Wellington Front, Gibraltar

Gib’s history is vastly underused.

For such a small place it oozes history of all types on every street. And yet, most tourists jump in a taxi or the cable car, look at the monkeys, buy cheap perfume, spirits and tobacco, and clear off.

If I was running tourism, I’m not – the Right Hon Neil Costa is in charge of that – I would have a huge programme of development to emphasise the history of the place.

Not necessarily expensive projects either, a few well-placed information signs, maybe short walking tours – not everything should be glimpsed out of a taxi window.

Deciding to record a quick piece of history before it was demolished, I ran up the steps to Wellington Front defensive walls to take a shot of the old military medical centre.

Steps up to Wellington Front
Steps up to Wellington Front
The former military medical centre - now demolished
The former military medical centre – now demolished

Wellington Front was built in 1840 (or 1850 according to the inscription) by convicts on reclaimed land. Apparently more than 900 convicts worked on these walls, bastions, and other defences.

The convicts were based on a ship, the Owen Glendower, and the ship’s bell rang whenever one of them was lucky enough to escape. The bell is now in the Gib museum.

However, the convicts lost their jobs because they didn’t work hard enough to earn their keep and local Gibbos took their place as labourers. Given the pace at which some Gibbos work, I’m somewhat surprised they turned out to be cheaper.

Bounding around Wellington Front, it struck me that it would be an excellent place to develop as a tourist asset. Everyone likes walking around city walls – eg York and Chester (both UK) for example.

Defence works on Wellington Front
Defence works on Wellington Front
A bench - early tourism perhaps?
A bench – early tourism perhaps?

But how to keep the essential historical features of the place while making it an attractive place to walk, sit, enjoy life? To start with, there is a rather nasty low wall on one side (the Line Wall Road side) that would not be safe for adults like me, let alone kids. Probably safer for fearless kids than for me in truth.

Build it up? Railings? Either would detract from the original. Maybe put a pathway through the centre and tell people not to leave that or it is on their own head? Literally.

Very low wall on the left
Very low wall on the left
Not much of a barrier to save you from a 12ft drop
Not much of a barrier to save you from a 30ft drop

Well someone was obviously channelling me when I was thinking all this, as within a few weeks there was a government proposal to develop Wellington Front as a promenade (and part of a longer cycleway). Amazing. Or just plain spooky.

Wellington Front (more curtains?)
Wellington Front (more curtains?)

The low wall problem has been solved by the proposal of a glass screen. I don’t know about the gun emplacements, I guess they will get the same treatment or maybe railings. Far too easy to fall out of one of those.

Gun emplacement - don't fall down there either
Gun emplacement – don’t fall down there either

I wonder if the street art on the portacabin will stay? Doubt it somehow.

portacabin art?
portacabin art?

And great views up the Rock from there too.

Clouds over the Rock
Clouds over the Rock
Swirling around here ..
Swirling around here ..
... and clear here
… and clear here
And steps back down
And steps back down

From the nineteenth century to the 21st with more Gib news. The government has installed cameras at the frontier to monitor the queues. More to the point, the rest of us can look at how busy it is and decide whether or not to get stuck for a few hours. A good move.

It was pretty quiet when I was looking at the frontier webcam today.

And there is a new website for the Gib bus company.

This is not bad, but it isn’t brill either. Apart from anything else, it is rather too gaudy for my taste. On top of that, it doesn’t mention the number 5 route from the Frontier to Reclamation Road. Presumably because that one is a paid-for bus route. The others are free if you have the necessary ID. Although apparently a Gib ID card isn’t included. Ah, that will be why we get free travel using it won’t it? Wonder who proof-read the copy for their site?

The bus service is good, and some newly introduced routes have improved it further. And even if you have to pay, a single is £1 and an all-day pass is £1.50. Good value there.

Good one WordPress. It only took me five goes to set a fucking featured image. Get a life please. And stop disrupting mine. As for trying to change the order of a slideshow. Words fail me. How to make something simple incredibly painful.

No slideshow available as I couldn’t get it to work in the correct order. Awaiting instructions from WP Happiness Engineers …


43 comments on “Wellington Front, Gibraltar

  1. Ditto on the WP issues today ( arrgh, like eating an entire post…screaming, screaming…)
    Gib is so underrated – there’s so much there” all compressed into on area.
    You really should be the one in charge of publicity and tourism.
    As always love your comments and photos – they are going to demolish the old medical center? Really? Land at a premium? The walkway sounds like a good idea.


    • What I dislike about WP changes is when people tell me it is a bright shiny new improvement and it is NOT. I can work out for myself what is better and what is worse. Easy.

      And if I can’t insert a slideshow the way I want, or anything takes more clicks, that is worse. Also easy.

      Gib is, well, what it is. And it is probably hard for Gibbos to view it with the eyes of an outsider and capitalise on the unsung assets.

      Medical centre gone. Nice Art deco flats I would have thought. But hey, parking is at a premium. So now it is tarmac. Land is always at a premium in small places.


