Southport Gates

Don’t you love it when the place is so quiet that you can take photos without pesky people getting in the way?

Granted some spontaneous people shots can really make a special photo out of nothing, but sometimes, it’s nice to take architectural/historical photos without people cluttering up the place.

So first thing on a Sunday morning is A Good Time to take piccies. Lazy Gibbos haven’t got out of bed, even lazier Spaniards probably haven’t arrived home from their Saturday night out, and tourists haven’t started wandering around looking for the cable car and the monkeys.

As you would expect in a small place that has been fought over for centuries, and later became a military garrison, Gibraltar is full of fortifications, walls, gates, and former military buildings.

A couple of minutes walk from me are Southport Gates/Referendum Gates. Whenever we’ve been away, I love wandering back through the city walls. It’s great crossing the frontier, and the airfield, but it’s only when I’ve walked through these gates and I’m within the city walls that I can truly say ‘Home again.’

There are three separate gates here. They are at the far (south) end of Main Street, just before the Trafalgar Cemetery. The first gate dates back to the sixteenth century (1552), when Charles V of Spain started construction of a wall from the Upper Rock right down to Main Street to improve the city’s defences. Originally this gate had a drawbridge.

The two older gates from within the city walls, Charles V gate on the left
The sixteenth century gate

Above the archway on the outside of the gate are the Arms of Gibraltar and Spain (don’t forget it was still Spanish at this time although that didn’t stop people trying to invade). The Arms of Gibraltar are on the bottom left hand corner, and on the right is a coat of arms said to be that of the Marques de Mondejar. The gate also bears the Pillars of Hercules with the inscription ‘plus ultra’ to mark the recent discovery of the New World.

The old gate on entering the city - watch out for that canon!

A second arch was cut in the wall in 1883. On it are the British Lion and Unicorn, the Castle and Key of Gibraltar, and the Arms of General Sir John Adye, then Governor of Gibraltar. Further alterations were carried out in 1899.

The Victorian gate (inside the walls)
Approaching the Victorian gate from outside the walls, the road lined by colourful winter flowers and lush greenery

Finally the last wider gate – Referendum Gate – commemorates the 1967 referendum, Gibraltar’s first one, when Gibraltarians voted by 99% to retain links with Britain in preference to Spain. A second referendum in 2002 produced a similar result. You would have thought by now that politicians would get the message.

Referendum Gate
The fountain garden between the two newest gates

As an aside from the history lesson, plenty of Spaniards don’t want Gibraltar to lose its ties with Britain. The ones who cross the frontier every day for work know that the economic situation would change drastically under Spanish sovereignty, and they are currently grateful they have jobs, while many of their friends, family and neighbours in Spain are unemployed.

Moving quickly up-to-date with the revamp of the Trafalgar roundabout area, which is next to the gates. Work was started nearly three years ago to change the road layout, and the garden areas. The cost of the tender was approx £3M, although I’ve no idea what the final bill came in at.

I liked this old stonework for the gardens much better than the new blocks. Note the carving above the Victorian gate which isn't visible in the later pic above
Endless, endless roadworks, photo taken in November 2009

They made a good job of it, but it looked nice enough before. Has it slowed down the traffic? Possibly, although vehicles still come down Europa Road far too fast. I think the new seats are pretty naff looking, and I don’t really like all the blue, but apart from that it looks great. The trees have little fairy lights on at night, and the gardens are floodlit, so it does look really pretty then (when you can’t see all the blue). No, I haven’t taken any shots of blue paintwork and naff benches, although you can see the blue streetlights in the pic below.

Possibly the most expensive roundabout in Gibraltar

It’s a pleasant enough place to sit, although why there are benches in the middle of a pedestrian crossing area (off left in the above pic) is beyond me. Great place to get lots of petrol/diesel fumes in your lungs. Fortunately there are benches elsewhere too.

Information about the gates comes from the treasury website, as they feature on a five pound note, link here.

Thanks to Panorama for the tender details about the works, link here. The winning firm Haymills no longer exists, but that’s another story.

I’ve threatened to write about baked beans on toast, but that will have to wait for another post……

I would like to wish all Andalucíans an excellent day, as today is Día de Andalucía. Que paseis un buen Día!

And – a special thanks to WordPress for choosing the roadworks shot as the one to feature on the blog pages. That was a really clever trick. So not appreciated by me.

20 comments on “Southport Gates

  1. fascinating history, talking gates aside :)
    seriously, i do love the old architecture. quite different from my corner of the planet. there are other old things here, old cultures, old trees, old oceans, old rivers. but the architecture is bar none on your side of the Atlantic. how cool it must be to walk such paths.
    a curious question: where is it that you see what wordpress posts? you mentioned something the other day about the dog on the beach being enlarged on my ‘D’ day post, and now you are referring to the roadworks image. i am obviously missing something?


    • It is lovely here with so much history and heritage in such a tiny place, you trip over it whenever you walk out of the door. The trouble is, it’s hard to get over in a few images, which is why I thought a collage helped the other day, to try and convey the diversity of views from any one spot. I’ll do some more when I find suitable topics/photos. The double photo of the two gates is actually two, but hardly a collage, just ‘stitched’ as it worked better than the single shot I took.

      I’ll mail you about wordpress posts.


    • Thanks. I think it is because there is so much history (when the govt doesn’t demolish it of course) crammed into such a small piece of space. And the setting of the huge rock, and surrounded by sea, apart from the Spanish border.


    • It’s like anywhere, it’s knowing what to look out for, and knowing some of the history behind it that adds to the attraction. Anyway, you aren’t too far away, but I reckon you would need an overnight stay from the Algarve to really enjoy it.


  2. Really enjoyed these photos and the information but was wondering if you have any photos of the soldier sitting behind glass in an alcove between the cannon and Southport Gate?I have tried on previous visits to Gibraltar but always get bad reflection..
    Thank you.Christine


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