Gibraltar Museum

The Rock of Gibraltar, on the northern side of the 13 km straits that separate Europe and Africa at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea was held by Great Britain from 1704, although Spain claims sovereignty. The city of Gibraltar was founded in 1160 by the Moorish leader Abd-al-Mumin. The territory, only 7 sq km in extent, has many military and naval monuments that reflect on the relationship between war and industry. The Royal Navy maintained extensive facilities at Gibraltar from the 18th century until almost the end of the 20th century. The outstanding remains are a hospital built before 1746, an underground drinking water reservoir built during the Napoleonic Wars for which the bricks were brought from England, and a two-storey 60 m x 50 m victualling store of 1807.

Responsibility for historic artefacts rests with the Gibraltar Museum, established in 1930 by the then Governor General Sire Alexander Godley. It occupies Ordnance House, the residence of an army officer which was built above the remains of a Moorish bath house, once used as a stable but now part of the museum displays. Two sections of the museum are of particular relevance to the theme of Industry and War. There is a room illustrating the Great Siege of Gibraltar when it was held by British forces against French and Spanish assault between 1779 and 1783. There is also a large-scale model of the Rock made by officers and men of the Royal Engineers in the mid-1860s, which shows the defences of the Rock as well as the harbour and every detail of life in the city.

The other principal heritage sites are co-ordinated by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, established in 1989. The ‘City under Siege’ exhibition on Willis Road occupies Willis’s Magazine, one of the first buildings constructed by the British in the early eighteenth century, in which there are graffiti inscribed by soldiers in 1726. It provides further material on the Great Siege. A short distance away on Willis Road is the Military Heritage Centre, located in Prince Caroline’s Battery, built in 1732 and named after the third daughter of King George II. Visitors can see the original artillery installations, as well as developments of 1905 which enabled a 6-inch (152.4 mm) coastal defence gun to be placed on top of the battery. The hoists from that period are still in place. The Centre also includes a memorial to British servicemen who have served in Gibraltar, and a display of the weapons they used from 1783 to the present. Also on Willis Road is the entrance to the Great Siege Tunnels, where visitors can gain some impression of the conditions experienced by soldiers during the siege. There are gun platforms built at that time high on the rock in positions that protected them from enemy fire.

The Heritage Trust also preserves the 100 ton Gun at the Napier of Magdala Battery , a coastal defence weapon supplied in 1870 by Sir W G Armstrong’s works at Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It has a barrel 9.953 m long, of 450 mm bore which could penetrate steel 530 mm thick at a range of 1800m. This was a muzzle loading weapon, with a loading system worked by steam power and hydraulic transmission, and manned by a crew of 35. Parson’s Lodge, also maintained by the Heritage Trust is another battery based in tunnels in the in the limestone, used by British forces from the early 18th century until 1956. It includes monuments of 20th century warfare including searchlight bases.

Gibraltar Museum
18-20 Bomb House Lane
Gibraltar (BOT)
+350 (0) 2007 - 9158