      • Being Gibraltarian myself I can state that the term you so affectionately use repeated times “Gibbo”, is quite derogatory and causes offence. Perhaps you could look this up on your History walks around town.


  2. Great set of photos giving an excellent tour around Gib, yes I agree with the other comments about you being head of tourism.
    I can’t understand tourist only wanting to view the monkeys, yes they’d be on my agenda, but so would all the historic sights too (but would any of us know about these without our roughseas tourism officer), and definitely by foot. I’ve always said touch and smell are just as important as sight when exploring.

    The low wall walk reminds me of the York walls, which as you know, in places there is nothing to stop rather a long fall.

    The glass screen would be a good idea, not distracting from the views, but keeping health and safety happy too.
    The impressive new flood defences at Upton on Severn are glass, and they don’t look at all intrusive.

    The webcam is very modern, most webcams I’ve seen have been several seconds between frames. You’ll be able to wave to us all now ;-)


    • Thanks V, it’s just a few pix of one part of the fortifications. Hello, Neil, please employ me. I think not. I need a Gibbo surname :D

      The monkeys are good and I wouldn’t take away from their attraction, you know I’m still captivated when they come down the town. But – there just is more to Gib than that. Even the street names have so much history attached to them.

      That’s why I get racked off about it’s monkeys, fish and chips and cheap duty-frees :(

      Aren’t York walls some of the best? But I have to say Avila here in Spain probably gives them a run for their money (no daffs as far as I know). I’ve only seen the walls from the train, floodlit at night and spectacular. But I really think they could do a lot with the Gib ones.

      I’m addicted to the webcam! I looked this morning, little leaving Gib, loads of cross-border workers coming into Gib (to take money out – snarl).


  3. Immediately upon seeing ‘Wellington Front – 1850 – Centre Curtain’, and the post, I thought they should get you to “run something up for them”… I guess as with everything nowdays, history needs to be sold to those who weren’t part of it or connected in some way… and that’s where cafes and museums etc come in and promenades and cycleways… Except I’d rather have a walking guide, walk and look for myself… and get feel of the place with buildings intact. The convict history aspect would interest me. It’s a nice outlook, wortth he walk up the steps. Oh, in this circumstance, the street art (?) isn’t adding value, and the graffiti annoys me…


    • Haha! Actually I don’t dislike it on the portacabin, they are hardly anything to the environment anyway. The best bit of street art we had was a tiny buddha in a pedestrian tunnel through the walls (I prob mentioned it before) and it got repainted, ie painted out, before I took a pic :( It was so nice and smiley, I loved it.

      You don’t even need a tour for the history. A good map and a leaflet would do it too. Not as interactive but horses for courses, I would make both available.

      The UK must have exported convicts all over the world!! I still love your tale about the family convict history. It was excellent. Partly because it suggested there was so much more to the convict transportation than met the eye.


  4. You are correct, an enduring memory of my childhood is the family walks around Chesters city walls (and the rows) as I grew up in the North West. My wife has similar memories of York as she spent time there as a child.


    • I spent more time in York but enjoyed Chester too. And then of course there is Hadrian’s Wall, different wall but similar experience. Gib is fortified from Landport Gate (Casemates) in the north – with a drawbridge! – right down to Rosia. And no-one has made anything of this??


      • I think the British in general have a good understanding of making the best use of historic buidlings so they they can remain interesting, beautiful and also earn money. Far too often I see historical buildings (especially fortified ones) become too ‘theme park’ like which destroys their character and makes them less appealing to me. It has happened in a few places I’ve visited but in general most heritage sites in the UK strike a good balance between tourism and retaining the original raw beauty and purpose of a building.


        • You are right about the British use of heritage. I hate theme parks and restored crap (I’ve discussed this on other blogs), but I really like to see the original ruins rather than someone’s impression of what might have been. I can manage to visualise that myself.

          I think Gib’s problem has been the rush for getting in money from wherever when the MOD stopped funding the place (to put it in very simple terms) and there was a rush to build new, knock the shit out of the old, and ignore what is actually part of the attraction of the place.

          I could add my usual quote to this one:


          Not directly relevant, but the whole point about not knowing history or understanding it is. Many of us don’t learn from our past.


          • I don’t entirely agree with your views on restoration, I used to be a traditionalist but my views have moderated. My favourite quote on this is by Henry Miller who wrote of the the reconstruction and interpretation of the Minoan Palace at Knossos on Crete: “There has been much controversy about the aesthetics of Sir Arthur Evans’s work of restoration. I find myself unable to come to any conclusion about it; I accepted it as a fact. However Knossos may have looked in the past, however it may look in the future, this one which Evans has created is the only one I shall ever know. I am grateful to him for what he did…”


          • You never agree with my views! In fact Knossos was one of the worst examples of ‘restoration’ I have even seen. A few on Hadrian’s wall were pretty bad too.

