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Clock Tower

Ref: HLBP1/020

The Stanley Clock Tower is a three dialled clock located on the south-west tower of the Moorish Castle complex.

The fortifications on and around the site of the Moorish Castle were first built in 1160, or earlier and attributed to Aljas Yahiz, an architect from Malaga. These were destroyed when the Spanish re-conquered Gibraltar from 1309-1333. A rebuilt tower dates primarily from about 1333 AD when Abu'l Hassan recaptured Gibraltar from the Spanish. The lower castle formerly stretched all the way down to Casemates Square, the Grand Battery area and the Old Mole. The castle itself was divided into various sections or wards in addition to the inner and outer keep: The Qasbah whose battlements extended to the south-west to the medieval tower which would later become the Stanley Clock Tower. Below the Qasbah was the Villa Vieja or Old City and finally the port area which was known by the name of La Barcina.

Cristobal Rojas castle (detail). The tower is circled in red.

Bravo de Acuña Moorish Castle (detail). The tower is circled in red.

After 1704, most of the area comprising the castle fortifications became highly militarized as part of the Northern Defences. The fortification walls suffered considerable damage during the various sieges of the 18th Century. A survey of the Gibraltar defences in possession of the Museo Naval de Madrid in 1782 shows the Moorish Castle and south-west tower which appears intact. Another tower to the north-west is shown as destroyed. It is very possible that the south-west tower sustained damage during the course of the siege.

1782 Gibraltar Castle fortification (Museo Naval de Madrid - detail). The square tower is clearly visible on the south-west.

In 1845 it was decided to erect a public clock to better regulate Garrison time. The south-west tower was selected as it was clearly visible to those within the Moorish castle complex as well as to the port and many areas of the North District. During its construction the original Moorish masonry was concealed under a coat of cement. The new tower was named the Stanley Tower in honour of Lord Stanley, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies.

On the 4th December, 1845, the Moorish Castle Clock was inaugurated. The Garrison Orders for the day were to be as follows:

On Thursday, at mid-day, the Clock in ‘Stanley Tower’ will commence striking, and in future regulate Garrison time.

A third dial plate will be put up as soon as it be got from England, to afford Casemates Barracks and Landport, the benefit of a direct view.

When the clock is striking 12 tomorrow, the Royal Standard will be hoisted on the Tower; and, after the clock has struck, a Royal Salute of 21 Guns from a Battery near the Castle will be fired on the occasion of this useful boon to the community having been granted her Majesty’s favour.

David Urquhart's in his Pillars of Hercules published in 1850 mentions the recently unveiled clock tower thus:

The turrets on the walls below have been furbished up to look like cruet-stands, and the staring face of a clock is stuck in a Saracen tower.

In his footnote, Urquhart expresses his disgust at the ‘renovation’ of a medieval tower with the following scathing remark:

This Vandalism was gazetted, and the turret termed “Stanley Tower.”

Stanley Tower - photograph taken on completion of the Moorish Castle canteen dated 1872.

Stanley Tower from Monague Cavalier 1870's.

In 1870, the Moorish Castle canteen was built abridging the Moorish wall and Stanley Tower. Access to the clock tower was now gained through this building.

The Stanley Clock Tower in the North, like the Dockyard Clock Tower in the South would serve the military and civilian community well throughout the 19th Century and well into the second half of the 20th Century at a time when few people owned a pocket watch.

The striking bell of the Stanley Clock Tower would become a much welcome feature of the city’s daily routine. It eventually replaced the daily morning/evening gun fire giving aliens advanced warning that the city gates were to soon open or close within the hour.

Responsibility for the maintenance of the Stanley Clock, amongst others, fell to Joseph Gache who operated a local clock and watchmaking business established in 1830. The family business would continue to serve this, and other public clocks until well into the 1980’s at least.

Moorish Castle and Stanley Tower 1870's.

Moorish Castle and Stanley Clock Tower late 19th Century (unknown).

Clock Tower Image