Gibraltar

This page includes my grandfather's postcards from Gibraltar. I presume at least some of the P&O steamers stopped there as he collected quite a few Gibraltar postcards.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar - aerial view from Google Earth [1]

Brief History of Gibraltar

Gibraltar was inhabited by Neanderthals over 50,000 years ago and is believed to be one of the last places they survived before dying out around 24,000 years ago. The first inhabitants of whom there are historical records were the Phoenicians in about 950 BCE. They were followed by the Carthaginians, then the Romans (who regarded it as one of the twin Pillars of Hercules) and, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths. In 711 CE, Gibraltar was taken over by Muslim Moors who renamed it Jebel Tariq (the Mount of Tariq) from which the name Gibraltar evolved. It was annexed by Castile in 1309, regained by the Moors in 1333, returned to Castille in 1462 and, as part of the unified Kingdom of Spain, remained Spanish until 1704 when it was captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet and finally ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 which ended the War of Spanish Succession.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Spanish were not happy with this and attempted to recover Gibraltar during three wars but failed to do so. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Gibraltar became an increasingly important base - especially during the Peninsular War. Under British control, it became an important stopping-off point for British shipping and grew rapidly during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Spanish still make noises about taking it back.


The map below shows Gibraltar and its fortifications as they were in 1799. Some of the moles were already in place.

Map
Map of Gibraltar and its fortifications by Jean-Denis Barbié du Bocage in 1799 [18]
Click image for enlarged view

I have only given the bullet points above - the wars between European powers over the centuries are unbelievably complicated and good luck to anyone hoping for a comprehensive understanding of them. Gibraltar's attraction has always been its situation at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Surprisingly it has a land area of just 2.6 square miles - less than one third the size of the City of Westminster - and most of it is the Rock of Gibraltar itself.

Gibraltar Postcards

Rock from North West

The unused colour postcard below, published by V.B. Cumbo, shows the Rock of Gibraltar looking from the North West. In the foreground there is a fisherman with several rods being observed by family members. The following image from Google Earth shows a modern view from a similar direction.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar - Rock from North West - date unknown.
Gibraltar
Gibraltar - view from near Puente Mayorga in Spain [1]

Rock from the New Bridge

The unused colour postcard below, published by V.B. Cumbo, shows the Rock of Gibraltar looking from the 'New Bridge' - which appears to be located somewhere near where Gibraltar Airport is now sited. I wonder whether it is in fact a view along a mole rather than a bridge but have been unable to locate any maps from the Edwardian era to confirm the location.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar - View from the New Bridge - date unknown.

Gibraltar from the Commercial Mole

The unused colour postcard below, from an unknown publisher, has the caption 'Gibraltar from the Commercial Mole'.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar From Commercial Mole - date unknown.

Wikipedia gives the following description of a 'mole' [18]:

A mole is a massive structure, usually of stone, used as a pier, breakwater, or a causeway separating two bodies of water. The word comes from Middle French mole, ultimately from Latin mōlēs, meaning a large mass, especially of rock; it has the same root as molecule and mole, the chemical unit of measurement. A mole may have a wooden structure built on top of it that resembles a wooden pier. The defining feature of a mole, however, is that water cannot freely flow underneath it, unlike a true pier. The oldest known mole is at Wadi al-Jarf, an ancient Egyptian harbor complex on the Red Sea, constructed ca. 2500 BCE.

Gibraltar has more moles than the average lawn. The image below from 1911 shows them in all their glory; the Commercial Mole is to the top left of the image. The image below that shows an aerial view of the harbour in 2022 from Google Earth. The former Race Course, at the top of this map, was built over and the land extended to construct Gibraltar Airport in 1939 as an emergency landing place for the British Navy. The main route into Spain is called Winston Churchill Avenue and has to be closed temporarily whenever an aircraft lands or takes off. Apparently landings in winter are uncomfortable due to cross-winds and the proximity of the Rock.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar Moles [18]
Gibraltar
Gibraltar Harbour And Moles [1]

Gibraltar Dry Docks

The unused colour postcard below, published by V.B. Cumbo, is captioned 'Gibraltar N.M. Dry Docks N.1, 2 & 3'. The 'N.M.' refers to the North Mole. Three large graving docks were constructed as a part of a major upgrade to the Royal Naval Dockyard that commenced around 1896. The docks were excavated on the site of an earlier dockyard. The first, Dock No. 3 opened in 1903 and was named King Edward VII, followed by the slightly larger Dock No. 2 in 1906 and named after Queen Alexandra, and Dock No. 1, with twice the volume as No. 3 in 1907 and named after the Prince and Princess of Wales (later renamed to King George V and Queen Mary when George became king).

