City Under Siege Exhibition, Gibraltar

Whilst it is true that during the early part of the British occupation of Gibraltar most of the population were members of the Armed Forces, and in particular the Army, the civilian population also contributed to the war effort and played an important role in the life of the Garrison. The buildings in which this exhibition is housed are probably one of the first buildings ever constructed by the British in Gibraltar thus dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. Originally it is thought that they were built as magazines to store ammunition and that the courtyard in the centre with the building that was in it, part of which can still be seen today, was used as a laboratory to prepare ammunition. The area is known as Willis’s Magazine although there is no record of who Willis was and why it was given that name.

Gibraltar siege Undoubtedly the most important aspect of the building is the graffiti that can be seen on the walls, the earliest of which dates back to 1726. It is thought that soldiers mounting guard in the area used to spend their time drawing graffiti so as not to fall asleep during the long hours of duty, an offence punishable by death in those days. There is much graffiti, all equally interesting yet there are two outstanding ones featuring a drawing of a galleon together with a graffiti attributed to Sergeant Major Ince, the architect of the Great Siege Tunnels. In this area the visitor can also see the water cisterns used in those days together with the drainage system.

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