The Prostitutes of Serruya’s Lane: an essay on Gibraltar’s forgotten red-light district by M. G. Sanchez
(i) The Legend of Miss _____
It must have been 1974 or possibly 1975. I was six or seven years old. We were living in Chicardo’s Passage, a narrow, steeply inclined series of steps that skirt the northern side of the old civilian hospital. Our flat was one of those typical Upper Town abodes that Gibraltarians have occupied for decades, the kind of mouldy, windowless, cockroach-infested dwelling that Richard Ford, in his bestselling A Handbook for Travellers in Spain and readers at home (1845), describes as ‘fit only for salamanders and scorpions, as those born in the Rock are called.’ Nowadays I can’t remember much about the flat – except that it stank of damp and that to get to the bathroom you had to walk through the living room and the two bedrooms. One Saturday night, while the whole family was asleep in the two adjoining bedrooms separated by a retractable Formica screen, there was a knock on our front door. Anxiously my father got out of bed and walked to the living room. Unlocking the front door, he pulled it back an inch or two. Through the small gap between the door and the jamb, he saw two drunken sailors loitering sheepishly under the porch. ‘Sorry to disturb you, matey,’ one of the sailors began with a nervous gulp. ‘But we’re looking for Miss _____’s place? Me and me mate Taffy here got told it was just round back of hospital. Got any idea where it could be, matey?’ ‘Miss _____?’ my father cautiously replied. ‘Yes, yes,’ the other sailor chimed in. ‘Miss _____ . Scodger from the Argyll told us that he used to know this fellah from the Anglians who said that she was a proper Gibraltun goer. You know what I mean, don’t you, matey?’ At that moment a reluctant smile came to my father’s face. ‘You mean, Miss _____,’ he said, shaking his head in amused disbelief, ‘the old lady who used to live further up the passage? She died about three years ago. She was about eighty-five. I think you’ve come about forty or fifty years too late, lads.’
My father related this story to me in 1986 or 1987. He told me that Miss _____ was an old lady who used to live near the top end of Chicardo’s Passage. She had been alive when we had first moved into our flat towards the end of 1969, but had died of an embolism or some other geriatric malady a couple of years later. She had carried with her a reputation for moral looseness, although neither my parents nor any of our neighbours in Chicardo’s were old enough to remember to what this uncommon privilege was due. By all accounts, Miss _____ was a slightly dotty old woman who rarely opened the crumbling Persian shutters of her first-floor dwelling except to let down a wicker basket attached to a piece of string. Into this basket the boy from Juan’s grocers in Castle Street would every morning deposit a pint of milk and a loaf of bread, giving the line a little tug just after he had taken the money and the note for tomorrow’s order lying at the bottom of the container. When she died in 1971 or thereabouts, her flat was taken over by a Moroccan family and that was that: Miss _____ was well-nigh forgotten. Or maybe not, judging from what happened that night in 1975. Somehow or other the legend of Miss _____ had lived on, morphing its way down the fluorescent-lit corridors of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers like a message in a game of Chinese whispers....
(ii) Introducing New Passage/Serruya’s Lane: Gibraltar’s forgotten red-light area
What my father did not tell me was that Miss _____ was part of a long-forgotten ‘prostitutional’ tradition which stretched back to the 1800s and that Chicardo’s Passage itself lay no more than a stone’s throw away from what used to be the epicentre of Gibraltar’s infamous red-light district. To reach this quarter from Chicardo’s, all you have to do is walk down the steps, cross a little stretch of badly tarmacked road and then go down the side street known as Pezzi’s steps. You will then find yourself in an area known as New Passage, a narrow, ill-paved alleyway that connects the steeply ascending Hospital Steps on the South to the broad, flat, limestone-hewn escalones of Castle Street on the North. Even now – when almost no one in Gibraltar remembers what scandalous practices used to occur in this area – New Passage looks very much like a colonial red-light district should look: dark, eerie and, if we are to be honest, a little dilapidated. On both sides of the passage we come across tottering nineteenth‑century houses, with thickly plastered facades and crooked little archways through which one can sometimes glimpse the damp-infested recesses of some half-hidden interior patio. Though no more than five minutes’ walk from Main Street, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had been teleported back to the 1870s.
The demographic history of New Passage makes no less interesting reading. Nowadays, the area is populated mainly by Moroccan workers and one or two remaining Gibraltarian families. Back in the 1970s, when our two sex-starved friends came looking for the long-interred Miss _____, the demographic lay-out would have been reversed: with one or two Moroccans hemmed in among the cluster of working-class Gibraltarian families. If you were to go back even further in time – say, to the decade straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – the situation would have been even more different. For a start, New Passage would not have been known as New Passage at all, but by the rather less impersonal name of Serruya’s Lane. Even more so than nowadays, it would have attracted individuals with low disposable incomes – mainly prostitutes from the five or six brothels lining the length of the lane, and the scruffy, ill-fed ragamuffins from the Catholic orphanage on nearby Castle Street. Among the well-to-do it used to be known as ‘la calle peligro’ (‘the street of dangers’). We are able to catch a hint of what life must have been like in the lane from a hand-tinted postcard printed by the local publisher V. B. Cumbo around 1920 – and used on this book’s front cover. In what is clearly a prearranged tableau, thirty or forty women and children spill out from a doorway, a teeming mass of humanity peering amusedly at the newfangled contraption that a camera must have seemed to them. An anonymous English reporter, writing in 1888 for the reformist periodical The Sentinel, has also left us this impression of the place:
[T]here is a whole lane, containing several houses, ... every house being a house of ill-fame.... This lane is a perfect trap for strangers, say sailors and soldiers entering the garrison. I have seen dozens of lads from HM training ships enter this lane on a Sunday afternoon ... who would probably have gone back to their ships pure, so far as that day was concerned, had it not been for this same trap door.
