Tunnelling inside the Rock of Gibraltar in 1782

During the mid-1970s my parents lived in Gibraltar.  The house in which they resided was called Ince’s Farm, a name with a fascinating history.  If you have been to Gibraltar you will surely have visited St Michael’s Cave, a network of natural limestone caves displaying stalactites and stalagmites within the rock.  But there are also miles of tunnels, some of which were excavated in the late 18th century.

Ince's Farm by L. Sanguinetti 1977
In 1779 Spanish and French armies laid siege to Gibraltar, hoping to starve the British army and citizens into giving up ownership of the Rock and its small town.  This was to become the longest siege ever endured by a British Garrison.  The townspeople had to abandon their homes which were bombarded by the French and Spanish and settle in tents and roughly made huts to the south.  Lack of fresh produce caused them to suffer from scurvy and living so closely together, smallpox, yellow fever and influenza quickly spread amongst the population.

By May 1782 the Governor of Gibraltar, George Augustus Elliott, was desperate for a means of attacking the foreign troops who were advancing slowly in ever extending trenches along the isthmus which connected Gibraltar to Spain, but they were out of view beyond the rock face.

It was at this point that he came into conversation with Sergeant Major Henry Ince.  Henry Ince had been a Cornish miner before joining the Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment and in 1772 had been transferred, along with other, “mechanics,” to the newly formed Company of Artificers, a forerunner of the Royal Engineers.  Sergeant Major Ince suggested that he should begin tunnelling through the rock to the Notch, a ledge on the sheer North face.  He was appointed Overseer of Mines and, with the aid of 12 men, began to clear a way through the rock using gunpowder, quicklime and water and pick-axes. There was an immediate need for ventilation so small openings were blasted in the cliff face.  These proved to be in good firing positions and so began the Upper Gallery for 4 guns.  There was a problem in the sharp downwards angle required for firing but this was solved by Lieut. Koehler who mounted the large guns on, “depressing carriages”.  He was aided by the ammunition developed by Lieut. Shrapnel.
Gibraltar by L. Sanguinetti 1977
The siege ended in 1783 when it became evident that the British would not need to give up. After the ceasefire, the Duc de Crillion, commander of the opposing troops, visited the tunnels, exclaiming, “These works are worthy of the Romans.”

As a reward for his invaluable work, Henry Ince was granted a large plot of land on Queens Road, half way up the rock, on which he established “Ince’s Farm”.  One day, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, came upon Henry, riding his old horse.  The Duke said that the sergeant major should have a finer horse, “more in keeping with your worth and duties,” but the horse he gave to Henry was too strong and spirited so the Duke suggested that Henry should sell it.

Henry Ince remained in Gibraltar for 36 years and despite some local opposition he established the Methodist church there, being one the prime Methodist lay preachers.  He wrote letters to John Wesley whom he had probably met while he was a soldier in Ireland around 1760.  Henry had at least 2 wives and 6 surviving children, Joseph, William, Robert, Harriet, Henry and George, who were listed as beneficiaries in Henry’s will.  Returning to England in 1804, he died in Gittisham, Devon in 1808, at the age of 72.  On his tombstone behind the tower of St Michael's church his tunnels in Gibraltar are described as, "lasting testimony to his skill, industry and zeal."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldier_Artificer_Company
http://gibraltar-intro.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/1782-sergeant-major-henry-ince-on.html

Letters to America

While researching my Hamilton family from Lanarkshire and Ayrshire I discovered online a series of letters written by the Young and Shields families in Scotland to their relation, Alexander Shields, who had emigrated to America.  Three of the letters were written by my Hamilton ancestors who were intermarried with the other two families.  The letters cover the period from 1829 till 1853 and not only contain family news but also details of politics, religion, health and everyday economics.

In Robert Shields’ letter of 1829 to his brother Alexander in Vermont he soon expresses his Presbyterian feelings by complaining that the, “Roman Cathlicks have got their Clawes granted to them in Parliment,”  He next reflects on the decline in the handloom weaving industry, saying that, “The weavers here are in a very poore state.”

Writing to his brother-in-law Alex Shields in 1832 Rev. Hugh Young informs him that Cholera Morbis has appeared in nearby Falkirk, with 14 deaths out of 27 cases.  He observes that “temperate” people are usually not affected. (Maybe they did not drink whisky with water?)  But 3 years later, Rev. Young writes, “with a heavy heart and with eyes streaming with tears,” of how he has committed to the grave, Anna Carslaw, age 5 and Jane age 7, both victims of measles.  Luckily in 1841, his daughter Mary recovered from scarlet fever.

When William Hamilton wrote to Alexander Shields in 1839, he was more philosophical,

We have got a new Queen as you will see stamped Victoria on the head of this sheet, but what good she may do in her reign is unknown for prophets is forbidden to enter our Land...  But I have no doubt to say that there will be some events in her reign that will fill up the pages of History and be a blessing to one class in this realm and a scourge unto another.”


In his news of “Auld Scotland,” he reports that, “There is a very great emigration from Scotland to America, to Australia and Van Deimon's Land.”  He talks of an Iron Works newly erected in Galston but two years later we read that, “ it has brought a number of strangers to the town, but has made no improvement in the morals of the people, as drinking, swearing, and Sabbath profanation is carried on to an alarming degree.”  In 1843 Rev. Young talks of the depressed state of trade and commerce with the result that, “many thousands in England and Scotland,” were unable to obtain employment.


