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The Devil’s Bowling Green

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Further Information

The Devil’s Bowling Green was the name given to the steep sloping cliff that separated the two small coves of Camp Bay and Little Bay. The first mention of the name Devil’s Bowling Green is found in a plan of the south part of Gibraltar from the Great Powder Magazine to the Devil’s Bowling Green drawn by Capt. Charles O'Hara of the Coldstream Regiment in 1757.

Section of the 1726 plan of Gibraltar showing the sloping ground separating the two small coves of Camp Bay and Little Bay (not named).

Frederick George Stephens, in his 1900 edition of A History of Gibraltar and its Sieges, describes the Devil’s Bowling Green and the name attributed to the rocky escarpment to the south of Buena Vista thus:1

From the south end of Rosia Bay the cliffs rose gradually to Buena Vista – so called on account of its beautiful views of the Spanish and African coasts, bathed in a glow of colour. Several guns were mounted there, and the hill towards Europa Point bore some defensive works. Thence the Rock sweeps down by the Devil's Bowling-Green - so named, on the lucus a non lucendo principle, from its rugged surface — to Little Bay… A range of granite mountains in Argyllshire is similarly named the Duke of Argyll’s Bowling-Green.

Plan of the south part of Gibraltar as drawn in 1757. The Devil’s Bowling Green is shown top right.

The name of the Devil’s Bowling Green is mentioned several times during the Great Siege of Gibraltar. Lt. Colonel William Booth who served in Gibraltar during the Great Siege, both as Engineer and Quarter-Master, until his appointment by Eliott as Director of Mines. His service record tells us that… ‘He had also in his turn the command of the Brigade of Engineers, a part of which was encamped on the Devil's-Bowling-Green, so called from the extraordinary roughness of the ground: it is about 300 feet above the sea…2

Samuel Ancell in his Journal described how on the 24th June 1780 a Spanish 70 Gun ship accompanied by two frigates and a Xebec sailed close to shore and fired at HMS Panther and HMS Enterprise anchored within Rosia Bay which drew a heavy response from the British ships as well as the land batteries nearby. Ancell noted that in the engagement ‘three of the enemy’s shot came on shore. One fell at Europa, one at the Devil’s Bowling Green, and one at the New Mole… 3

18th Century print of the Devil’s Bowling Green (Neville Chipulina).

By the mid-19th Century a two-gun battery was placed right above the cliff edge called Devil's Bowling Green Battery. It was overlooked by the Buena Vista Battery and the seven guns of the Europa Pass Battery and flanked by Eliott’s Battery to the south and Parson’s Lodge and Rosia Battery to the North.

Early 19th Century painting of the Devil’s Bowling Green from Eliott’s Battery by an unknown artist (Neville Chipulina).

Since the 1860’s part of the cliff face to the south of Camp Bay had been quarried using convict labour for stone and rubble to extend the New Mole to 1,400 feet. A recommendation to further lengthen the mole and create a Naval Dockyard had been proposed since 1890 and a scheme to extend the mole from 1,400 to 3,700 feet as well as the creation of a commercial mole was finally sanctioned under the Naval Works Act of 1895.4

However, a much more ambitious scheme was launched the following year which now included three new dry docks, as well as extensive workshops for the dockyard, a detached mole and another commercial mole creating a safe, deep water harbor which could be protected from the new threat of torpedo-boats. Massive amounts of rock were required for this scheme and the Europa Quarry, being the nearest to the Dockyard became the main source of limestone for the project. By the time the Dockyard had been completed in 1906 the cliff-face around the Devil’s Bowling Green disappeared.

These “Before and after photographs” of the cliff show how by the very early 20th century the Devil’s Bowling Green had complete disappeared (Neville Chipulina).

The Devil’s Bowling Green Image