Who were the women working in Serruya’s Lane and its surroundings, and how many were they in number? Records suggest that most of them were Spanish aliens who were allowed to ply their trade by means of rescindable permits issued by the Governor. Censuses carried out between 1868 and 1921 reveal that there was an average of 115 registered prostitutes at any one given moment, their numbers fluctuating between the all-time high of 138 recorded in 1913 and the corresponding low of 83 just after the war in 1921. From these censuses, too, we learn that between 1871 and 1921 there were fourteen to sixteen brothels in operation in Gibraltar, each of them containing between four and fifteen prostitutes. Officially their ages ranged between twenty and forty, although an article by the Methodist writer James B. Wookey in 1887 suggests that some of the prostitutes could have been as young as eleven or twelve. Very little is known about the women in question apart from what appears in juridical documents and court summonses, the life of a prostitute, it seems, never being of any interest to anyone outside the courtroom. In 1903, for example, in a move that anticipated the new gubernatorial Puritanism that was just around the corner, the military authorities decided to close down a brothel on the road to Devil’s Gap ‘mostly used by officers from the army and navy and the better class of civilians.’ The official reason cited for the closure was that Major Cooper, a Royal Artillery quartermaster living beside the brothel, had ‘complained ... on several occasions of the noise made by the women inside the house.’ The brothel’s mistress, a lady by the Gibraltarian‑sounding name of Enriquetta Thomas, immediately challenged the legality of the decision, arguing that officers and soldiers would henceforth have to suffer the indignity of mixing together in Serruya’s Lane, as well as maintaining that it was wrong to close down an institution which ‘exceed[ed] the memory of any living inhabitant of Gibraltar.’ Apart from anecdotes like these, there is not much else. Occasionally, we come across a few addresses where the prostitutes actually plied their trade – 35 Arengo’s Lane, for instance, or 20 Serruya’s Lane. Other times we learn of their nicknames or aliases (a memorandum written by the chief of police in September 1908 mentions Josefa Sanchez Garcia, alias ‘la Victoria’ and Consuelo Martinez, alias ‘la Gitana’). Concerning their lives and the trials they had to go through, however, history is conspicuously silent.
(iii) ‘A necessary evil’: British military attitudes towards prostitution
For most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was an assumption among the British military elite that prostitution was something of a ‘necessary evil’ that the Army had to put up with. Fighting men, being highly sexualised, needed to release repressed energies. If they didn’t, morale would suffer and the Army wouldn’t operate to its usual efficient standards. ‘Using prostitutes,’ writes the modern scholar Janet Padiak, ‘was considered a natural sequela of the bachelor life, and all garrison towns, including Gibraltar, had a large contingent ready to service the men.’ Behind this attitude was a pre-Freudian belief that male sexuality was a reckless, uncontrollable force that had to be given free rein if it wasn’t to turn inwards and destroy the repressor. ‘[L]ust for women is a much more universal and more intense appetite than the craving for alcohol,’ accordingly wrote the military theorist George J. Anderson in 1918 – the implication being that it was practically impossible to stamp out the ‘necessary evil.’ Closely related to all this was a belief that the British military in particular, more than any other fighting unit in the world, was an uncommonly sexualised apparatus that needed prostitution to release its pent-up energies. Peter Baldwin, author of Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930, argues, for example, that throughout the nineteenth century the ‘British military was notorious for having by far the worst VD rates of any European force.’ A similar point was made by the Victorian journalist James Connolly, who believed not only that British garrisons were ‘generator[s] of prostitution, but [that] the British Army is in the last particular the most odious on the face of the earth.’ To illustrate this point, Connolly looked at the rate of hospital admissions for venereal disease among different fighting units across Europe in the 1860s. Out of every 1000 soldiers, the Prussians had 26.7 men, the French 43.8, the Austrians 65.4, and the British in India 458.3. ‘[N]early every second man, [or] ten times as many as in the French Army,’ Connolly laconically remarked about his countrymen.
Infection rates were especially high in naval bases such as Gibraltar or Portsmouth. As John Bennet, Gibraltar’s chief of police, candidly wrote to the Colonial Secretary in 1902, ‘After the Mediterranean or Channel Squadrons have visited this Station, it will generally be found that there is an increase in venereal diseases, and I attribute the increase shown in March and August 1901 to their presence here about that time.’ In fact, in the Gibraltar Government archives I was able to locate a document which lists all the different types of venereal diseases contracted by the crew of HMS Albemarle, a Duncan-class battleship of the Royal Navy, when the vessel paid a short visit to the Rock in 1908:
Report Concerning 22 cases of venereal disease contracted at Gibraltar, in which the men were able to locate the house [in which they were infected]:
Five cases, all Gonorrhoea, were contracted at a house situated up the steps, just past the Public House “Right Shoulder Forward.” It is the third or fourth house up.
Three cases of Gonorrhoea, and one of Chancroid, were contracted at a house situated exactly at the back of the urinal in Serruya’s Ramp.
Three Cases of Gonorrhoea, and one of Chancroid, were contracted at a house situated opposite a public house known as “Jack up the Ramps.”
Two cases of Gonorrhoea were contracted at the 5th or 7th house on the right-hand side going down Serruya’s Ramp.
One case of Sore and one of Gonorrhoea were contracted at a house exactly opposite “The Right Shoulder Forward.”
Two cases of Chancroid were contracted in the 1st house on Hospital Ramp after turning up past “Jack up the Ramps.”
Two cases of Gonorrhoea were contracted at a house about two doors from “Jack up the Ramps”, going towards the “Right Shoulder Forward.”
One case of Gonorrhoea was contracted at a house near Serruya’s Ramp.
How did the Army react to such astonishingly high rates of venereal disease? Since the prevailing opinion was that prostitution could never be extirpated, the authorities decided to implement a Foucauldian strategy of control – in other words, they tried to regulate the practice of prostitution with the aim of limiting its impact upon its ‘innocent’ young soldiers. In Britain this policy reached its apogee with the euphemistically named Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866, 1869, much-maligned articles of legislation which sought to regulate and police the practice of prostitution within the vicinity of nineteen British garrison towns. Perhaps the best explanation of what the CD Acts actually represented can be found in a recent essay by Judith R. Walkowitz, a contemporary feminist historian:
Concern over the spread of venereal disease among the military led to the passage of the Contagious Disease Acts, pieces of legislation that registered prostitutes in nineteen garrison towns and subjected these women to periodic medical examination. The Contagious Diseases Acts were a blatant manifestation of the double standard; only women, not family men whose innocent wives and children were supposedly being protected by the acts, nor the promiscuous soldiers and sailors, were subject to examination and arrest. A poor woman could be arrested by a special morals officer ‘who had due cause to believe’ she was a common prostitute. The definition of a common prostitute was entirely vague and consequently these plainclothes policemen had large discretionary powers. No warrant was needed, and women were effectively deprived of due process of law. When confronted by the morals officer, a woman was forced to sign a voluntary submission that authorized her examination, and, if found diseased, her incarceration in a hospital for a maximum of nine months. If a woman refused, she would be brought before a magistrate, where the burden of proof was on her to prove she was virtuous, that she did not go with men, whether for money or not. Even if she were not imprisoned, she had been publicly degraded and stigmatized for life.
