© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

(Recto) Gibraltar from the Queen of Spain's Chair, 22 January 1853; (verso, undated) St Angelo and Dockyard Creek, Malta

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Description

From Captain Captain George Pechell Mends' 'Trafalgar' sketchbook, which covers his commission in the ‘Trafalgar’, from 1850 to 1853. It includes sketches and notes on the inside front cover, 34 pages worked on both sides and a later and unrelated loose watercolour in the back. No. 31 of 36. (Recto) A view southward towards Gibraltar and the Atlas mountains of the Moroccan coast beyond, from the hills above La Linea and Algeciras Bay. It is inscribed, lower left, 'Gibraltar / from Queen of Spain's Chair / Jany 22d 53'. The 'Chair', the English name for the Sierra Carbonera, is a hilltop (315m/ 971 feet) above the eastern end of the bay. It was frequently used for Spanish gun positions and observation over Gibraltar after the latter fell into British hands in 1704, and as late at the Second World War. The watchtower on the right is probably one of many considerably older ones built along the coast as lookouts against piratic raids from the Barbary coast of North Africa, whose proximity is very clear in the drawing. The slightly darker promontory of land visible left of the tower is the south-west point of the bay, on the far side of Alceciras, beyond which lies the 'Gut' - the Strait of Gibraltar itself. The coastal buildings at centre, beyond the boulders, are probably the eastern outskirts of Algeciras itself, with British shipping moored off Gibraltar town immediately above. The straight road leading out towards the Rock can be seen passing through the Spanish village and emplacements of La Linea and then through the outer British defence lines beyond. (Today the town of La Linea entirely covers the isthmus as far as the Gibraltar frontier: this immediately borders the latter's airport runway, which extends across the land neck - and the road- with its outer extremities on ground reclaimed from the sea.) Some of the main British artillery defences, not visible here, were from 18th-century galleries cut high in the lower cliff of the Rock (see PAI0857), around the Notch, towards which the road leads. To its right, the historic outer defensive wall of Gibraltar town can just be seen crowned by the still-surviving 14th-century Moorish keep, the Tower of Homage. May show a distant view of the Queen of Spain's Chair from Gibraltar. (Verso) A partly finished watercolour in Grand Harbour, Malta. It appears to show the same location as PAI0865, that is the Barraca area of Valletta (St Elmo) on the left with St Michael on the right. Though undated and underpopulated with shipping, its position in the book suggests it was probably done as the fleet was assembling at Malta in May/ early June 1853 before sailing for Turkey. Mends is unlikely to have had much time then to draw, which may account for its unfinished state.

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© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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