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City Under Siege Restoration


Keith Sheriff

The buildings known as the Old Willis’s Magazine was built around 1704, immediately after the capture of Gibraltar making them amongst the first British military structures ever built.

Two magazines were constructed. In between the two magazines stood a separate self-enclosed shot yard used for the preparation of cannon and mortar shot.

Graffiti markings are abundant in all the exterior walls around the centre courtyard. The majority of the surviving graffiti are dated between 1730 to 1760 period, but some are later, dating to as late as 1791.

In 2015, the City Under Siege exhibition underwent an extensive refurbishment of the site, which included a new picnic area. Mannequins, interpretation panels and new sound and light installations to enhance the experience, which also incorporated a ten-minute film documentary. Over the years, however, the site has seen a deterioration of the assets and the Ministry for Heritage has been approached to co-ordinate the restoration project at the City Under Siege Exhibition.


Following the successful opening of the Lime Kiln Restoration works, the Ministry for Heritage was invited to provide advice on how to revamp the entire site.

The Ministry agreed to prepare a site restoration plan for January 2022. Repairing the mannequins and replacing the dated and in some cases unreadable interpretation panels was considered to be of paramount importance.

The Ministry for Heritage to provide the information and commission the design for the eleven interpretation panels.

The Upper Rock and Beaches maintenance crew to replace the old fencing, re-varnishing of the displaying sections and construction of new display boards for the interpretation panels.

Meanwhile, Manolo Jaen, the Museum conservator to repair and restore the rather dilapidated mannequins, including one with a smashed face caused by vandalism.   


The Upper Rock and Beaches maintenance crew begin to re-varnish the wooden display boards on site. A number of surplus accessories formerly at the 100-Ton Gun – 2 large barrels, some smaller barrels, mortar shot and shells, including a replica 24-pounder cannon are removed and displayed within the Willis’s Magazine courtyard.


The information for the interpretation panels compiled by the Ministry for Heritage, which began in December 2021, is sent into the graphic design stage in January 2022. It is subsequently sent to the Gibraltar Chronicle for printing on UV resistant, 5mm PVA boards.


Work begins on the mannequins. The badly damaged mannequin is removed from storage and placed at the 100-Ton Gun garage. It will be transferred to Parson’s Lodge for much needed restoration works once the other mannequins have been repaired.


New frames are placed on the wooden boards by Upper Rock & Beaches maintenance crew.


The new interpretation panels are placed on the boards. Within minutes of placement, tourists are drawn to the new panels.