More than any other piece of legislation, the CD Acts show to what extent the British military authorities had institutionalised the practice of prostitution. They also reveal to what degree governmental bodies were prepared to side with the military and discriminate against the prostitute in their attempt to police the sex trade. Men could visit prostitutes with relative impunity, confident that the objects of their desire had been medically inspected a priori; prostitutes, by contrast, were being subjected to the most barbarous methods of control. When in 1870 Parliament tried to amend the CD Acts so that they would cover the rest of the civilian population, there was, not surprisingly, something of an outcry. Spearheading the anti-CD movement was Josephine Butler, a feminist from Northumberland with distant family ties to the reformist Prime Minister Charles Grey. By means of public speaking and political lobbying, she highlighted the intrinsic unfairness of the CD Acts and eventually persuaded Parliament to repeal the laws in 1886. This, in the words of a feminist commentator, effectively ‘broke the conspiracy of silence on the sexual exploitation of lower class women.’
(iv) Prostitution within a Gibraltar context: police and military strategies of control
But did the ‘conspiracy of silence’ really come to an end? Had Josephine Butler’s valiant efforts actually succeeded in dismantling the hypocritical mixture of indifference and misogynistic dogmatism with which the British military establishment viewed the sex trade? Nowadays, historians are not so sure. In her book Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire, Philippa Levine has shown that, while the anti-‘regulationist’ brigade won an important victory in 1886, strong ‘regulationist’ policies were still being followed in the colonies, where similar methods of control were in place both before the onset of the CD laws in the 1860s and after their abolition. Gibraltar was a case in point. Although it had never been technically bound by the CD laws, the alien prostitutes of Serruya’s Lane were subject to a much tighter form of control than their colleagues in the British mainland. Firstly, the names and addresses of all prostitutes were scrupulously recorded by the police, along with their backgrounds, medical histories and other significant details. Then there was the matter of what could be termed socio-geographical control. In a pioneering essay to which I am much indebted, Philip Howell has shown that, from 1866 onwards, the geographical spread of Gibraltarian brothels (which in 1866 could be found not just in Serruya’s Lane, but also in other streets in the vicinity such as modern-day Castle Street, Hospital Ramp and Castle Steps) was being slowly whittled down so that by 1922 all the brothels were situated in Serruya’s Lane itself. This would have aided the military authorities in policing and controlling the area, just as much as it would have helped them usher the prostitutes to the nearby civil hospital for examination. Those responsible for enforcing these authoritarian measures emphasised that Gibraltar was ‘a place apart’, that it needed legislation and policing methods different from those employed in Britain. Take the case of William Seed, the colony’s English chief of police. In the year immediately after the parliamentary repeal of the CD laws, he maintained that
... Gibraltar is a place apart and special rules are necessary. The bulk of prostitutes are Spaniards, who very well know that to be allowed to live in Gibraltar it is necessary that they should submit to examination. They come to ply their calling here with the knowledge that they are to submit to the examination and as they do so voluntarily I cannot see any hardship in it. It is simply a contract they enter into. If they do not wish to enter into the contract, they need not come.
Seed is referring here to the British military’s most important strategy of control: the law which allowed non-British subjects to reside and/or work in Gibraltar on permits rescindable by the Governor. An amendment to this law, introduced several decades earlier, stated that alien ‘public visitors’ who refused or neglected to submit themselves for regular medical examination could be summarily expelled from the garrison. This, in effect, ensured that Gibraltar did become something of ‘a place apart’, since the treatment of its prostitutes was dependent on social forces and legal variables not present on the British mainland. To quote Howell once again, the residents of Serruya’s Lane ‘were controllable not because they were prostitutes per se, but because they were aliens.’ This uncommon situation – which saw ‘regulationism’ being perpetuated under the guise of immigrational policy – was much criticised by the anti-CD activists back in England. In a letter to the Misses Priestman, the indefatigable Josephine Butler complained about the latent hypocrisy of the system employed in Gibraltar:
As has already been said, there is no special Act applying to Gibraltar, but nonetheless the system is carried out there with a brutality of logic which could hardly be exceeded. It rests entirely on the authority of the military commander of the Rock.... An alien prostitute’s permit of residence ... is not granted unless she is certified to be physically fit for her calling, and is not renewed unless she undergoes her weekly visit at the civil hospital.
But Josephine Butler was only partly correct: it was not only alien prostitutes who were coming under duress; British and Gibraltar-born prostitutes were being increasingly targeted. There were a number of reasons why this was happening. Along with naturalised aliens (i.e. Spanish prostitutes who had gained residency status by virtue of marriage), Gibraltar-born prostitutes were technically exempt from immigrational restrictions and could not therefore be controlled as easily as their Spanish counterparts. This made them, in theory at least, virtually untouchable from the point of the law. A resident military surgeon recognised as much in 1867 when he maintained that, while the law provided for ‘the removal of aliens known to be diseased, those enjoying the rights of British subjects cannot be dealt with in the same manner.’ The authorities tried to remedy this anomalous situation through a number of measures. First, they invested the Governor with the power to annul and break up marriages between British citizens and ‘aliens of disreputable character.’ This is precisely what happened in 1867, when Carmen Hernandez, a Spanish prostitute and ‘woman of infamous character and conduct,’ was expelled from the Rock despite being married to a Gibraltarian. In addition, they got the local police to ‘lean’ on native prostitutes – either by forcing them to work alongside their Spanish counterparts in the Serruya’s Lane area where they would be subject to greater control or, what was even better, by discouraging them from prostituting themselves outright. That they were largely successful in doing this can be seen not just from the slow implosion in ‘prostitutional’ geographical space alluded to earlier, but also from the falling number of native prostitutes, which decreased from 36 in 1871 to 17 in 1891 to an inconsequential 2 in 1921. Finally, in 1901, an amendment to the Sanitary Orders Ordinance conferred upon the Governor the power to terminate the residence in Gibraltar of any prostitute, Gibraltar-born or alien, who had not been granted a certificate of health following a medical inspection. Josephine Butler, who was seventy-three at the time, must have been wondering what the hell was going on.
