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Montagu Bastion

Ref: HLFP3/020

This important defensible bastion was constructed on the approximate site of the earlier Spanish Plataforma de San Andrés [St. Andrew’s Platform], just east of el Muelle Viejo [the ld Mole]. This had originally been part of the medieval Moorish fortifications and according to the report produced by Don Luis Bravo de Acuña in 1627, it had consisted of a tower projecting from the walls which had been cut down in order to form a gun platform.

1608 - detail from Cristobal de Rojas map showing the tower of San Andrés.

1608 - Unknown - Perspectiva del Barcina and Muelle Puerta la Mar showing how the New Mole was protected by the plataforma de San Andrés.

Following the end of the Thirteenth Siege (11th February – 12th June 1727), a number of improvements were carried out to the Rock’s defences including the re-configuration of the old St. Andrew’s Platform which was totally rebuilt and enlarged. These works were carried out between 1730 and 1738 and resulted in a large five-sided bastion with three faces, covering the Old Mole and the Waterport area; in 1773, further improvements were carried out. It was called Montagu Battery and named after Ralph Montagu, Marquis of Monthermer, who had been made First Duke of Montagu in 1705, a year after the capture of Gibraltar. It was sited at the end of the Old Mole and was covered by the Montagu Counterguard. The first guns were mounted here in 1735. The 1744 Armament List refers to this battery as the South Flank of Watergate or the Duke of Montagu’s Battery and armed with nine iron 18-pdrs. In 1771, the battery consisting of nine embrasures, mounted nine 18-pdrs.

Ralph Montagu 1st Duke of Montagu.

The Chief Engineer, William Green reconstructed the battery into a bastion in 1773 giving it a pentagonal shape. In 1781, during the Great Siege of Gibraltar, the battery recorded three 24-pdrs, nine 19-pdrs, three 12-pdrs, a 10-inch and an 8-inch howitzer. This probably included the guns placed on the Cavalier which Drinkwater mentions being commenced in August 1782. Drinkwater recorded that a work party of 120 men were employed in constructing the Cavalier using ships timbers from the New Mole which placed a battery there consisting of two guns. Drinkwater noted that ‘Montague’s Bastion is much smaller, mounting only 12 pieces of cannon, but has a casemate for 200 men, communicating with the Old mole. The Engineers began this Cavalier for two guns, in 1782, but it was not finished till after the grand attack in September.’ The cavalier referred to by this military writer consisted of a work raised higher than the ramparts in order to command the surrounding area and, in this instance, was built using ships’ timbers and following the pentagonal shape of the bastion beneath.

1727 - Nouveau map de Gibraltar showing position of the the old St. Andrew’s Platform before it was rebuilt.

The bastion became a refuge, at least, to one of the Rock’s families during the worse of the bombing of the City during the Great Siege. Mrs Catherine Upton, whose husband Lieutenant John Upton was serving in Gibraltar, at the time, with the Royal Manchester Volunteers, wrote a short account of her experiences on the Rock during the course of the siege. She recorded that on the 12th April 1781, following the news of the arrival of a relief convoy ‘began the most furious bombardment ever heard of. Terror and consternation deprived me for a minute of sense and motion. Our house was one of the nearest to the Spanish lines. I seized my children, and run with them towards Montague’s bastion, which I knew was bomb-proof. An officer of the 58th regiment met me, saying “For God’s sake, madam, where are you going? Do you not know you are going nearer the enemy’s fire? Stoop with your children under this covered way!” Six-and-twenty pounders without number went over my head. I presented my little ones to heaven, and, in an agony of prayer, besought the Almighty to preserve us.

‘I then had the courage to advance towards Montague’s bastion, and, having walked down a few steps, my strength failed me, and I fell down the rest. Fortunately, I received no hurt, and ran, or rather flew into the soldiers’ barracks.’ Mrs Upton, together with her children, remained within this shelter for the following three days, providentially surviving the horrendous bombing which destroyed most of the City.

