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Dockyard Gatehouse

Ref: HLFP3/010

The former Guardhouse, Naval Base Building 28 also known as the Police Post or Gate House, is what remains of the Dockyard Northern Gate. It was one of the original Dockyard buildings, constructed around 1901. It is clearly shown on the 1906 Ordnance Survey maps as a separate building, although its roof butts up to the former Torpedo Store immediately to the west.

The Guardhouse was a single-storey stone-built structure with wide eaves under an over-hanging tiled roof. It is rectangular in plan the walls of which have dressed stone quoins and lintels, with pecked limestone rubble infill. Unlike other buildings on that and later plans and maps, however, its function is not named but it provided security to all access to the North entrance of HM naval Dockyard and was the main entry point for the thousands of dockyard workers employed by the MOD.

Dockyard Police, circa 1916.

1938 British Fleet entering HM Dockyard.

The old Naval Yard was the main arsenal for the British Mediterranean Fleet between c 1760 and 1833, when the dockyard in Malta became predominant. However, between 1843 and 1860 various works to expand the facilities were undertaken, using convict and hired labour. Amongst the improvements was the extension of the ‘New Mole’ in 1851 to 1309 feet long in total and 130 feet wide.

In 1871, Captain Augustus Phillimore made the proposal that a new naval dockyard should be constructed in Gibraltar. Phillimore's scheme would lay dormant in the Admiralty for 22 years before it was put to Parliament in 1895. In 1896 the scheme was further extended with the creation of new moles and three dry docks which were completed by 1906. There were five main elements:

1 The extension of the Southern Breakwater (the New Mole) by a further 2700 feet (823 metres; including the 1000 feet (304.8 metres; agreed in 1893);

2 A detached breakwater or mole, 2720 feet (829 metres) long lying NNW between the North and South Breakwaters/Moles;

3 A large North Mole with coaling jetties and a viaduct;

4 An extended Naval Yard with three large graving or dry docks, docks, wharves, slipways for destroyers, engine pumping house, workshops, stores, offices, tramway et al.; and

5 The dredging of the harbour.

Dockyard Police Officer circa 1917 photo taken by an American sailor.

The construction work was carried out almost entirely by Spanish labour, under the supervision of British engineers and foremen. More than 4,000 Spanish workmen were employed, many coming from the adjacent towns of La Linea and Algeciras every day. Once all the dockyard extension works had been completed, thousands of workers were re-employed within the new dockyard providing a much needed economic boom both for Gibraltar and the Campo area.

Workers from La Linea would enter into Gibraltar via the land frontier whilst those from Algeciras would arrive by ferry before making their way along the Line Wall to enter the Dockyard via the North gate entrance. The dockyard gatehouse was constructed as a Police Post controlling all pedestrian and vehicular access to the Naval Base through this entrance.

Gibraltar Police and Royal Naval Dockyard Battalion Band WWI.

The gatehouse was therefore part of the original design, probably built around 1901 and certainly in place by 1905. It is shown as a distinct, square building on the Ordnance Survey map dated 1906, and on its subsequent revisions in 1910 and 1931. However, post-1970 Ordnance Survey maps show the Guardhouse as part of the Stores Building, together with an extension to the north, and this format has continued to present day mapping despite the Guardhouse being a separate edifice.

The dockyard was used extensively by the Royal Navy, docking many of the Navy’s most prestigious ships and proving its worth over the course of two World Wars. During this time the Dockyard Police grew in size even incorporating its own Corps of Band, part of the larger Royal Naval Dockyard Battalion formed to defend the Naval Dockyard in the event of enemy attack.

Nevertheless, following World War II and the disintegration of Britain's empire, the Royal Navy’s strength declined considerably. In the early 1980s a decision by the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence to cut back the Royal Navy surface fleet meant that the dockyard was no longer financially viable.

Dockyard Police outside the Dockyard Gatehouse circa 1950's.

North Gate PC Acolina Sgt Balestrino PC Revagliatte PC Glynn.

North gate and gatehouse 1954.

1965 - HM Dockyard North Gate.

In 1984 the dockyard passed into the hands of several commercial ship repair and conversion companies although a Royal Navy presence, providing a maintenance capability was maintained on the northern side of the dockyard. This MOD footprint included the former gatehouse which was no longer required. The Dockyard North Gate, transferred to the Gibraltar Government had previously been demolished without warning in the late 1980’s despite the public outcry such a move had caused. Proposals to demolish the Gatehouse had been mooted by the MOD since at least 2014.

Dockyard North Gate and Gatehouse before the demolition of the gate, circa 1980's.

In December 2016 the Development & Planning Commission rejected an application by the MoD to demolish the building despite the fact that the MOD was not bound to DPC decisions under the Town Planning Act.

Following intervening efforts by the Government to ensure that the building was not lost altogether a new site was identified less than 50m further North of the original location but outside the MOD area. The Ministry of Heritage was tasked with the removal and translocation of the gatehouse, subcontracted to Amco Gibraltar Ltd which successfully carried out the works.

Derelict state of the old Dockyard Gatehouse in 2003.

Dockyard gatehouse pending demolition decision in 2017.

New Gatehouse relocation proposal 2017.

Gatehouse relocation proposal map reference 2017.

Dockyard Gatehouse Image