(v) Verifying VD: the weekly medical examination
All during this time the main strategy of control remained the weekly medical examination. Lasting between ten minutes and a few hours, this was carried out in the civil hospital’s VD unit, just yards away from Chicardo’s Passage. Its proponents argued that it was a safe and fairly painless procedure, and insisted that the prostitutes should be grateful for free medical inspections. They also pointed out that the soldiery was being regularly examined for sexual diseases too – although, in truth, they could not have chosen a more redundant comparison. In general, the authorities tended to underplay and even ignore male genital inspections – jocularly known by the soldiers as ‘dangle’ or ‘short arm’ parades – as they were thought to dent morale and develop ‘coarseness and injured modesty.’ This was in complete contrast to the total lack of tact and discretion with which registered prostitutes were treated:
The exams were often brutal. Typically, the woman’s legs were clamped open and her ankles tied down. Surgical instruments – sometimes not cleaned from prior inspections – were inserted so inexpertly that some women [who were already pregnant] miscarried. Others passed out from the pain and the embarrassment. Some women with harmless conditions were misdiagnosed and locked in hospitals without recourse.
This was back in the British mainland. Within the colonies things were arguably even worse. From the notes of a Victorian doctor, we learn that in colonial VD clinics patients were ‘made to stand or sit in a tub of water and then freely drenched by means of a syringe ... several times a day.’ No less brutal were the ‘medicinal’ treatments on offer. ‘It was common practice,’ writes Professor Philippa Levine, ‘to dust sores with iodoform powder, in part because many held to the distinction between the ‘true’ indurated syphilitic sore and the chancroid. Labial abcesses were often opened and drained before being dusted dry. Genital warts, not understood as viral, were painted with acetic or pyrogallic acid or dusted with sulphate of iron.’ As if this wasn’t demeaning and painful enough, all the examinations had to be conducted by men. This was one of those grotesque examples of false propriety that the Victorians, with their extreme sexual hypocrisies and their latent culture of denial, were famous for. It also raises some inevitable questions about the socio-sexual mechanics within the colonial and domestic inspecting units. Although there were some who, like Surgeon Rear Admiral Daniel McNabb, piously believed that the examinations were not ‘relished by the officers concerned,’ it is very probable that a number of men were taking a perverse delight in subjecting young women to such humiliating treatment. Why else would the authorities have been so implacable in their refusal to allow women to carry out such investigations? When the possibility of using lady doctors was mooted before Lord Curzon and his advisers in India, for example, they were quick to ‘strongly deprecate’ the use of women in VD wards. The Lady Dufferin fund, an organisation which recruited and trained women doctors for service in India, showed similar resistance to the idea: ‘The committee [has] decided that in no circumstances should any lady doctor attached to a hospital connected with the association be employed on any such duty.’ Outwardly, of course, the intention was to protect the sensibilities of the middle-class female population – lady doctors being considered too effete and delicate to be dealing with anything vaguely gynaecological. However, taking into account what Lieutenant George J. Anderson and other military men believed about ‘lust for women’ being ‘a much more universal and more intense appetite than the craving for alcohol,’ such high-minded principles are open to question.
Despite this false propriety, the methods employed by the British medical authorities in Gibraltar appear to have been reasonably successful. In 1889, two army medics examined over one hundred prostitutes in the Serryua’s Lane area and came to the conclusion that ‘most of these women are well nourished, cleanly in habits and enjoy good health.’ A few years later, John Bennet, the chief of police sent a rather self-congratulatory message to the Colonial Secretary detailing how Dr Baca, one of the senior doctors at the civilian hospital, had examined the prostitutes residing in five different houses in Serruya’s Lane and found them all, without exception, to be ‘in a perfectly healthy state.’ In fact, the situation appeared so stable and secure that, according to Howell, at the turn of the century ‘police magistrates and medical officers tended to be increasingly sceptical of servicemen’s claims to have been infected by residents of Serruya’s Lane.’ Prostitution in Gibraltar may not have been something that its well-to-do citizens wanted to openly talk about, but it nonetheless appeared to be largely under control.
(vi) ‘Fostering immorality and licensing vice’: the taverns and the morality of facilitation
When it came to the question of ethics, the situation was not quite so clear-cut. Certainly, from a twenty-first century perspective at least, there is something deeply repugnant about how the authorities were handling the situation. Sailors, alighting from ships, could satisfy their lust in the knowledge that the objects of their desire had been thoroughly examined beforehand; prostitutes, meanwhile, were being treated no better than cattle. Yet it would be a mistake to think that all this was being submerged under a torrent of Victorian self-righteousness. Many saw what was happening – and some, like the Methodist writer and evangelist Mr R. C. Morgan, chose to express their indignation in the most emphatic terms:
In visiting some of their houses with a constable for purposes of inquiry, I saw their [i.e. the prostitutes’] official certificates for the current week authenticating them as ‘healthy.’ The majority of soldiers in the Gibraltar garrison are youths in their teens, many away from home for the first time. The hideous hypocrisy of marching these boys to church on Sunday to pray, ‘From fornication and all other deadly sins, good Lord deliver us,’ while they know that on the previous day provision had been made for them to commit this ‘deadly sin’ with impunity, places England, ‘the heir of all the ages,’ in the foremost files of cant.
Morgan’s denunciations were echoed in an anonymous article appearing in 1883 under the title ‘The Corruption of Gibraltar.’ Published in the reformist periodical The Sentinel, it attacked the military establishment for condoning prostitution and also rallied against the idea that all soldiers needed to release pent-up sexual energies:
Our British authorities [in Gibraltar] have been fostering immorality and debauching the population by licensing vice.... The place swarms with Spanish women and female children, whose lives are devoted to immorality.... Houses of ill-fame abound. Near the Governor’s residence is a lane entirely given up to this vice, and there are three or four bad houses within twelve yards of the Presbyterian church, while there are other such houses in the main thoroughfare leading to the civil hospital. Of course the partizans of regulated debauchery will endeavour to excuse such a state of affairs by pointing out that the population of Gibraltar is largely composed of soldiers. These persons reason and act as though enlistment changes a man’s nature, and he thereafter loses all power of self-control. Henceforward, it is the duty of the state to expect him to be immoral, and, in fact, to tempt him to be so, by elaborate, costly, brutalising arrangements designed ... to enable him to sin without the physical penalty of sin. Why, the daily atmosphere they breathe is enough to contaminate any man. The men themselves would tell you, as they have told me, that vice is not a necessity, but that the provision made for them, or allowed, is so great that to resist is almost impossible.