Plan of the North Front of Gibraltar by Capt. Charles O'Hara, 1757.

Plans and Sections of Montagu Bastion by Colonel William Green, 1774.

The subsequent Grand Attack of 13th September 1782, in which battering ships were employed by the enemy to fire on the sea walls, although ultimately unsuccessful, nevertheless destroyed long stretches of the line wall defences with the neat merlons and embrasures of the Grand Battery, Montague’s and the King’s Bastion becoming much battered and mutilated. Following the end of the Great Siege, various ideas were considered as how to improve these defences, so seriously damaged under bombardment with the question arising whether to rebuild on the existing foundations or to enlarge the bastions and push the fortifications out towards the sea.

Eventually, a committee of ten engineers, including Colonel William Green, agreed on a new scheme which together with the backing of the Governor, Sir George Eliott, was finally sanctioned by the Government on 30th June 1787. New gun emplacements were to be built, starting at the southern flank of the North Bastion and continuing along the curtain to Montague’s Bastion, with the latter fortification remaining as it was built, but new casemated gun positions constructed in a new curtain running to the Prince of Orange’s Bastion. In front of the curtain between these adjoining fortifications, a new broad covered way was to be constructed with three ample places of arms, separated and protected by large traverses.

Destruction of the town of Gibraltar following sustained attack from the Spanish land and sea batteries 1782.

1799 - Barbie du Bocage Jean Denis Waterport.

In 1804, the bastion was further improved with the construction of an orillion from which two guns could fire into the Waterport area. A plan for 1826 shows four embrasures on the Right Flank, six on the Right Face, four on the Left Face and three on the Left Flank. The Cavalier meanwhile consisted of five embrasures on the Right Face and four on the Right Flank. These embrasures mounted, according to the 1834 Armament List the Cavalier mounted nine 42-pdrs. whilst the Bastion consisted of six 42-pdrs., four 24-pdrs. and nine 24-pdr. cannonades. Montagu Curtain meanwhile mounted a further six 24-pdrs.

Despite the impressive fire-power on display, Major General Sir John Thomas Jones was highly critical of the design of this bastion in his 1841 Report which he described as the principal work of the north west front. He observed that ‘the profile of the escarpe is only 25 feet 9 inches high, whilst the parapet of solid masonry is 17 feet thick. The length of the place, which is barely 200 feet, is pierced with six embrasures, the exterior openings of which conjointly measure 72 feet and for that space (being more than one third of the total) the height of the wall is reduced to 20 feet, and from the extreme thickness of the masonry parapet no bayonet can be used in its defence. The deficiency of height in the escarpe, similarly diminished to 20 feet for more than a fifth of its length, by numerous embrasures of unnecessarily wide openings pervades the whole front. Further the fire of the guns in these numerous embrasures is obstructed by an exterior line of works only 45 feet in advance of them. A third tier of guns perched high up on the Cavalier parallel to the right face of the bastion is reported to have proved almost useless on a recent trial from want of strength of the linings of the embrasures and of the parapet, which, after a few rounds, began to crumble down to a shapeless mass.’ Jones recommended a number of measures which resulted in the raising of the height of the scarp and to reduce the width of the embrasures and to make available the fire of such guns which were to be retained, shifting the heavy guns from the main line to the front line, i.e. the counterguard.

Plan for the improvement of the Line Wal 1826, Montagu Bastion and Chatham Counterguard (detail).

The Market Place by Frederick Stephens. The orilion can be seen in the background.

Montagu Bastion orillion facing Waterport.

Following the implementation of these recommendations, the 1856 Armament List shows a single 56-pdr. on the salient which in 1859 was to be replaced by a 68-pdr although no evidence that this heavy gun in the centre was ever mounted. It was also ordered that the present 24-pdrs. were to be replaced by 32-pdrs and within a few years the Bastion and Cavalier was composed of thirteen 32-pdrs and just three 24-pdrs, the latter placed on the South Flank.

