THE ROCK

Staff July 18, 2019

GALLERIES

These consist of the Upper, Middle and Lower Galleries, situated on the north part of the Rock. It is said that in May 1782, whilst the Governor, Lieutenant-General George Augustus Eliott, the Chief Engineer, Colonel William Green, and staff were inspecting the batteries on the North Face of the Rock, he found one of these out of use with a group of artificers carrying out essential repairs on it. The Governor is supposed to have said aloud, while meditating on the ruins: ‘I will give a thousand dollars to anyone who can suggest how I am to get a flanking fire upon the enemy’s works.’ Whereupon Sergeant-Major Henry Ince, of the Corps of Military Artificers (later the Royal Engineers), stepped forward and suggested the idea of digging a tunnel in order to mount a gun on the spur of rock known as the Notch. His plan was approved and work commenced on 25th May with the engineers, under the direct supervision of Lieutenant J Eveleigh, beginning to mine a gallery from a place above Farringdon’s Battery.

At first, the idea was for a fully protected covered way, leading to the Royal Battery. A dozen miners, with labourers, were put on the task, later reinforced. Captain John Drinkwater, in his ‘History of the Late Siege of Gibraltar’, published in 1785, wrote that ‘the success attending our progress in the gallery above Farringdon’s battery, produced the idea of making a communication from the extremity of the King’s to the Queen’s lines; and on the 6th [July], a party of miners began this new subterraneous passage.’

Drinkwater later added that on 15th July of that same month, ‘an embrasure was opened in the face of the rock, communicating with gallery above Farringdon’s: the mine was loaded with an unusual quantity of powder, and the explosion was so amazingly loud, that almost the whole of the Enemy’s camp turned out at the report: but what must their surprise be, when they observed whence the smoke issued! The original intention of this opening, was to communicate air to the workmen, who before were almost suffocated with the smoke which remained after blowing the different mines; but, on examining the aperture more closely, an idea was conceived of mounting a gun to bear on all the Enemy’s batteries, excepting Fort Barbara: accordingly orders were given to enlarge the inner part for the recoil; and when finished, a twenty-four-pounder was mounted. This work was prosecuted with such success, that four, if not five guns were mounted in the Gallery, before the subsequent September: and in a little more than twelve months from the day the Engineers commenced, it was advanced to the projection of the Rock, where the Governor purposed to make a battery; which afterwards was effected, and is now distinguished by the name of St. George’s Hall.’

Whether Sergeant-Major Ince ever received the one thousand dollars he was supposedly promised is not known. According to one story, he contracted for his subterranean work at the rate of one guinea per running foot; another has it that the total cost ran at one real per foot cube. Ince certainly left an indelible mark on the history of Gibraltar, on which he had first served as a private in the 2nd Foot Regiment. A Cornishman by birth, he was one of the first members of Colonel Green’s company, being appointed a sergeant on the date of formation in 1772. He was then appointed as sergeant-major in September 1781 and served not only throughout the Great Siege but long afterwards. A special rate of pay was granted to him, of four shillings a day, besides his two shillings and ten pence a day as foreman. Certainly, it appears that both Lieutenant Eveleigh and Sergeant-Major Ince were later rewarded by the conferment of pieces of ground in the upper part of the Rock, with Ince’s Farm continuing to uphold and honour the latter’s name.

The work in tunnelling through the hard rock was carried out by hand, with the use of sledgehammers and crowbars, aided by gunpowder blasting. It took thirteen sappers about five weeks to dig a tunnel with a width of 8 square feet and a total length of 82 feet. Work did not always go entirely to plan, with several false meanderings into different directions. One tunnel drive was determined to be too far from the outer face of the rock face and another one was too close to it. A consistent direction was eventually arrived at with the total construction length of the tunnel, by the end of 1783, being over 900 feet. By the end of the initial phase of tunnelling, five galleries had been excavated: Windsor Gallery, King’s and Queen’s Lines, St. George’s Hall and Cornwallis Chamber.

Originally the embrasures were fitted with mantlets [curtains of woven ropes] with many of the original rails supporting these still in existence in the present day. These mantlets protected both the guns and gunners from any possible fire and also prevented sparks and smoke blowing back into the embrasures. As an additional safety measure, each cannon was isolated with a wet cloth hanging above it from a rope, so as to prevent sparks from igniting the remaining gunpowder. With peace finally being arrived at in 1783, the Duc de Crillon, commander of the Spanish and French enemy forces, was permitted to visit and view the Rock’s defences and, upon viewing the Galleries, he is reputed to have exclaimed: ‘These works are worthy of the Romans!’

After the end the Great Siege, tunnelling continued, one shaft being driven downwards to enter the large chamber called St. George’s Hall where seven guns were mounted. The total length of tunnelling which took place at the time was as follows: Windsor Gallery: 659 feet, Willis’s: 146 feet, Queen’s Union: 304 feet, Upper Union: 437 feet, Lower Union: 232 feet, Prince’s 212 feet, Prince’s Lower: 220 feet, King’s Galleries: 710 feet, Queen’s Galleries: 1079 feet, thus making a total of 3,999 feet.

During the 19th century, the original cannon in the Galleries were replaced by 64pdr Rifle Muzzle Loaders on iron carriages. In 1859, the Upper Union Gallery, which had originally been completed in 1788, had eight 24pdr guns and these were later replaced in 1886 by seven 64 and 32pdr RML guns. In 1905, two 12pdr Quick Fire guns were also mounted in this gallery.

These Galleries, now known as the Great Siege Tunnels, are constantly visited by tourists from all parts of the world who marvel at this labyrinth of tunnels hewn out of the living rock by brute force, over 230 years ago.

GENOESE BATTERIES

These are a pair of artillery batteries consisting of the Upper and Lower Genoese Batteries which are situated at the bottom of the Moorish Wall, just above the Flat Bastion and the South Demi-Bastion. These batteries, set up prior to the Great Siege, would have defended the south front of Gibraltar, together with the afore-mentioned Flat Bastion, the South Bastion and Prince Ferdinand’s Battery. The Upper Genoese Battery was originally known in Spanish times as the Reduto de San Agustín [Redoubt of St Augustine] and the Lower one as the Reduto de San Felipe [Redoubt of St Philip].

In 1863, the Upper Genoese Battery mounted a south-facing 7-inch Rifle Breeched Loading gun and by 1890, it had been converted as the station for the Assistant Fire Commander North with a Command Post set up there.

 

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