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Historial Synopsis

Gibraltar is steeped in history; the result of an intertwining and moulding of civilisations and cultures which dates back many thousands of years. What’s more, it is a living history reflected, not just in the Gibraltarians themselves, but also in the many legacies that remain to this day, including a number of prehistoric caves and a Moorish Castle and baths that date back to the 11th and 14th century. The architecture is similarly eclectic with many Georgian and Victorian buildings, as well as those that reflect Portuguese, Genoese or Moorish influence.

In 1848 an ancient skull was discovered in Forbes’ Quarry, at the foot of the steep north face. Then, just eight years later, an identical skull was discovered, this time in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf. ‘Neanderthal Man’ should really have been ‘Gibraltar Woman’!

Ancient mariners first arrived here by the 8th / 9th century BC (some suggest as early as the 4th / 5th century BC), leaving gifts to the gods seeking the blessings of the almighty before sailing into the Atlantic and the unknown. The first description of Gibraltar was written by the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela around 45 AD.

The Muslim invasion of Europe started in the Bay of Gibraltar where dissident Visigoths sided with Muslims by lending their ships to Berber Chief, Tarik Ibn Zeyad who landed by Tarik’s mountain – ‘Jebel Tarik’ – in 711. Gibraltar continued under Moorish domination for over seven centuries, until taken by Christians from the Kingdom of Castille for a brief period of 24 years in the early 14th century. It was not until 1462 that the Christians finally re-captured the Rock. The famous Spanish ‘Catholic Monarchs’ Isabel and Fernando were initially involved in finally securing the Rock as Crown Property of Castille in 1501.

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain following the War of the Spanish Succession of 1701-14. Charles II of Spain, died in 1700 without an heir. It was unclear who should succeed him, and so emerged a number of pretenders. Eventually war broke out, and in August 1704 British Marines, together with Dutch marines, captured the Rock, on behalf of Charles of Austria. The war continued until 1713, when the Treaty of Utrecht concluded that Philip V, a grandson of the King of France, would inherit the Spanish throne. Under the Treaty, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain, as well as Minorca, which changed hands several times before being returned to Spain as part of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.

But Gibraltar continued to be subjected to bloody conflicts from Spain. In 1779 Spain and France began the longest and bloodiest siege in Gibraltar’s history: ‘The Great Siege, 1779-1783’. In 1782 work began on the famous ‘Great Siege Tunnels’. The Battle of Trafalgar was fought close to the Rock in 1805.

In the early part of the fourteenth century Spanish forces occupied Gibraltar for twenty-four years; but in 1333 it reverted to Moorish control after a bloody eighteen week siege. The Rock did not finally become Spanish until 1462, when it was recaptured by the Duke of Medina Sidonia.

The 19th century was Gibraltar’s heyday, as a staging port on the vital route to India. Another series of tunnels were completed during the Second World War. Gibraltar became home to the Royal Navy’s ‘Force H’ and the focal point from where Eisenhower controlled the North Africa landings in 1942. During the Franco era, Spain attempted to revive her claim for the reversion of the Rock to Spanish sovereignty, which culminated in the closure of the border for thirteen years in 1969. The roots of Gibraltar have grown deep into the Rock for millions of years. The natural history, the culture and finally, the people themselves - the Gibraltarians - are the result: the ultimate proof that the history of the Rock lives on.

Pre-History to 1540

Historical Timeline


The African Plate collided with Europe some 55 million years ago. The Mediterranean became a lake, which in the course of time dried up until 5 million years ago when the Atlantic broke through the Strait of Gibraltar and flooded it again, isolating the Rock of Jurassic limestone.

150,000-24,000 years ago

Neanderthal man inhabited Gibraltar.

711 AD

12,000 Arab and Berber Troops landed from North Africa. This conquest of the Iberian Peninsular begins – lasted seven centuries.

8th Century

Gibraltar’s first fort built by Moors.

1309 – 1333

Brief Spanish occupation.


Second siege – Moorish recapture attempt fails.


Fortification of Gibraltar by the Moors. Large castle, harbour, wall in the upper Rock, mosques, palaces and baths built. Third siege - after four months, Vasco Perez surrenders to the Moors. Fourth siege – Alfonso XI tries to recapture the Rock but fails.

1349 – 1350

Fifth siege – Alfonso XI tries again but dies of plague in March 1350.


Sixth siege – Rock taken by forces of the Granadian Moorish kingdom from the Kingdom of Fez.


Seventh siege – Henry de Guzman, Count of Niebla, fails to capture the Rock and is killed in the attempt.


Alonso de Arcos initiates an attack and is joined by other Spanish forces before Gibraltar is captured in the name of the Duke of Medina on 20 August, St Bernard’s Day. Later in the year the Crown of Spain annexes it, the Duke giving up in protest.

1466 – 1467

Ninth siege – Henry de Guzman, son of Medina, captures the Rock after a siege of fifteen months.


