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Casemates Curtain including Casemates Gates Waterport

Ref: HLFP3/002

Casemates Curtain is a 70m section of wall covering the old sea-gate wedged between North Bastion and Montagu Bastion. Grand Casemates Gates, formerly Waterport Gate, provided the only commercial maritime entrance from the northwest to the old, fortified portion of the city leading directly into Waterport Street (now Main Street).

Once a sandy beach, it was here in 1160 that the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu'min ordered the first foundations for a settlement – known as the City of Victory (Medinat al-Fath) – to be built. This area was used by the Muslims to beach their galleys.

Notarial document showing the capture of Gibraltar in 1462. The original Moorish Seagate and atarazana can clearly be seen within the area known as La Barcina.

After the siege and capture of Gibraltar by Castilian forces in 1309, King Ferdinand IV ordered an atarazana (from where the English word arsenal is derived), or galley house to be built here, the foundations of which were excavated in the 1990’s and have since been preserved for public viewing. To protect his dockyard Ferdinand ordered the construction of a tower known as the Giralda Tower to be built at the west end of the old Moorish wall in or around 1310. The old Spanish Giralda Tower was later converted into the North Bastion by the Italian engineer Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino in the 1560’s. A curtain-wall extended from the Giralda Tower to another medieval Moorish fortification which the Spaniards later christened as the Plataforma de San Andrés [St. Andrew’s Platform] and later re-named Montagu Bastion by the British.

Atarazana archeological remains found at Casemates Square.

1567 Anton Van Den Wyngaerde Puerta de Mar is shown as an opening on the line wall in the middle and bottom of the picture.

Map from 1597 (artist unknown) showing the fortifications of Gibraltar at that time.

1608 - Unknown - Perspectiva del Barcina and Muelle Puerta la Mar

This curtain-wall included the Moorish Sea Gate (Puerta del Mar) which was later strengthened and became the Spanish Sea Gate (Puerta de la Atarazana) provided one of the three access gates to La Barcina, the shipbuilding area that is now Grand Casemates Square. The others were the Land Gate (Puerta de Tierra now Landport Gate) and a southern gate, the Barcina Gate, through a wall that no longer exists.

Plan des ville, chateau, mole et baye de Gibraltar Vu du côte du Nord de la montagne by Tulpin 1779. Note the extended curtain wall to the North.

The gates led directly to the Old Mole which extended into the bay and provided shelter for trading vessels. The mole provided an anchoring line for the galleys. An aqueduct ran from a well to the south along the line wall to the Waterport, where it replenished a reservoir from which water for the galleys was drawn.

The British built the Line Wall Curtain in the 18th century running north–south along the shore of the bay incorporating much of the Moorish and Spanish line of fortifications along the western coast. The Waterport Gate, providing access to the town through the Line Wall from the shore south of North Bastion, was opened by the British in 1727.

The Waterport Gate became the main entrance to Gibraltar in the early days of British occupation, described by the theologian and traveller Robert Poole in 1748 as consisting ‘mainly of one street extending from Southport gate to Waterport Gate. Out of this long street run several shorter ones one of which, called the Irish-Street is of ill repute. The buildings of this town are generally mean and low, very few houses being above one story high. They are chiefly made of stone and the roof covered with Spanish tiles. The shops are small and ... are occupied by Genoese, Jews and Turks. Profane swearing and cursing is extremely common...’

After the Great Siege, the British extended North Bastion almost doubling in size. This shortened the curtain wall on the North side of the Waterport Gate to its present length.

Plan Northern Defences 1796. The extension to North Bastion is clearly shown.

Around 1824, and just to the west of the Casemate Gate, work was started on a counterguard which was meant to protect Orange Bastion. It was named Chatham’s Counterguard in honour of the residing Governor. At the same time, the Governor ordered the widening and enlargement of the then single Casemate Gate. A second gate was opened in 1884, this time by order of the Governor Lt. General Sir John Adye.

1881 - Tristam Ellis. Moorish Castle Casemates Gate. The second gate would be erected three years later.

Top section of Waterport Gates.

Casemates Square Gateway 1885. Note the absence of the pedestrian gate to the left of the Main Gates.

1860s - Casemates unknown.

After WWI, land reclamation and the construction of the Queensway led to the removal of the exterior Waterport Gates along the counterguard section. A photograph of the Waterport Gates taken in 1913 before these gates were removed show the two gates flanked by the counterguard casemate embrasures which were retained. These renovations also saw the removal of the Market Clock Tower to a new location towards the centre of the market square allowing vehicular traffic unobstructed access to the Grand Casemates Gates and Waterport Street beyond.

1913 - Waterport - Parisian Family Photo showing the Waterport Gates before they were removed to allow vehicular traffic.

View of the Grand Casemates Gates from the demolished waterport Gates.

Old postcard of the Public Market outside Grand Casemates Gates as viewed from West Place of Arms.

waterportgates watercolour postcard 20th century.

Casemates Curtain including Casemates Gates Waterport Image