To make things worse, a whole cordon of scruffy, ramshackle taverns began to sprout around the Serruya’s Lane area. These taverns catered exclusively for British sailors and soldiers and were commonly owned by the same people who kept the brothels. Selling cheap alcohol, usually staying open till very late, their sole objective appears to have been to get the soldiers and sailors intoxicated enough to visit the brothels next door. In the 1890s most of these taverns applied for and obtained music licenses so that they could employ dancing girls on their premises. The dancing girls, of course, were not dancing girls at all, but prostitutes drawn from the adjacent brothels. Soldiers could now turn up to the bars, purchase a few drinks and then take their chosen sexual partners to the houses in the adjacent lane. I have tried to find an eyewitness account of what it must have been like in one of these red-light district taverns, but so far I have not encountered one. There is, however, the testimony provided by one Joseph Cassaglia, a Gibraltarian waiter who worked for over five years at the military-only Garrison Recreation Rooms in Scud Hill on the south side of the Rock before being dismissed on account of drunkenness. In a deposition given to one of the several Temperance committees that sprang into being in the fin-de-siècle period, Cassaglia recalled how he had seen ‘scores’ of drunken men during his career, adding, with a degree of misplaced pride, how more beer was sold at the Recreation Rooms ‘than in any one public house in town.’ He went on to claim that over 600 men used to visit the premises every evening (‘I don’t know if there is any public house on the Rock where there are 600 men come in the evening.’), the majority of them privates, sergeants, petty officers and other non-commissioned ranks from the army and navy. The men started drinking as soon as they walked through the doors, according to Cassaglia, and did not stop until they found themselves ‘leaning helplessly on the tables.’
The atmosphere inside the Serruya’s Lane taverns would have been similar, but obviously much more sexually charged. In their complaints to the Governor and the chief of police, clergymen and Temperance activists repeatedly named five specific taverns that were ‘deliberately urging the men into the arms of immorality.’ The five taverns cited were the Right Shoulder Forward (at the bottom of what is now called Boschetti’s Steps), the Britannia (at the bottom of Hospital Steps), the Glass Barrel (on Cornwall’s Parade), the London Bar (at the southern end of Governor’s Street), and the Jack up the Ramps (situated between New Passage and Hospital Ramp). On one occasion an English clergyman even sent the Governor a petition which included a hand-drawn table specifying the distance between each tavern and the red-light area:
Name of Public House
Jack up the Ramps
Right Shoulder Forward
Distance from brothels
In the midst of them
about 35 yards
about 50 yards
about 110 yards
about 25 yards
The taverns themselves varied in character and size. At one end of the scale were bars like the London Bar (which still remains open today) and the Right Shoulder Forward – narrow, cramped, rather claustrophobic establishments squeezed into the ground floor of residential buildings. On the opposite side of the spectrum there was the two-storey Jack up the Ramps, easily the largest and most notorious of Gibraltar’s ‘Infamous Five.’ From a surviving 1899 floor plan we learn that the latter boasted a fully equipped kitchen, three WCs, a spacious lounge, an outdoor patio, a sizable stage, manager’s offices and a cloakroom. One thing, in any case, that appears to have remained constant across the five taverns was the employment of aggressive touting techniques. Usually, there would be a man at the door, trying to entice the soldiers to come and see what was on offer inside. In the anthology of naval writings Men from the Dreadnoughts, Armourer P. Howick shows us the kind of pressure that these touts exerted on the young servicemen walking through the lanes:
I found you were up against a lot of temptations [in Gibraltar]. You could get ruined easily. For instance ... you’d go along [to the] ‘Right shoulder forward’, that’s what they called it, and you’d go in and have a drink. Then you’d go along and up the ramp to the ‘Jack of the Ramps’, and there was a door where a bloke would cry, ‘You come inside sailor. Plenty inside to suit yourself,’ and all that.
If this wasn’t bad enough, the red-light area was also notorious for its high levels of crime. In the year 1897 alone, the Gibraltar Chronicle reported sixteen separate acts of violence either in Serruya’s Lane or its immediate vicinity, the majority of them happening in the small hours of the night. The most disturbing incident by far occurred on 23 April, 1897, when a group of drunken soldiers from the Northern Fusiliers attacked an elderly local man in nearby Castle Street. Some civilian passers-by immediately stopped at the scene and tried to restrain the soldiers. One of the Englishmen thereupon struck a local on the head, at which point more locals appeared and began fighting with the soldiers. The Fusiliers, finding themselves greatly outnumbered, ran to the top of Castle Street, where many of their compatriots were drinking in the Jack up the Ramps. Hearing of the Fusiliers’ predicament, the men in the tavern quickly abandoned their drinks and rushed out into the street, where about 200 angry locals were now waiting for them. A massive brawl ensued which took almost two hours to be brought under control and led to the arrest of 40 servicemen – 33 from the Northern Fusiliers, 1 from the Scottish borderers, 1 from the Royal Artillery and 5 sailors from the Royal Navy.
To give matters even more of a complicated twist, some of the bar owners began to engage real English female artistes, usually Cockney girls from the poorer parts of the East End, who were brought over from London on short-term contracts. Although these women were not technically prostitutes, they were nonetheless employed to ‘give meretricious attention to men’ and often ended up becoming prostitutes themselves. This added a new and potentially explosive element to the already volatile mix, as the British establishment generally believed that it was ‘undesirable and derogatory to the prestige of British rule’ to have British prostitutes working in its overseas possessions. The reasons for this were twofold: (a) it was supposed to tarnish the ‘natural respect’ that the locals were thought to feel for their overlords and (b) there was always the possibility that – horror of horrors! – these same English prostitutes might end up consorting with Gibraltarians, Spaniards, or even Jews or Moors!