Queen Isabella of Spain embroiders coat of arms of Gibraltar, which has perpetuated to this day as the Coat of Arms of the City (the Castle and Key). 1506: Tenth siege – Third Duke of Medina imposes a blockade but gives up.


Barbarrosa’s Turkish pirates land and pillage.

1704 - 1911

Historical Timeline


Eleventh siege. The British support Hapsburg claim to the throne. British fleet under Admiral Rooke land British and Dutch forces on the 23 July under Prince George of Hesse.

1704 - 1705

Twelfth siege – Forces supporting Philip V of Spain began an attack on the Rock in October. The siege continued until April 1705, but is unsuccessful.


Spain cedes Gibraltar to Britain by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht.


Thirteenth siege – Spanish and French attempt made to recapture Gibraltar.

1779 - 1783

Fourteenth siege, also known as the Great Siege, lasted from June 1779 – February 1783. Spanish and French forces besieged the Rock.


Great Siege Tunnels excavated.


Duke of Kent, Prince Edward, father of Queen Victoria, lasted one year as Governor.


21 October - Admiral Lord Nelson died at Trafalgar and his body is brought to Gibraltar on board the HMS Victory.

1810 - 1814

Gibraltar proves of incalculable help during the Napoleonic Wars.


Gibraltar becomes crown colony. Granted Civil Liberties and Charter of Justice. 25th June – The Gibraltar Police became operational, making it one of the oldest police forces in the world.


Trinity Lighthouse first lit at Europa Point.


Gibraltar skull recovered from Forbes Quarry by Flint.


Mary Celeste, greatest sea mystery ever, brought before the courts of Gibraltar.


Utopia disaster. Immigrant ship on its way to Australia blown broadside onto the HMS Anson and sank with the loss of 551 lives.

1903 - 1911

HM Dockyard was built three large graving docks to be known as docks Number 1, 2 and 3 were built.

1914 - Present Day

Historical Timeline

1914 - 1918

World War I - Gibraltar used for convoy collection and anti-submarine operations.


HMS Britannia torpedoed in the Strait by the German submarine U50, hundreds perished.

1939 - 1945

World War II. Gibraltar again used for convoy collection and as base for anti-submarine operations. It is main base for the launching of the British and American campaign in North Africa.


All Gibraltar population, excepting a few essential staff evacuated to the UK, Madeira, Northern Ireland, French Morocco and Jamaica. Major tunnelling works by the British and Canadian engineers.


German submarine U81 torpedoed the Ark Royal 25 miles east of Gibraltar.

1941 - 1944

Runway at North Front built using the rock excavated from the tunnelling work.


Operation Torch - General D Eisenhower conducts the landing of North Africa from a tunnel in Gibraltar.


General Waladyslaw Sikorski dies in air crash at Gibraltar.


First Legislative Council established.


The ammunition ship, Bedenham, blew up while unloading depth charges onto lighters at Gun Wharf.


10 May – Queen Elizabeth II visits Gibraltar.


October – Gibraltar Television started and is taken over as Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation in October 1963.

1966 - 1968

Spain claims Gibraltar at United Nations. 1967: First referendum - Gibraltarians vote 99.9% to remain British. National Day is held in Gibraltar on 10 September in recent years to celebrate this referendum.


Vehicular traffic to Spain stopped from crossing the frontier. Telephone communications cut.


Constitution granting fully responsible internal self-government. 8 June - Spain closes the frontier.


20 March - John Lennon and Yoko Ono married on the Rock.


1 August - Prince Charles and Princess Diana start honeymoon from Gibraltar. Fly into Gibraltar airport and start their cruise on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.


15 December – frontier opens to pedestrians only.


Brussels Agreement in December regarding opening of the frontier. Naval dockyard closes 1985: 5 February – full opening of the frontier.


7 November – 2nd Gibraltar Referendum, 98.9% vote to remain British.


2 January – Second Gibraltar Constitution.


12 December - Kaiane Aldorino first Gibraltarian to win Miss World.


11-13 June - Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex visited Gibraltar for a two day visit in June 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


24 May – GFA (Gibraltar Football Association) accepted as full UEFA member.


13 May - GFA (Gibraltar Football Association) accepted as full FIFA member. 2016: 15 July – Gorham’s Cave complex announced as a World Heritage Site.

Gibraltar Heritage Trust

The Gibraltar Heritage Trust is an independent statutory body entrusted with the preservation of Gibraltar’s heritage and aims to work in partnership with all like-minded bodies, both locally and internationally.

The Trust is responsible to the people of Gibraltar for the preservation and enhancement of all aspects of Gibraltar’s heritage, which includes promoting all aspects of Gibraltar’s heritage culturally, educationally and touristically. It works closely with the Government of Gibraltar and the private sector in fulfilling its aims.

We operate on a not for profit basis. Since 2008 we have received an annual grant from the Government of Gibraltar to help cover staff salaries and basic admin costs. Funds for all of the Trust’s projects are raised by the Trust through our annual membership drive, our commercial activities or through specific project targeted fundraising. All funds generated are applied to achieving the aims and objectives of the Trust.

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