enquiry. Surprisingly the original claim was made by Antonio Carreras - the husband of one his daughters. Rather less surprising two of Corron’s surviving daughters and one of his sons immediately counterclaimed ownership. One would have thought that they would have come to some sort of prior agreement before facing the Court but they obviously hadn’t. The Court found in favour of Corron’s children.


Claim and counterclaim and the decision of the Court   ( 1749 - Court of Enquiry   )

What appears to have been a second family home -  a very large property which also appears to have been granted to him by the Prince of Hesse was also subject to a claim - in this case by both Antonio Carreras and Corron’s children acting in unison. Unfortunately the person who was living in it at the time was a certain Samuel Chalmers who happened to be the brother of the Paymaster of the Garrison. 

Chalmers argued that around 1736 the place had been repaired at the Treasury’s expense and that it had then been used as the Paymaster’s dwelling house - which of course fails to explain why it was that it was Samuel who was living in it at the time.  Nevertheless, the Corrons family didn’t stand a chance against such opposition and the house was declared “the property of the King to be used by the Paymaster for the time being”. 


Plan showing the “Paymaster of the Garrison’s Quarters” - Opposite and to the left is the old Spanish chapel of la Vera Cruz with Main Street below it and the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned - or the “Spanish Church” (see LINK) to the right     (1753 - James Montressor - detail )

Whether Joseph had been thrown out by either Stanwix or Cotton and whether the reason was because of his petitioning either Queen Anne or King George, the fact is that he was forced to leave the town. I have no ideas as to what happened to him after that but the various depositions made during the Court of Enquiry make it a racing certainty that a good part of his family continued to live in Gibraltar at least until 1749 by which time we can deduce Joseph had passed away. As to what happened to them after this date I have no idea. What I do know is that here were no Corrons on the 1777 census.


Gibraltar  (1740 - Unknown )