With all this going on, it is not surprising to hear that many in Gibraltar were beginning to grow tired of the ease with which the government was allowing vice and immorality to flourish within the colony. Angry letters started appearing in the local press. Complaints were sent to the chief of police. In 1898 the Gibraltar Temperance Committee, an organisation composed of high-ranking military officers and Anglican clergymen, was formed. Although its stated aim was to discourage the consumption of alcohol, it also took a particular interest in what was happening in the Serruya’s Lane area, arguing that the so-called music halls (as the bars now styled themselves) were not really genuine music establishments, but ‘elaborate snares designed with the express purpose of filtering men into the nearby brothels.’ Whether these Anglican gentlemen took an interest in Serruya’s Lane because they believed that prostitution was evil in itself, or because they found it hard to digest that English women could potentially be prostituting themselves with foreigners, is of course a matter open to debate. Certainly, as the research of Philippa Levine has shown, it is well known that British anti-prostitution campaigners in India and other non-European parts of the Empire were frequently driven not so much by the reprehensibility of prostitution itself, but by the thought that British women were prostituting themselves with the natives. But could something similar have happened within a European domain like Gibraltar? I personally do not think so, but then again there is the evidence supplied by Governor Forrestier-Walker himself in 1906. In the first draft of a memorandum to the Colonial Secretary, he noted that, even though the number of English prostitutes on the Rock had been falling for years, there was nonetheless ‘a strong feeling on the part of many of the soldiers in the garrison, who object to seeing their country-women, the daughters of men of their own class, occupying so degraded a position in a foreign country.’
What is clear, and beyond any form of dispute, is that the Gibraltar Temperance Committee became an implacable enemy of the bar and brothel owners of Serruya’s Lane. Under its auspices public meetings were staged and several petitions were handed to the Governor. At least two or three times a year, it organised lectures on the moral and physical dangers of alcohol abuse and legalised prostitution. So clamorous and insistent was the Committee's calls for reform, in fact, that in the end the chief of police himself was forced to visit the Serruya’s Lane area and had to openly admit ‘that the female performers in the music halls were allowed to sit and drink with the audience and that ... he had seen men sitting with their arms round the girls’ waists and ... engaging in acts of impropriety.’
Faced with such relentless pressure, the colonial government had to act, and it did so in a way which reveals its deep-seated reluctance to nip the problem in the bud – it revoked the bars’ music licences on the technicality that the taverns did not have appropriate changing facilities and were making their female artistes walk through the audience to get to the stage. The feebleness of this legislation was immediately recognised by the music hall owners, who rapidly submitted plans to the authorities showing how they proposed to alter their establishments to conform with the law. One of the first to do so were the owners of the Jack up the Ramps:
As the objections raised for not allowing female artistes to perform at our Hall were on the grounds that the building was unfit for such purposes, we herewith enclose plan[s] showing the alterations we propose to undertake ... so as to place the premises in such condition to meet the objections raised.
Yours respectfully, the owners of the tavern Jack up the Ramps.
This was but the first counterattacking salvo in a long and protracted legal battle between the bar owners and Gibraltar Temperance Committee which lasted well over a decade and saw the two groups try to outwit each other by means of letters, petitions, architectural drawings and a raft of other official documents. During the early exchanges the bar owners managed to win some significant legal battles of their own. However, as the years passed and the reformers won more and more powerful patrons to their cause, the pendulum of favour swung slowly and steadily towards the Temperance activists. In 1904, when the bar owners tried to replace the already outlawed dancing girls with male comic singers, the government listened to the complaints of men like the Reverend Canon Francis Shier-Mason and the Archdeacon Decimus Storry Govett and once again refused the bar owners their musical licences. This would have obviously delighted the Committee’s top brass, but I believe that in their heart of hearts the Temperance reformers must have known that the colonial government was only pandering to the moral majority. Outlawing the music halls, after all, was one thing; banning the brothels of Serruya’s Lane entirely another.
(vii) A New Puritanism: Archibald Hunter, Horace Smith-Dorrien and the end of prostitution in Serruya’s Lane
During the next couple of years the status quo remained largely unaffected. The Temperance Committee kept lobbying the Governor periodically with letters and petitions, the bar and brothel owners continued resisting all calls for change, and the soldiers, impervious to all things as young men inevitably are, carried on slaking their lusts in New Passage/Serruya’s Lane. For a while it seemed as if nothing would change, as if Gibraltar would never shake off its reputation as one of the last remaining meat markets of the British Empire. Then something happened that took everybody by surprise: the rates of VD infection started to rise again. Not only that, doctors from the colonial hospital began to encounter more and more cases of serious transmissible diseases among the women working in the lane. In 1911, 123 out of every 1000 men in the garrison were infected; in 1912, the figure rose to 128. Although these numbers compared favourably with the incidence of VD in the 1850s and 1860s, they did once and for all destroy the reassuring fin-de-siècle illusion that Serruya’s Lane was a place largely free from the ravages of venereal disease. Sir Archibald Hunter, Gibraltar’s Governor at the time, was said to be aghast. A dour, cheerless man who according to his contemporaries was ‘obsessed with cleanliness,’ Hunter thundered that Gibraltar was ‘like the Augean stables’ and that he was ‘determined to exact order and decency ... from everybody who comes into the fortress.’
Meanwhile, speculation was rife. What could be causing the new infection rates? And, more importantly, why was the old system not working any more? Some suggested that prostitutes were finding ways of avoiding their regular medical examinations. In a memorandum to the Colonial Secretary, the police magistrate John Bradford mentions the case of Angela Luque, ‘a middle-aged, dirty and slovenly’ woman who had been practising as a prostitute for eleven years. When interviewed by a newly arrived English doctor, Luque had used a false name and claimed (just as falsely) that she had been recently examined. ‘[This case],’ wrote Bradford, ‘causes me to suspect that other women living in the same house, if asked for their names, would probably say [the same false name].’
Others within the military establishment, including Hunter himself, laid the blame upon an alarming new development: the rise of the unregulated amateur. How else could one account for what was happening? Within no time lurid tales began to circulate around the garrison about nocturnal encounters between sailors and prostitutes in secluded areas away from Serruya’s Lane. The women under suspicion were not those ‘attached to recognised immoral houses, [who] there receive ... medical supervision from the ... establishment,’ but those coming on day permits from La Línea, ‘where there is little effort made to check [the] spread of [VD].’ In a letter written to the Colonial Secretary, the chief of police suggested that these women were visiting the garrison ‘under pretence of domestic service, or of making purchases in the town’ and then giving themselves over to ‘immoral and dishonest purposes.’ ‘[They] may not be very numerous,’ continued the worried police chief, ‘but I should be disposed to regard them as a specially dangerous group.’