The docks have been in civilian ownership since 1984 following a cutback in the number of Royal Navy surface ships. They were renamed Gibdock in 2006 and currently operate as a ship repair and conversion facility, providing repair services to all sectors of the maritime industry. The second image below shows an aerial view of Gibdock in 2022.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar NM Dry Docks - date unknown.
Gibraltar
Gibdock [1]

Moorish Castle

The unused colour postcard below, published by Benzaquen & Co., is captioned 'Moorish Castle and Town'. Gibraltar was fortified by the 'Moors' around the 8th century AD and built a fortified town known as Medinat al-Fath but not much remains of it. It is not at all obvious from the postcard where the castle actually is as the image is of pretty low definition.

Gibraltar
Moorish Castle - date unknown.

Incidentally, I discovered that the term 'Moor' is used in different ways but the name is derived from the Latin word 'Maurus' - referring to the Berbers and other people from the ancient Roman province of Mauretania - what we know as North Africa. Later the term was applied to Muslims living in Europe. Later still the terms 'Moor' and 'Blackamoor' were used to describe people with dark skin.

The Market

The unused colour postcard below, published by V.B. Cumbo, shows the market in Gibraltar. The arches are the Grand Casemates Gates, formerly known as Waterport Gate and providing the entrance to the fortified part of the city known as Grand Casemates Square which held a fortified gun emplacement and barracks - both being completed in 1817. It now acts as a gateway to Gibraltar's city centre for tourists. Covered market stalls are on both sides and protected by railings. A number of horse-drawn carts are in the street and what appears to be a rank for hansom cabs on the left. The place the hansom cabs touted for trade is now a bus terminus so the travel function continues.

The second image shows the same area as it appears on Google Earth in 2022.

Gibraltar
The Market - date unknown.
Gibraltar
Grand Casemates Gate [1]

Vegetable Seller

The unused colour postcard below, published by V.B. Cumbo, shows what appears to be a carefully posed street scene. There is no sign of vegetables despite the title. A group of boys are standing outside a shop named J.Roscoe that I have been unable to locate. Next door is Brinsmead Pianos and the 'Antique Piano Shop' has this to say about the company[23]:

John Brinsmead & Sons was one of England's premier piano manufacturers. The firm was originally established in 1836 as 'John Brinsmead'. The name of the firm was changed to 'John Brinsmead & Sons' in 1861 when his sons Edgar and John, Jr. joined the firm. John Brinsmead & Sons was known to build very well-made pianos and they were widely distributed across several European countries. Instruments by Brinsmead & Sons were often very elaborate and quite costly.

John Brinsmead & Sons was purchased by J. B. Cramer & Company in the mid 20th Century, then later both Cramer and Brinsmead were purchased by the large Kemble Piano Company in 1967. Kemble continued to successfully build pianos under the Brinsmead & Sons name for several decades.
Gibraltar
Vegetable Seller - date unknown.

Staffordshire Regiment

The unused colour postcard below, published by Benzaquen, is captioned 'The Staffordshire Regiment marching by the Alameda Gardens to be inspected by H.M. King George V'.

Unlike the other postcards in this collection, the image in this one can be accurately dated. The regiment shown was in fact the South Staffordshire Regiment that was created in 1881 under the Childers Reforms. This can be narrowed down further to the 1st Battalion which had served in the Second Boer War. Although only engaged in minor skirmishes, the 1st Battalion lost a lot of men to disease and poor nutrition. It returned to Britain in 1904 and remained there until 1911 when it was posted to Gibraltar. They were presented with new colours in Gibraltar on 31 January 1912 by King George V.

The Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, or La Alameda Gardens, is a botanical garden in Gibraltar, spanning around 15 acres. The gardens were commissioned by the British Governor of Gibraltar in 1816 to provide a recreational area for his troops and the local inhabitants.

Gibraltar
Staffordshire Regiment - 1912.

Click on the link below to go to the page on Marseille - the next port of call on the route from Tilbury to Australia.