Parson’s lodge is perhaps the most strategically important place on Gibraltar because it covers the entrance to Rosia Bay. The Spanish discovered this as did the British when they strove with Spain to gain access to the site. During the American War of Independence, both Spain and France declared war on Great Britain, and attacked forces at Gibraltar.
The old Spanish site received many renovations and additions. In the early seventeen hundreds, it boasted four guns, and a pair of two by eighteen pounders and shortly afterwards a pair of two by twelve pounders was added.
The fortress received the name Parson’s Lodge, in the year 1761, referring to a book in the library garrison. The name also was listed in an armaments list ten years later and supposedly referred to the nearby monastery and chapel that was built to honor Saint John the Green.
It was about thirty years later when further improvements were made on the battery, when three ten inch rifled muzzle loading weapons, each weighing about eighteen tons were added. This increased the range and defensibility of the army, the new guns being able to reach over two and a half miles when over four hundred pounds of projectile were being fired.
The guns were place behind unusual crafted Gibraltar Shields, composed of teak and armor plate. They were in use until the late eighteen hundred nineties. Along with the new guns, new living quarters were built on ground below the Parson’s Lodge battery.
It was during this time that the large searchlights were installed, they measured up to ninety centimeters each and had candlepower estimated at over 200 million and the ability to be focused tightly, within a three degree beam that could be projected as far as five thousand yards distant.
Before the First World War, Parson’s Lodge became a coast auxiliary with a new searchlight, while the artillery batteries falling into disuse.
This changed when fighting started up again and the defensive skills of that artillery were needed again to defend freedom. In the second World War, the building of more batteries inside the Parson’s Lodge as well as anti tank, anti aircraft guns, and searchlights to aid in the firing upon aircraft.
There was a six pounder gun placed where the landing parties could be easily monitored, it was capable of firing a six pound shell over two miles and was in use until the end of World War II.
One of the more famous sections is where the C18th gun position; it provided protection to the Camp Bay area. It was capable of firing a projectile that had a range of over a mile.
On Christmas Eve, the famed light infantry Somerset brigade finished with the construction of the concrete block two tiered Six Pounder weapon position to prevent enemies from landing on either Camp Bay or Little Bay. The Vickers Medium Machine Gun is capable of firing five hundred rounds of ammunition per minute.
The areas that held storage of shells and ammunition are interesting because there were a variety of precautions that needed to be taken to prevent explosions and the destruction of the whole installation. Some of these were spark free copper fittings, rope shows and the important measure of lighting magazines through plate glass fronted passages or special niches. A carriage was used to hoist cartridges that were mounted above the Parson’s Lodge.
Parson’s Lodge was abandoned in 1956 by the British, but is still used by them as a training area for military exercises.
Time has worn on Parson’s Lodge but there are efforts to preserve and protect the historical site from further damage and decay. Two of the organizations that have put forth a herculean effort to save Parson’s Lodge from eroding further, they are: The Friends of Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. This work has not been in vain, the increasing tourism has brought more interest and more money to further this work.
The Gibraltar Heritage Trust has been working on many different sites all over Gibraltar, with the honor in 1989 of joining membership on the Europa Nostra, a European body that increases public awareness of national heritage and the benefits it has. This was recognized in 1996, when the Europa Nostra acknowledged Parson’s Lodge as a historic fortress, picked from over one hundred entries from twenty nations, thus emphasizing the Gibraltar Heritage Trust as a vital part of reconstructing the site and keeping this important part of history alive for future generations to visit and learn from.
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