Where were these amateur prostitutes supposed to be plying their trade? A location that repeatedly crops up in the documents of the time is the Alameda Gardens. Built in 1816 by Governor Sir George Don, the gardens were spread over 15 acres of land and were designed as a place ‘where the inhabitants might enjoy the air protected from the extreme heat of the sun.’ Although the Alameda had recently been endowed with electric light, it still offered a multiplicity of secluded bowers and shady recesses where those wanting to have illicit sex might easily secrete themselves. One British Lieutenant, whose regiment had been particularly afflicted by the new upsurge in venereal disease, clearly thought as much:
Really don’t know what we can do!!! There must be some free lancers abroad who indulge in al fresco performances in the Alameda or elsewhere. I cannot believe that all this increased venereal is the result of picnics, fairs, & Linea. There is some woman or women who are poisoning the unsuspecting soldier.
Sentiments like these were so common at the time that the chief of police repeatedly ordered his men to patrol the Alameda at night. Although very little evidence of wrongdoing appears to have been uncovered during these nocturnal surveillance operations, they clearly remained a top governmental priority, as can be seen from the following candid memorandum sent by the chief of police to the Colonial Secretary:
I have had the Alameda patrolled by the Police from evening gunfire to midnight for the past 10 days. [S]oldiers and sailors have frequently been seen there with young women, and there were two women [among them] whom we very strongly suspect are of immoral character, but so far we have been unable to get any evidence against them beyond the fact that they have been there on several occasions with different men. If any of the men whom Captain Nowell says consort with the woman to whom he refers to [in his report] can be induced to come forward and identify her and are prepared to give evidence that she is a person of immoral character, I can take action against her. I have no doubt that the woman referred to by Captain Howell is known to Police, and that she is the wife of a soldier who deserted here some years ago. We have nothing against this woman at present, except that she has been sitting in the Alameda on several occasions with different men, and that about 18 months ago she gave birth to an illegitimate child.
What is interesting about these two passages is how once again the authorities side with the soldier against the ‘women of immoral character’ leading them astray. The British Lieutenant sets the figure of the female ‘poisoner’ in contraposition to the ‘unsuspecting soldier’, leaving us in no doubt as to where his sympathies lie. The chief of police goes one step further: he indirectly lets us know that no chastising action will be taken against the infected soldier if he is prepared to testify against the woman who infected him in the first place!
Escalating VD infection rates, fear of unknown female predators, uncertainty as to how to go about catching them, endless amounts of rumour and speculation – all the ingredients were there to stoke a backlash against the Gibraltarian sex trade, and, in fact, it didn’t take long before the bar and brothel owners began to feel the weight of public opprobrium. Of course, this was not the first time that the Rock’s red-light district had come under pressure. As we have already seen, the Gibraltar Temperance Committee had campaigned strongly against the Serruya’s Lane taverns in the years before and just after the opening of the new century. Also there was the short-lived era in the early 1890s, when, thanks mainly to the efforts of the combative Archdeacon Govett, the Gibraltar Police were forced to reassess their methods of operation in the Serruya’s Lane area. However, none of these periods of moral indignation quite matched the intensity of the one that began around 1906/7 and continued practically unabated until prostitution was once and for all criminalised in January 1922. The main reasons for this have been cited at the beginning of this paragraph, but there is also another factor that needs to be taken into consideration: the opinions and actions of Archibald Hunter himself. As I have previously stated, Hunter was a stereotypically severe Scotsman who was inclined to judge civilians by his own disciplinarian military standards. A veteran of both the Sudan and the Boer War, and no stranger himself to controversy, he had already served as governor of Omdurman and Dongola in the Sudan, two distant sub-Saharan regions where he had been more or less allowed to do as he pleased, when he arrived in Gibraltar in 1910. From the very beginning he seemed intent in alienating Gibraltar’s civilian worthies – insisting, as he did, that their mercantile hulks (often containing duty-free tobacco) be moved out of the bay in order to place them away from the line of fire of the Rock’s western-facing gun batteries. At a public meeting held at the Garrison Library in January 1913, he famously complained that ‘English is no better spoken here in general than by Kaffir-rickshaw men in Durban and nothing like so well as by a donkey-boy at Suez or Cairo’ and then – even more astoundingly – rattled on about ‘the undeniable ... way Gibraltarians ... misuse the urinals, unbuttoning and beginning before they enter, often not finishing when they leave.’ When it came to the bars and brothels of Gibraltar, Hunter was equally outspoken, repeatedly complaining that many of them were selling adulterated alcohol and, on at least one occasion, openly expressing his anger at how British soldiers were being infected in brothels owned by what he regarded (with some justification) as unscrupulous profiteering colonials. Furthermore, he offered unreserved patronage to the Temperance associations and did his utmost to discourage British Soldiers from visiting the ‘Ramps’ (as the area around Serruya’s Lane was popularly called). In fact, it is no coincidence that when Hunter was finally ousted from the Convent in March 1913, the only credible ‘Gibraltarian’ defence of his governorship came from the pen of the Dean of the Anglican cathedral, himself one of the leading lights of the Gibraltar-based Temperance movement.
Hunter’s departure may have temporarily eased the problems facing the Gibraltarian bar and brothel owners, but the odour of doom was quickly settling on Serruya’s Lane and its environs. Barely a year after the unpopular Scotsman made his ignominious exit, the First World War broke out and suddenly it became more important than ever to keep the garrisoned troops healthy and free from VD infection. In tandem with this, feminist organisations like Millicent Fawcett’s National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies began to campaign against regulated prostitution, arguing that nothing less than outright proscription could rid society of this ‘too long tolerated evil.’ Riding this new anti-‘regulationist’ bandwagon, the Deputy Surgeon General of Gibraltar dismissed the existing inspectional procedures in the garrison as all but worthless and argued that ‘the presence of these women under present conditions constitutes a danger to general health and an increasing loss to the Navy.’ Thus, we come to a complete and thoroughly remarkable volte-face on the subject. If in the 1860s and 1870s controlled access to prostitutes had been seen as a prerequisite for British military stability, now, less than fifty years later, ‘regulationism’ came to be equated with the most noxious forms of physical and moral abandonment.
The final drive for de-‘regulationism’ came with the visit of the National Council for Combating Venereal Disease a few months after the end of the war. The NCCVD (later to become the British Social Hygiene Council) was a volunteer association formed in 1914. It organised lecture programmes among the army and the civilian population, and also sent voluntary commissioners to inspect centres of profligacy at home and abroad. When its experts arrived at Gibraltar in 1919, they were made very welcome by Governor Horace Smith-Dorrien, another strait-laced figure with a Baden Powell-esque obsession with outdoor pursuits and sexual hygiene. Their findings, which were eventually published in 1921, concluded that legalised prostitution was bad for both the health of the garrisoned troops and civilian morale in general. They also advocated that ‘regulationism’ should come to an immediate end. Faced with what must have been music to his ears, Smith-Dorrien, an uncompromising man who had incurred the wrath of his military superiors during the First World War by repeatedly questioning orders, took matters firmly into his own hands: in January 1922 he gave orders for the immediate closure of all the brothels in Serruya’s Lane. Regulated prostitution, for so long a feature of the Gibraltarian landscape, had finally come to an end.
