Rock of Ages – Then and Now


As thoughts in Gibraltar turn to the past this month, for the 75th anniversary of the wartime evacuations, we take a pictorial look at what else has changed over time. What a difference half a century makes!

A flower seller touts his wares in Main Street beneath a wall of posters showing that post-war Gibraltar was well-served for entertainment. The 1950s musical comedy, At War with the Army, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, was showing at the old Theatre Royal (now Theatre Royal Park, opened last year). Today the wall encloses M&S. Lipton Ltd, opposite, was Gibraltar’s first supermarket.

All’s quiet at the Gibraltar frontier in this 1960 shot. Nine years later, the gates would be closed by Spain, cutting the Rock and its people off from Europe for 16 years. Today the frontier feud continues, with Spain carrying out upgrades to its checkpoint, adding to the delays.

Apart from the addition of the clock tower above the kiosk in the recent photograph, the scene outside Grand Casemates Gates appears relatively unchanged. However, folks in the 1950s would not have enjoyed the aroma of charcoal-grilled Argentinean steaks wafting from Gaucho’s restaurant (right), enclosed within the fortress walls. The fountain didn’t change colour, back then, either!

Proof positive that Rolex luxury watches are timeless! More than half a century on, only the sign has changed, the shop is still there. The 1960s photograph shows a down-at-heel Main Street open to traffic. Today it’s pedestrianised and poshed up with black and gold signposts, bins and shrubs in tubs.

Bomb House Lane (named after the residence of Gibraltar’s Chief Ordnance Keeper), and St Mary’s Cathedral remain little altered since the 1960s but Main Street has since acquired ornamental lamp posts and hanging baskets. The flags in the modern picture hang outside the new offices of the Gibraltar Savings Bank, opened in 2012.

Evidence that donkeys were still used to transport goods well into the 1960s. The Old Police Barracks at the end of the road, built in 1901, is a shadow of its former glory although at least one developer has come up with a rescue plan. Watch this space.

The Charcoal Shed circa 1910, one of the attractions of the daily fruit and veg market at Market Place, inaugurated by Edward Prince of Wales in 1876. Most 19th century households used charcoal (imported from Spain) for cooking and heating, and street vendors would deliver it to the door by donkey. The market hall, opened in 1929, is all that remains today.

British servicemen have played cricket in Gibraltar since the 18th century and the MOD’s sports grounds, known as the Old Naval Grounds, used to host informal matches between civilian and military teams most weekends. Today the land is used as a car park and the sound of wood on willow is a memory.

Horse-drawn hackney carriages used to ply their trade from the bottom of Main Street. Today, people carriers are more practical for ferrying the tourist hoards to the Upper Rock. In summer, several thousand visitors arrive daily by cruise ship and tour bus.

Words Belinda Beckett

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