City Walls, Gates and Fortifications

Devil’s Tongue

Devil’s Tongue is sited on the present Waterport Wharf Road. This old mole protected the seaward entrance to Gibraltar. It was originally the old Spanish pier built during the reign of King Philip III. Guns were situated in each end of the gaps (embrasures) during the Great Siege 1779-1783. The guns were such a scourge to the Spanish that this mole was called the Devil’s Tongue. This mole is an extension from Chatham’s Counterguard. A drawbridge named the “Chatham Wicket” led onto the mole (the cemented-up opening in the sea wall is still visible).

Casemates Gates

The first of the gates was opened in 1727 and others were opened subsequently in 1859 and in 1884.  Beyond lies Casemates Square and the complex of batteries and walls leading up to the Tower of Homage. The area, under the protection of the old castle, was within the confines of the old fifteenth century Spanish town.

Landport Gate

This gate, reconstructed in 1729 by the British on the site on earlier Moorish and Spanish gates, was at one time the only landward access to the city. Its drawbridge has recently been repaired and is in full working order. It was through this gate that the troops emerged to carry out the surprise attack on the Spanish lines during the Great Siege: The Sortie.

Northern Defences

Grand Battery, the lowest part of the original Moorish Northern Defence, was known in Spanish days as the Curtain of St Bernard. The northern area provided defences for the Landport entrance, the Water Gate and the Cooperage. A narrow causeway connected Spain to this narrow land entrance into Gibraltar through Landport Gate. The sea would be lapping the causeway on one side (Glacis area) and on the other side by water from the inundation dug on the orders of the Prince of Hesse Darmstadt (1704). Years later, the Inundation was enlarged and many deep pits were excavated in it - the idea being that the sharp shooters above King’s Lines could shoot at anybody attempting to cross the causeway .

Orange Bastion

This was a small irregular shaped bastion on the site of a major Spanish bastion, its main face designed to cover the south side of the Old Mole. The British named it after William III, Prince of Orange (1650-1702). In 1758 it held a battery of six guns preventing any hostile ship approaching to within six or seven hundred yards of this coast. During the Great Siege it was reconstructed and enlarged to be a demi-bastion with a retired flank behind the orillon with parapets twelve feet thick. In 1834 there were eleven guns on the bastion; later a heavy RML battery was placed here. Completed in 1877 on the face of the bastion, the battery mounted two 10-inch guns behind iron shields. During the Second World War a 40-mm Bofors gun was placed here.

King’s Bastion

General Sir Robert Boyd (Lt Governor and Governor from 1768 to his death in 1794) built King’s Bastion in 1772. It was designed by Lt Col Sir William Green, Chief Engineer. Her, there used to be an ancient Moorish Gate, then a Spanish Bastion (1575). King’s Bastion was the keystone of the defences during the Great Siege. It was from this point that the red hot shots were first fired onto the Spanish Floating Batteries. The bastion provided accommodation for 800 men, an entire infantry battalion. General Sir Robert Boyd is buried inside a vault at the base of the bastion. A plaque on the southern wall of the promenade bears testimony to his work.

Queensway

Called Reclamation Road, it was re-named Queensway after the visit of HMQ Elizabeth II in 1954. These are Gibraltar’s sea walls. The bastion on the right is South Bastion and was built in 1540.

Line Wall

From the north face of the Rock to Europa Point, there has been a co-ordinated system of defence ever since the British captured Gibraltar in 1704. These defences came to be known as the Line Wall. They were built on the Moorish sea-wall which was strengthened and almost entirely reconstructed. All the land to the west of this wall has been reclaimed from the sea over the years.

Wellington Front

Wellington Front was built by convict labour in 1840. There were over 900 convicts working on the reconstruction of the walls and other defensive works. Off the Front was the anchorage of the ‘Owen Glendower’, a convict ship renamed after a Welsh Prince and was base of the convict establishment. The ship’s bell, which is now at the Gibraltar Museum, rang whenever a convict escaped. Eventually, in 1875, it was found that it was cheaper to employ local labour as the men did not work hard enough to earn their keep.

Ragged Staff

The first of the gates was constructed in 1843 for foot passage. In 1736 the contractor to the Navy Victualling Office built a wharf, 350 feet long which had access by way of a flight of stone steps and a drawbridge. There are many theories for the origin of the name, though none have been proved. One of these theories suggests that the Ragged Staff was a badge of the Emperor Charles V, another, that the name derived from the rough finish of the original work because staff can mean cement or similar building material; certainly Major General Sir John Jones in 1841 called the area “an ill-conditioned spot...and its extremely unmilitary appearance, as well as apparently defenceless state, strikes one with astonishment...” and another, that it refers to a type of winch used on this wall. The gates as they stand today, pierce the wall at a site previously known as the Ragged Staff Couvreport.

Charles V Wall

This sixteenth century wall, which comes down from the ancient Moorish Wall, past the Trafalgar Cemetery at the southern end of Main Street, was built in the reign of Charles V in 1552 by the Italian Engineer, Calvi. It was designed to defend the city after the attack of September 1540 by Turkish pirates, under the command of Barbarrossa, who took over 70 captives with the intention of selling them into slavery. The original wall dates back to the Moorish period at which time it climbed straight up almost to the very top of the Rock. When Charles V died, Philip II took over the building of the wall. Due to the close proximity of the wall to the town, he decided it would be better to continue the wall further away, hence the continuation starting at the Apes Den, named Philip II Wall.

Prince Edward’s Gate

This gate in Charles V Wall, overlooks Trafalgar Cemetery and is named after Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, who was Governor of Gibraltar from 1802 to 1803.

Southport Gates

The original gate was built in 1552 at the time of Emperor Charles V. The second bears the arms of Queen Victoria and General Sir John Adye, a former Governor of Gibraltar and dates from 1883. The third and widest of these gates, known as Referendum Gate, was opened in 1967 and commemorates the Referendum in which Gibraltarians voted by an overwhelming majority, to retain their links with Britain.

Jumper’s Bastion

This bastion, along Rosia Road, is named after Captain Jumper who was the first to land his troops on Gibraltar during the British capture in 1704.