(viii) Decampment to the Calle Gibraltar: the end of an era, or a two and a half kilometre shift northwards?
One last question remains: what happened to the prostitutes of Serruya’s Lane? The answer is simple: they left their bordellos and decamped across the border to the Calle Gibraltar in La Línea, an area synonymous with street walkers and brothels until relatively recently. Most went quietly and without complaint, but one or two appear to have found it hard to stomach their enforced diaspora. In the Gibraltar Government archives I learned of the curious case of a Spanish mother and daughter, both former inmates of the Serruya’s Lane bordellos, who kept returning to Gibraltar on day permits following their expulsion from the garrison. From contemporary police reports we learn that they repeatedly visited the Alameda gardens and that they were frequently observed talking to soldiers and sailors. This sort of thing continued for a week or maybe two – after which the pair got tired of their fruitless soliciting (if that indeed is what it was) and decided to remain in La Línea to get on with the business of servicing British military personnel unhindered by the demands of state ‘regulationism.’ This, doubtless, was one of the ironies of Smith‑Dorrien’s high-minded decision: by pushing prostitution across the border, he had effectively condemned it to an unlicensed and thoroughly squalid future, one thoroughly divorced from the world of military doctors and enforced medical treatment. It was also ironical that it was here in Spain, pushed beyond the pale as it were, that the prostitutes of Serruya’s Lane finally acquired the representative voice that had been denied to them for so long. For this we must thank Jean Genet, the legendary French dramatist whose theatrical works revolutionised the face of twentieth-century drama and who as a young man prostituted himself with English soldiers in the area in and around the Calle Gibraltar. Although foreign and homosexual – and although he only lived in La Línea for a short while – Genet manages to memorialise the experience of the Hispano-Gibraltarian prostitute in a way that no archival records can:
My path was that of all beggars and, like them, I was to know Gibraltar. At night the erotic mass of the Rock, filled, thronged, with soldiers and sleeping cannons, drove me wild. I lived in the village of Linea, which is simply one big brothel, and there I began the period of tin cans. All the beggars in the world – I’ve seen the like in Central Europe and in France – have one or more white tin cans (which contain peas or stew) to which they add a wire handle. They go along the roads and railroad tracks with these cans hanging from the shoulder. I got my first one in Linea. It was new. I had picked it out of a garbage can where someone had thrown it the night before. Its metal was gleaming. I pressed down the sheared edges with a stone so that they wouldn’t cut, and I went to the barbed wire of Gibraltar to pick up the leftovers of the English soldiers. In that way I abased myself further. I no longer begged for money but for scraps of food. To which was added the shame of begging them from soldiers. I would feel unworthy if some soldier’s good looks or the potency of his uniform excited me. At night, I tried to sell myself to them, and I succeeded, thanks to the darkness of the narrow streets.
‘Venereal Disease’, ‘Rules of Taverns and Wine Houses 1890-1920’ and ‘Dancing and Music Licences, 1899-1912’ box files, Gibraltar Government Archives.
Baldwin, Peter, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930 (1999).
Baynham, Henry, Men from the Dreadnoughts (1976).
Ford, Richard, A Handbook for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home, vol. 2 (1845).
Genet, Jean, The Thief’s Journal, translated by Bernard Frechtman (1949; reprinted 1987).
Jordan, Jane and Sharp, Ingrid, Josephine Butler and the Prostitution Campaigns: Diseases of the Body Politic (2003).
Levine, Philippa, Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire (2003).
Sanchez, M. G., Victorian and Edwardian Gibraltar: Incredible Eyewitness Accounts (2012).
Stewart, John David, Gibraltar: the Keystone (1967).
Essays, newspaper articles and other short works
Anderson, George J., ‘Making the Camps Safe for the Army,’ Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (1918).
Anonymous, ‘Compares Gibraltar to Augean Stables,’ New York Times (1913)
Anonymous, ‘On Guard at Gibraltar,’ The Sentinel (1888).
Anonymous, ‘The Corruption of Gibraltar,’ The Sentinel (1883).
Ballantine-Perera, Jennifer, ‘The Language of Exclusion in F. Solly Flood’s ‘History of the Permit System in Gibraltar,’ Journal of Historical Sociology (2007).
Burke, Stacie D. A. and Sawchuck, Lawrence A., ‘Alien encounters: the jus soli and reproductive politics in the 19th century fortress and colony of Gibraltar,’ The History of the Family (2001).
Connolly, James, ‘Soldiers of the Queen,’ Workers’ Republic (1899).
Grocott, Chris, ‘A Good Soldier, but a Maligned Governor: General Sir Archibald Hunter, Governor of Gibraltar 1910-13’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2009).
McElroy, Wendy, ‘The Contagious Disease Acts,’ Freedom Daily (2000).
McNabb, Daniel, ‘Notes on Venereal Disease in the Navy,’ Journal of Hygiene (1922).
Padiak, Janet, ‘The serious evil of marching regiments: The families of the British garrison of Gibraltar’, History of the Family (2005).
Stearn, Roger T., ‘Hunter, Sir Archibald (1856–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Walkowitz, Judith R., ‘Notes on the History of Victorian Prostitution,’ Feminist Studies (1972).
Wookey, James B., ‘A visit to Gibraltar,’ The Sentinel (1887).
 Wookey relates the story of three orphaned girls of Anglo-Gibraltarian parentage, Lizzie, Sophie and Lucy Cox, two of whom were raped by their male protectors and one of whom was employed as a child harlot. Wookey argues for the establishment of ‘a law for the protection of young girls both from the procuresses and vicious men.’
 This discrimination extended to all sorts of other areas. Jennifer Ballantine-Perera relates the example of three women, Berkeley, Leslie and Lima, who were accused in 1887 of seriously assaulting a civilian. The Attorney General at the time argued that clemency should be shown to Berkeley and Leslie (who were English), but not to Lima (who was a local prostitute).
 At the Siege of Ladysmith in 1900 Hunter had got in trouble by publicly insulting a high-ranking naval officer.