Gibraltar is rightfully proud of its Heritage, and the Government is equally proud of its record in protecting and promoting this Heritage, which it has done like no other Government before.
The past few years have seen several landmark events in the preservation of Heritage. The first was the declaration of the Gorham’s Cave Complex as a World Heritage Site, a huge occasion for Gibraltar and its international reputation. Another was the passing of the landmark Heritage and Antiquities Act which vastly improved the way in which this Heritage is protected. The Act listed more monuments and buildings than ever in its Schedule, established strict licensing requirements, and set up the Heritage and Antiquities Council (HAAC). The Council is made up of representatives of the different entities, including NGOs, who work in and for Heritage. It meets regularly, and is now the point of reference for all Heritage work. Indeed, the including of all places of worship in the Schedule of the Act has meant that St Andrew’s Church, which has closed and is up for sale, cannot be demolished or significantly altered, thus protecting the valuable Heritage asset.
There have been many heritage gems, that had long been totally neglected, that have been restored and now form part of the heritage offer that is available for tourists and residents alike.
These include the Nun’s Well which has been cleaned, restored with the surrounding areas landscaped, the Almond Tower by the Moorish Castle, the Lime Kiln on the Upper Rock, which was near-derelict, the nearby City Under Siege Exhibition which has been revamped and relaunched, Harding’s Battery area with an outdoor interpretation centre, and the Central Hall, which has been restored and given back the dignity that it had as a church, complete with stained glass windows. In addition, serious work continues at the Northern Defences and in the Mount. Several Government projects have been recognised in receiving Heritage Awards from the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
Promotion of our Heritage has now taken off in the way of the 21st Century with online presence. The Gorham’s Cave Complex for example has 15,000 followers on Facebook. The Gibraltar National Museum now has a virtual Tour online. The Ministry of Heritage recently launched the Gibraltar Heritage Website which is full to the brim with information and is now a point of reference to researchers. This online presence is in this day and age much more significant than physical visitors, in particular as some Heritage sites, such as Gorham’s itself, are sensitive to footfall.
And the work continues. O’Hara’s Battery is undergoing a major facelift, with volunteers from Alabare working this week on restoring the gun. The World War II tunnels are temporarily closed for refurbishment and will open before the summer season with improved displays, and plans will soon be filed at Planning for the return of the 9.2” Gun to Levant Battery. In addition, plans are progressing to restore parts of the Moorish Castle for cultural use. And only last week, Gibraltar’s first formal Archaeological Site (other than Gorham’s) was declared at the area of Arengo’s Palace.
The administration of heritage is working better than ever, with excellent communication between the players, including the Ministry, the Museum and the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Developers and contractors working in sensitive areas now make the HAAC their first point of contact and work together in order to achieve projects that are not detrimental to – and often enhance – Heritage.
There is a great deal more to do, and the financial constraints that resulted from the pandemic have delayed other work, but the potential remains and the plans are ambitious. Indeed, the whole approach to Heritage is being refreshed in the consultation ‘Heritage Vision’ document published today.
Reacting to a press release from the GSD criticising the Government’s record, Minister for Heritage John Cortes said, “It would be comical, if it were not worrying that the GSD, and Mr Bossino in particular should be so seriously out of touch with what’s happening in Gibraltar. It is a total lack of respect for all those who work in Heritage, including the Heritage Trust whose voice is heard more than ever by the Government.
“It is a real pity that on the day that Gibraltar is celebrating World Heritage Day, Mr Bossino should choose to introduce negativity with the sole aim of scoring political points. On a day when Gibraltar celebrates its greatest accolade in the field of heritage, Mr Bossino has chosen to tell the world how badly, in his limited view, the heritage environment is managed in Gibraltar. I reject Mr Bossino’s analysis outright. It is a real pity that Mr Bossino, with his apparently newly found passion for heritage, was too busy to attend last night’s World Heritage Day Lecture which was given to a standing room-only audience at the John Mackintosh Hall. He would have understood immediately the appetite and awareness that exists for heritage in Gibraltar. He would have also understood just how much work has been, and is being, done at our World Heritage Site and how much passion and sheer hard work is involved. He throws all this, and much more, out of the window with his uneducated message to the world.”