During several years the letter writers mentioned failed crops and hardship.  In 1836 a combination of cold, rain and frost meant that the crops, “did not come to maturity.”  A cold, wet summer in 1841 caused grain costs to be high, and in 1846 Rev. Hugh Young reported that potatoes had been lost over the whole country.  “They had a fine appearance till harvest, when a disease (for which no one seems able satisfactorily to account) came upon them, and rendered them unfit for use, and at present it is doubtful if seed can be procured.  Great distress is anticipated in Ireland and it is reported that Famine has already broken out in some districts of that unhappy country. The newspapers at the same time state that Government has already forwarded to several Irish ports a very large supply of Indian corn and other provisions of a cheap kind, that as far as possible the evil may be remedied.”


On the positive side, we read in 1832 of ploughing matches between 30 ploughs, a sign of prosperity and leisure time.   The younger members of the family have enjoyed sea-bathing, probably because of the new railway built in 1840 connecting Glasgow and Ayr round the coast.  Gas works established in Galston gave the residents gas in their homes and they found it cheaper for lighting than oil or candles.   The penny post was welcomed and even 8 pence for a letter to be taken to America was felt to be fair. 

In 1844 there were talks in the Free Kirk of giving females a right to vote for a Minister, but it was felt that the men would not accept the result.  However many of the daughters of the families received a good education, studying Reading, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography and Botany.

As the replies to this collection of letters do not seem to have been kept, we hear little of the lives of the family in America, except for one reference to a younger Alexander in Vermont who has asked,

“Is there a probability that I could get a good, braw, rich, active, young woman for a wife?”  Rev. Young believed his daughters could provide every one of those qualities except riches!


Dr Thomas Jenner Sells investigates a murder

Among the eminent families in 19th century Guildford the Sells family had a significant impact. 

Thomas Jenner Sells was born on February 25th 1811 in Clarendon, Jamaica, the son of William Sells, Practitioner of Medicine, and his wife, Euphemia.   William Sells was a surgeon in Jamaica for several years. In November 1826 he and his family left Jamaica and by 1841 he was living in Kingston-upon-Thames where he died in September.


Thomas Jenner Sells decided to follow his father into medicine and after completing his medical training, he settled in Guildford, Surrey in about 1840.  On July 19th 1842 Thomas married Charlotte, the daughter of Rev. John Stedman and they settled at 109 High Street.  In 1846 and again in 1851, Thomas was elected Mayor of Guildford.  In addition to his everyday medical duties, Thomas took over the private lunatic asylum at Leapale House. 

In 1852 Thomas Jenner Sells participated in the investigation into the horrific murder of a 3 year old child in Albury.  John Keene and his wife Jane were accused of drowning her illegitimate child, Charlie Broomer, in a well in February 1851.   Mrs Keene’s mother, Ann Broomer, had reported her fears to Police Superintendent Josiah Hawkins Radley stationed at Guildford and he took a well-digger to Warren Well near Albury Heath.  On finding remains, they summoned Dr Sells.  Thomas Sells testified that the body had been in the well for at least a year and he produced the skull, which he had put back together, to show to the Court.



Other testimonies included that of Mr Ames, Master of Guildford Union Workhouse, who reported that Jane Keene had been admitted to the Workhouse after dark on January 10th 1851 accompanied by two children, 3 year old Charlie Broomer and a baby born a few weeks before to Jane and her husband John.  She had left the Workhouse with her children on February 6th.  On 16th February she returned to the Workhouse with her husband John and her youngest child, saying that Charlie was with her mother in Albury.  In spite of the fact that all the evidence was hearsay, at the end of the trial Jane Keene was acquitted but her husband was condemned to death for murder.

One of the other cases involving Thomas occurred in 1864 when there was a quarrel between two boys from a gypsy encampment on Whitmoor Common.  One boy, John Stacey, was stabbed.  Dr Sells dressed his wound and then sent the boy to the Workhouse although his assailant had escaped towards Woking. 

 In 1862 Thomas Jenner Sells purchased a large plot of land at the south-eastern end of Guildford with the intention of building many houses.  Thomas Sells worked with Henry Peak, the town's first Borough surveyor, and the design for one of the first housing estates in the town took shape. Thomas Sells named the area after his wife, Charlotte, and many of the roads were named after famous physicians.  Charlotteville, one of the earliest planned suburbs in Britain, was planned to have a social mix, with large villas to purchase and small terraced cottages to rent.  The gradual building of this, “urban village,” continued after the death of T. J. Sells, but in 1867 at an anniversary dinner for the local Forresters’ Lodge, Thomas commented that, “He hoped he had shown his fellow townsmen the best way to spend their money.  Every mechanic should live in his own home.”

You can read more about Charlotteville at www.users.waitrose.com/~iannicholls/Local-History.html

Resources

Diaries of Henry Peak edited by Roger Nicholas
Census and Parish records from www.Ancestry.co.uk
British Newspapers Archive 
Times Digital Archive