1700 - 1899


Life continued at a slow pace until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Then, on the 17th July 1704, a council of war was held aboard the English warship Royal Catherine off the North African town of Tetuan. Four days later the English fleet, under Admiral Sir George Rooke, entered the Gibraltar Bay. At 3pm 1,800 English and Dutch marines were landed on the isthmus with the Dutch Prince Hesse at the head. Gibraltar was cut off but the Governor of Gibraltar refused to surrender. The days that followed saw a massive bombardment of the town by the English fleet on the morning of the 23rd, 1,500 shots were fired in 5-6 hours against the town. Landings took place in the south and in the morning of the 24th, the Governor capitulated.

So in this way a joint Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar, on behalf of Charles of Austria who was pretender to the throne of Spain. Things took a while to settle down. Shortly after the capture a Spanish goatherd, Simon Susarte, led 500 Spanish troops to Europa Advance on the southeastern side of the Rock and then killed the guard. They moved to the Upper Rock and spent the night in St Michael's Cave. The next morning they attacked the Signal Station but the alarm was raised and the English counter-attacked. 160 prisoners were taken including a colonel and thirty other officers; the rest were killed trying to escape.


Gibraltar is declared a 'free port', which leads to its development as an important international trading centre.


The first British Governor is appointed and takes up residence in the Convent of the Franciscan Friars.


Spain under the Terms of the Treaty of Utrecht cedes Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity.


Skirmishes and attacks continued for a while. By 1726 trading between Gibraltar and Spain had resumed. Then, early in 1727 the Spaniards laid the 13th siege on the Rock but after several unsuccessful and costly attempts gave up in June of the same year.


The final military siege on Gibraltar followed many years later, in 1779. On this occasion the Spaniards and French combined forces and launched a massive onslaught, which was to last close to four years. It was a siege, known as the Great Siege, which was to test the ingenuity and will to survive of the garrison. The galleries were dug during this time, as Sergeant Major Ince attempted to drill a tunnel to place a gun in a vantage point on the Rock. On tunnelling sideways to make ventilations he realised that these exits would make perfect gun positions. Later, a Lieutenant Koehler designed a carriage, which allowed guns on the cliffs to be directly pointed down at the enemy. Accounts of the siege are full of vivid stories of survival and daring. On the 21st November, 1781, the defenders of the garrison took the offensive and caught the enemy batteries on the isthmus by surprise, destroying them and setting back their progress: this event is commemorated as the Sortie.


Work starts on the Great Siege Tunnels, which became the great and complex system of underground fortifications that today criss-cross the inside of the Rock. After the Siege, the fortifications were rebuilt and, in the following century, the walls were lined with Portland stone, which gives them their present white appearance.


The war with Spain ends after the Treaty of Versailles is signed.


The French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars lead to a big increase in the trade, prosperity and population of Gibraltar. The town, which had been destroyed in the Great Siege, is rebuilt.


The great yellow fever epidemic, over a third of the civilian population die.


The Spanish fortifications at the frontier are demolished, as Britain and Spain are allies in the War against Napoleon. Free access across the frontier is established.


Gibraltar is declared a Crown Colony. The Royal Gibraltar Police is established.


A skull was found in the Forbes's Quarry at the foot of the sheer north face of the Rock of Gibraltar. Nobody knew it at the time but it belonged not to a modern human, like us, but to a prehistoric form. It was sent to the UK where it was conserved. Eight years later in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf in Germany another was found giving this human its name - instead of Gibraltar Man it became Neanderthal Man.


The construction of the dockyards commences.