            Who is to say whose view is correct? So why impose someone else’s view of history? Leave it to the rest of us to imagine. Those who can’t can just look at piles of old stones.


          • Actually, I often agree with your views so there! I said that I don’t entirely agree with your views. I agree that Knossos is a bad example of reconstruction and interpretation but I was using the quote non-specifically. You know this of course – History is a subject that stimulates reinterpretation.


          • Actually, I often agree with your views! What I said was that I don’t entirely agree with your views! I do agree that the Knossos reconstruction and interpretation is not a good example but I was using the quote non-specifically. I saw some old photographs of Machu Picchu the other day and there has been a lot of reconstruction there and I think the Great Wall of China has been touched up in a few places! The list is endless. When we visit these places I don’t think we should fool ourselves that what we are seeing is original.. Maybe Stonehenge? I don’t know – do you? Anyway, good luck with the task of interpreting Wellington Front – if you choose to accept it!


          • Good to see you agree with me so much you wrote it twice! (both of which ended in the spam bin of course).

            I think you are right about restoration and reconstruction, it is everywhere, which makes it all the more important to research before visiting somewhere to get an idea of what has happened over the years.

            Internal works are equally controversial. If you take say, a Georgian building, that has been adapted over the years, do you remove the Victorian, Edwardian changes? Because they are just as valid in historical terms. Stripping back to Georgian basics both in terms of decoration and construction may restore ‘an original’ but also strips layers of subsequent history.


  5. Nice post – I enjoyed it.
    I am sure the boat should have been called HMS Owain Glyndŵr – I hope there were no Welsh nationalists on board.
    The lowers walls I have ever encountered were at Guimarães in Portugal i.e. non existent!
    Can’t understand your current problems with WP – it’s a piece of cake!


  6. Nothing like being prescient, is there? :-) I think you’d do a great job at promoting tourism in Gib. It often takes someone who has come in from outside and learned to know and love a place really to appreciated what it has to offer the visitor.

    Sympathy about the recent changes to WP. My own scars from the recent Blogger ‘upgrade’ are still painful enough for me to know just what you’re going through. :-(


    • Being prescient is great if you actually do something with it!

      I think the outsider aspect can be valid, although I’ve usually appreciated most places where I’ve lived, but yes, one does wonder if familiarity and all that.. I think my other advantage is having a degree in history and archaeology, and after university I did some research work into history of towns. It might have been years ago, but it’s ingrained in the psyche I guess.

      I haven’t looked at Blogger since I fell out with them for blocking me to my account :D By the sound of it, I don’t think I will be revisiting. My gripe with these silly blog hosts is that they fiddle for the sake of it, to achieve no improvement. Unless they add extra functionality – which they don’t – I see no advantage in changing. It looks awfully like justifying an existence to me.


    • Thanks Phil for your visit and comment. It’s always hard to capture something old and the scale with a camera without lots of lenses, so I guess it relies on a few snaps. I like it as it is to be honest, even though I do think it should be ‘marketed’.


      • Well I appreciate your approach which is to be honest about your images and how they are presented. I come from the field of photojournalism so that is how I attempt to present my wildlife photos. ‘This is what happened and how it looked.’


        • I’m not sure the photographers I ever mixed with did such super wildlife shots, but there again their remit was urban.

          One of my colleagues was ex-Fleet street and he took some great photos. I really enjoyed working with him.

          Maybe we come from a similar point of view? If not the same perspective. What camera do you have?


          • I use a Canon 7D. I have really only been photographing wildlife for just over 3 years now.
            I used to shot news and sports and I expect that much of that training and experience is put to use on my bird an alligator pics.
            I’m happier shooting wildlife for fun now more so then people for work. At least the birds don’t complain later if they don’t like the photo.


          • Thanks, I think if you are professional it makes sense to buy a decent camera. I don’t even make the most of the small one I use which is one reason I have put off buying a DSLR. Mind you, we still have our old SLRs :D I’d love to be able to get decent animal/bird shots. I tend to stick to my dog as he’s usually asleep so I don’t have to cope with him moving too quickly.

            Haha! Your last comment has reminded me of people ringing up to complain about stories!


    • I didn’t realise they had been used here at all until I was looking for some history about the place. I thought everything had been built by the military, more recently (ie 20th century) the Royal Engineers.

      I must do some more specific history posts, it’s just a question of remembering to take the camera and have the post in mind in advance.


    • Yes, the pix are all mine, although the link to the government development proposal sadly doesn’t include my photos ;) They were just snaps at the time one evening to try and capture the feel of the mid-19th century ramparts. And the swirly clouds of course.

      I think you only need to visit the bus web site if you plan on visiting. The service reaches most of Gib apart from the top of the Rock. But you only have to ask here anyway, people are pretty helpful. We spend a lot of time directing people to the cable car (we live fairly near) and I’ve also been asked for the Trafalgar Cemetery, the Botanical Gardens and the 100 ton gun. Then there are the Spaniards in cars who can’t find their way to drive up the Rock too :D


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