Where the Spanish made cannon balls for the Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783)

I have just had the pleasure of spending two nights in a rural hotel on the edge of Jimena de la Frontera, about an hour’s drive north from Gibraltar. Curiously enough, this building served as a bomb making factory for the Spanish in the late 1700s. I saw there a stray keepsake, one of the original cannonballs made in the factory. It was heavvvvvyyyyyyy.

Gibraltar is that stragetically placed outcrop between the southern tip of the Spanish mainland and Africa. Its ownership has been hotly contested, and even now the normal fluidity of border crossings between Spain and this little piece of Britain is halted when a diplomatic argument arises between the two countries.

Having to rely on a history so often written by the victors is as unscientific as one of Professor Brian Cox’s theories, but for the sake of this piece – and for the lack of a true perspective easily found elsewhere – we’ll take as our starting point this summary from Wikipedia:

The Great Siege of Gibraltar [24 June 1779 – 7 February 1783] was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence.

You can see in the artist’s drawing below that in the late 1770s cannon balls had a short range and very marked parabolas.

Some of the munitions used in the Siege were made at Jimena de la Frontera. Why? Because of its proximity to, but safe distance from, Gibraltar. And because around the base of this hilltop village snakes a river called the Hozgarganta. The value of the river? It was used as a power source for the foundry.

The Hozgarganta is rather beautiful and it flows uninterrupted by dams at any point in its course. A rarity these days!


Where the former cannon ball factory is located you can see the old roman road which flanks the river:


Meanwhile, in this image you can see the walled channel which was constructed to funnel the water towards the factory.


Such is the physical evidence I found in and immediately surrounding the place where old bombs were made. What I could not verify is the rather ludicrous story that those who constructed the whole shabang failed to take into account that the river dries up in the Summer months, hence the factory’s short lived nature!


Jim Porter is one of the creators of Speekee – Spanish for Kids. On video. It goes slowwwwwly so kids have time to absorb what they see, to contemplate and learn.

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