“We should be under no illusion of the difficulties involved in the management of our heritage. Gibraltar is blessed with an incredibly rich heritage the government does its very best to support and fund its protection and promotion, but it has to balance these commitments to the many demands that are placed on it from many different sectors.
“Mr Bossino is showing his complete ignorance of heritage in his statement. He seems to confuse heritage sites with tourist attractions as though they were one and the same. The prime function of heritage sites is the protection of their values. If they can also be opened to the public, then all the better, but visitor numbers are not the key indicators of the success or otherwise of a heritage site. It is not a simple numbers game. This philosophy is adopted in our only UNESCO World Heritage Site, appropriately focusing, first and foremost, on Educational, Scientific and Cultural values, and it is precisely that which should be applied across the board to all our heritage sites.”
The sites are indeed promoted, and very well. The Gorham’s Cave Facebook Page, for example, has 15,000 followers and the equivalent Gibraltar National Museum page has 6,200 followers. For reference, Mr Bossino may wish to compare this figure with the GSD’s own facebook page, which has 2,600 followers (17.3% of the Gorham’s following). The Gorham’s Cave twitter account has 3,098 followers and the Gibraltar National Museum has 2,779 followers. The exposure which Gorham’s Cave in particular has received internationally from television and other media has been disproportionate to the size of Gibraltar. In recent years, documentaries featuring Gorham’s Cave, other Gibraltar caves and, more widely, Gibraltar’s heritage treasures have been featured by the BBC (including two Horizons), National Geographic (Television and Magazine), NHK Japan, Arte (German/French), History Channel, Netflix, Curiosity Stream, Channel 4, Australian Broadcasting Service, Television Española, and Canal Sur, as well as various travel programmes. Several major television crews are expected in Gibraltar this summer. In terms of publicity, few heritage sites anywhere, in a location with a population of around 30,000 inhabitants, can boast such exposure.
“We should all be proud of having such a special heritage which includes one with the top prize. Our view of our heritage must not be microscopic, based simply on visitor numbers – not everything in life has to be at the mercy of the numbers game. Our heritage has huge educational value, research potential and needs protection. In 2018, I introduced the new Heritage and Antiquities Act, a document that the GSD had been throwing around without much progress during its terms in power, and which had been last updated, incidentally by the GSLP, in 1989. We are doing our very best to protect and, where possible, also promote our heritage and we are blessed to have a wonderful team of world experts, some of whom have even acted as advisers to UNESCO in the past, working for us. I myself, have heritage very close to my heart, having been a founder member of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust back in 1987. So, I speak from a position of knowledge and experience – I am not a newborn pseudo-defender of heritage out of political convenience. Let us now all pull together in our support of one of “team Gibraltar’s” most wonderful achievements, one we should all be proud of as a community.”
“How hypocritical that they should say this now just about a month after they refused to support the National Park Act in Parliament, an Act created precisely for the purpose of improving the promotion of our Heritage. But no, they argued against it would not vote in favour. It really beggars belief.
“Given the relative numbers of Facebook followers it does look like the GSD is falling below Neanderthals in popularity. So clearly out of date!”
Note to Editors:
The following is a list of some of the Heritage projects that have been undertaken in the last few years.
Examples of heritage projects include:
- The transfer and restoration of the last 25-pounder QF Field Guns in Gibraltar, now on display at the 100 Ton Gun Visitor Centre together with information panels.
- The recovery of the 9.2. Inch gun barrel, carriage and pedestal which was dismantled from Levant Battery and left at the scrapyard for over 50 years.
- Restoration of Lord Airey’s Battery.
- The restoration of the City Under Siege Exhibition and the installation of 11 new interpretation panels.
- The restoration and removal of vegetation at the Tower of Homage.
- The placement of interpretation panels within the old town highlighting our medieval history.
- The restoration of the last whipping post in Gibraltar, located outside the Shrine of our Lady of Europe.
- The Listing of Graves of Historical Interest.
- The publishing of Cultural Heritage Town Planning Guidance Notes for all matters relating to assessments, permits and archaeology.
- The continuous addition of maps, surveys and historical research pertaining to our Historic Environment Record on the Ministry for Heritage Website.