By 1863 only four 32-pdrs. on the Bastion and six on the Curtain is recorded as most of these guns were being phased out and considered obsolete.

In 1868, a new scheme of artillery defence, recommended by Colonel WFD Jervois, was approved. Under this scheme three 10-inch 18-ton RML guns, in covered iron-shielded emplacements, were to be set up on the left face of the bastion. In anticipation of the new scheme, works to reconstruct the battery for heavy RML guns commenced on the 15th May 1867. In December 1872, Brigadier General John Adye, Director of Artillery and Stores, reported that the works for the new battery was nearly complete to mount the three 10-inch guns of which two were already in Gibraltar. He estimated that the battery would be operational within the year. However, the guns were not mounted until the 26th May 1877, and the overhead cover not completed until the 24th December 1880.

However, the growing threat of ultra-heavy naval artillery had made these type of guns all but obsolete by 1892 but not actually removed until 1907. At the same time as the RML’s were installed there were two 32-pdrs on the left flank and another two 32-pdrs of 42 cwt in the orillon. In 1897 two 12-pdr. QF guns were mounted on the Cavalier for anti-motor torpedo boat defence. They remained there until the reconstruction of the Moles made them redundant at this location and they were moved to the Upper Union Gallery in 1901. The Bastion became the deployable site for the four movable 6-inch BL Howitzers.

Montagu Bastion casemates and Gibraltar Shields.

Montagu Bastion Gardens circa 1930's.

Following WWI, Montagu Bastion was considered as a possible HAA site by the Air Defence Committee of 1925. In the 1931 Defence Scheme, four 3-inch anti-aircraft guns were installed and replaced during the Second World War by two 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns in the north eastern portion of Montagu Bastion and was armed from the 26th August 1939 by 19 AA Battery RA. In July 1940 the site was taken over by 156 HAA Battery who in turn were relieved by 193 HAA Battery of 82 HAA Regiment in March 1941. 288 HAA Battery took over in May 1943 but they were relieved just three months later on the 25th August by 596 HAA Battery. On the 16th July 1944 members of 441 HAA took over until the 8th September 1944 when they were relieved by 375 HAA Battery. In July 1945, the guns were transferred to Wellington Front Drill Hall for the training of the Gibraltar Defence Force.

Montagu Bastion WWII bunker prior to demolition in 2019.

Montague Bastion North MG Positon (above) and orillion (below).

Gibraltar iron shields at Montagu Bastion before refurbishment.

The Military Town Planning Scheme, which began in 1946, moved many servicemen out of the city and into the southern parts of the Rock to make way for housing and services for the returning Gibraltarians. Montagu Bastion was transferred to the Gibraltar Government under this scheme and the outlying premises became the premises for three Youth Clubs (Plater, St. Mark’s and Lourdians) as well as the offices for the Gibraltar Youth Service. Above on the Cavalier, St. John’s Ambulance occupied a number of buildings on the North-west flank for a number of years until the 1990’s and these premises were later converted into a 42-bed youth hostel known as the Emile Hostel. St. Theresa’s Football Club also used to have premises there until their shock demise in the late 90’s and is currently St. Theresa’s Nursery. Another building was occupied by the St. Bernadette Occupational Therapy Centre until the centre was transferred to a more modern, purpose built premises in Smith Dorrien Avenue.

The west facing covered section which once housed the 10-inch RML guns were used as Government stores until 2015 when it was converted into the Gibraltar Exhibitions of Modern Art Gallery (GEMA). The Gallery was officially inaugurated on Tuesday 10th November 2015 by the Minister for Culture, the Hon Steven Linares. Within the Gallery the remains of the three Gibraltar Shields which were used to protect the three RML 10-inch 18 ton guns can still be seen in place today.

Montague Bastion casemates now the Gibraltar Exhibitions of Modern Art Gallery (GEMA).

Gibraltar Exhibitions of Modern Art Gallery (GEMA) interior.

Montagu Bastion Image