Moorish Castle / A City Under Siege Exhibition / Military Heritage Centre - Gibraltar - Gibraltar

Address: (along) Willis's Road, Gibraltar (See map)
Telephone: not available
Website: not available

Shop: no shop present
Restaurant/refreshments: not available
Size of the museum/site: medium
Year of visit: 2005
Overall rating:

Description: It's always great to set foot on British soil! First of all, they have played a role one way or another in almost every major conflict throughout the last millennium. And secondly, they are proud of their history and know how to present it. Gibraltar, tucked away at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, is especially interesting. It actually consists of one 'large rock' overlooking the narrow waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, and therefore controls the shipping lanes between these two important stretches of water. Because of this strategic value, Gibraltar has changed hands quite a few times during history. The last time this happened was when the Brits, aided by the Dutch, snatched Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704. The Spanish tried their best to regain control of The Rock but they never succeeded. Although Anglo-Spanish relations have become better since Spain joined the European community in 1986, you can still sense an echo of this tension when you cross the line at the rough Spanish border town of La Linea de la Conception and venture into Gibraltar...

Gibraltar is full of monuments and locations that remind you of the armed struggles that took place in and around the town, but the most important ones lay along Willis's Road, which takes you up from the town-centre to the top of The Rock. Three of these locations can be visited with a single ticket, and those three are dealt with here. Further up along Willis's Road you'll find a separate museum built in the tunnels which were dug out during the Great Siege, which is described in the Great Siege Tunnels section.

The first location you'll come across during your climb up The Rock is the Moorish Castle. Well, "Castle" is a bit deceiving really, as it is actually just one tower of the early Arabic fortifications that survived the tooth of time. It formed part of a greater defensive structure put up by the warlord Tarik-Ibn-Zeyad, and marks the start of the Arabic conquest of Spain.

As you continue along the steep path upward and the sweat starts to poor down your forehead, you reach the "City under Siege Exhibition". This small museum is by far the most interesting one of the three, and focuses on the "Great Siege" which the British citizens had to undergo when the combined forces of France and Spain tried to recapture Gibraltar in the period 1779-1783. It dramatically shows all the hardships the citizens and soldiers had to endure, ranging from lack of food to contagious diseases, harsh military discipline and utter boredom.

Still further up The Rock lies the Military Heritage Centre, housed in a battery from 1732. Inside you'll see the hoists used to provide the gun mounted on top of the battery with shells. Apart from that several arms are displayed which were used by the British. The most important part of the Heritage Centre however, consists of a memorial chamber with the roll call of the regiments that have served in Gibraltar.

The Moorish Castle is in the foreground, the Spanish coast at the back.

One of the splendid views from Willis's Road over the Strait of Gibraltar. In the distance, the mountains of Africa beckon...

British soldier carving graffiti in the wall to end his boredom during the Great Siege. The walls of the City Under Siege Exhibition are full of original graffiti of soldiers like this one.

Realistic diorama of a boy suffering with Small pox, Influenza or another of the many contagious diseases that raged during the siege. The diseases killed more people than cannon balls did!

The women of the town looked after the wounded.

The hoist inside the Military Heritage Centre used to transport shells to the gun on top of it.

Impressive memorial paying tribute to all those who served in the armed forces.

A few of the many Barbary Apes that reign The Rock. Don't be deceived by their lazy appearance: they're bloody quick and tricky! Watch your wallet or you'll be climbing back down the Rock considerably poorer than you came up!