- Amendments to the Heritage and Antiquities Act 2018 in order to afford greater control over the use of metal detectors, excavations as well as the imports/exports of antiquities.
- The creation of a register of Historic Buildings.
- The restoration of the Convent Main Façade.
- The restoration of Southport Gates.
- The restoration of the main façade of the new St. Mary’s School.
- The fabrication of Gun Carriages.
- 10 new interpretation panels to be placed at Southport Gates as well as at Camp Bay.
- The restoration of O’Hara’s Battery.
- Works on the Medieval Gatehouse.
- The establishment of a working relationship with the American Battle Monuments Commission in order to discuss improvements to the American War Memorial.
Below are links to press releases on Heritage projects:
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2014/608-2014.pdf – Northern Defences
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2014/352-2014.pdf – Upper Rock Refurbishment
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2014/162-2014.pdf – Princess Caroline’s Battery
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2014/31-2014.pdf – St. Jago’s Arch
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/867-2015.pdf – Upper Rock Sites
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/865-2015.pdf – Upper Rock
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/837-2015.pdf – Parson’s Lodge
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/752-2015.pdf – Gibraltarian History Textbooks for Schools – Great Siege
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/685-2015.pdf – – Gibraltarian History Textbooks for Schools – Evacuation
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/628-2015.pdf – Private Sector partnership – Wine Vaults
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/496-2015.pdf – Heritage Act Command Paper
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/169-2015.pdf – Restoration of Red Plaques
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2015/111-2015.pdf – Gibraltar Streets Plaques
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2016/387-2016.pdf – Historical Trail: Royal Letter Boxes
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2016/374-2016.pdf – Inscription of Gibraltar Caves in UNESCO List
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2016/101-2016.pdf – British Army Community Projects
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2016/99-2016.pdf – New Suspension Bridge: Royal Anglian Way
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2017/212-2017.pdf – MOD Gatehouse Relocation
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2017/196-2017.pdf – Street Art in Urban Regeneration
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2017/114-2017.pdf – World Heritage Advisory Forum
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2017/107-2017.pdf – Reconstituted Heritage Action Committee
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2018/329-2018.pdf – Interpretation Centre: Du Farol
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2018/248-2018.pdf – Europa Foreshore
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2018/205-2018.pdf – Southport Gates, Almond Tower and Garrison Library Balustrade Conservation Works
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2018/184-2018.pdf – Heritage and Antiquities Bill
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2018/183-2018.pdf – Heritage Environment Record
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2018/155-2018.pdf – WWII Tunnels new audio system
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2019/673-2019.pdf – The Mount
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2019/670-2019.pdf – St. Michael’s Cave
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2020/677-2020.pdf – New Tampions Project
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2020/605-2020.pdf – Gustavo Bacarisa Street Art
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2020/171-2020.pdf – Larios Family Furniture Restoration
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2020/14-2020.pdf – Gibraltar Maps Project
https://www.ministryforheritage.ngi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2021/682-2021.pdf – Old Lime Kiln
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2021/530-2021.pdf – Ministry for Heritage Website
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Cultural%20Heritage%20Town%20Planning%20Guidance/487-2022.pdf – Heritage Guidance Notes
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Transfer%20of%209.2%20inch%20gun%20to%20Europa%20Point%20Eco%20Park/89-2022.pdf – 9.2 Inch Gun
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Whipping%20Post/885-2022.pdf – Whipping Post
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Tower%20of%20Homage%20Works/884-2022.pdf – Tower of Homage Works
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Graves%20of%20historical%20interest%20protected/882-2022.pdf – Graves of Historical Interest
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/New%20Interpretation%20Panels%20highlight%20our%20medieval%20history/812-2022.pdf – Interpretation Panels Medieval History
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/City%20Under%20Siege/586-2022.pdf – City under Siege Improvements
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Restoration%20Lord%20Airey%20Battery/366-2022.pdf – Lord Airey’s Restoration
https://www.ministryforheritage.gi/uploads/Press%20Releases/2022/Transfer%20and%20restoration%20work%20programme%20of%20the%20last%20two%2025-pounder%20QF%20Field%20Gun%20in%20Gibraltar%20No:%20101/101-2022.pdf – Field Gun