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The English in Andalucia

July 26, 2013 – 12:20 pm
An English soldier is buried in the Seville town of Alcala de Guadaira.

An English soldier who fought with the Spanish forces against Napeoleon's occupying troops, is buried in the Seville town of Alcala de Guadaira, part of the region's close ties with the UK.

The history of Andalucia stretches far back to early human habitation, with Copper Age settlements, Moorish caliphates and game-changing navigators and explorers making up the chequered patchwork that is this region’s dramatic and colourful past.

I’ve been expanding and reorganising this section on andalucia.com, which stretches from prehistoric to present day. While re-examining detailed, fascinating information on periods such as the Golden Age and the turbulent 19th century – there’s always some new snippet to add about these cultural and architecturally rich eras – I came upon various events with direct connections to British history.

We all know about the Battle of Trafalgar, the last great sea battle which took place 200-odd years ago, where Admiral Lord Nelson defeated a naval force considerably larger than the British one, to stop an invasion of Britain, and perished himself during the conflict. But did you know that one of its results was a war between Napoleon’s France and Spain, whose fleet was based in Cadiz, and whose forces had been previously allied? (I did Tudors and Stuarts for O levels – showing my age – so my knowledge of this period was sketchy.) Or that it took place next to one of Andalucia’s most popular surfing beaches, Caños de la Meca?

The English connection with Cadiz starts in 1587 when Sir Francis Drake attacked the port and allegedly took 3000 bottles of wine. The link with this part of Andalucia continues as the pirate/hero the Earl of Essex burned the port city to the ground a few years later.

sherry, Osborne, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Jerez

The Osborne bodega in El Puerto de Santa Maria, one of the three towns in the 'Sherry Triangle'.

Later on, in the 19th century, more constructive relationships were forged as English merchants started to export Spanish wine, which developed into the sherry business in Jerez de la Frontera and the towns in the “Sherry Triangle“. These companies have Anglo-Saxon names like Harveys, Osborne (local pronunciation: Oz-born-ay), Sandeman, and Williams and Humbert.

Bella Vista, where the British mining engineers of Rio Tinto lived.

Bella Vista, where the British mining engineers of Rio Tinto lived.

One of the houses in Victorian Bella Vista neighbourhood, a once-gated British enclave in the Huelva town of Rio Tinto.

One of the houses in Victorian Bella Vista neighbourhood, a once-gated British enclave in the Huelva town of Rio Tinto.

More links can be found across Andalucia between Britain and the region – one less conventional day out is the Rio Tinto Mining Park, in Huelva, where you can visit the mines which date from Phoenician times, and see where the British mining engineers lived during the 19th and 20th centuries: in a Victorian barrio of terraced houses. Sporting facilities included tennis, cricket, golf, croquet, polo and football.

One of the more recent events (within the past 50 years) which linked Britain with southern Spain – stretching across the border to Gibraltar – was the TSMS Lakonia disaster, when a cruise ship carrying mostly British and Irish passengers sank off Madeira, with many of the 128 bodies being brought back to Gibraltar by a Royal Navy vessel. On 6 December this year, a ceremony will be held in Gibraltar to unveil a plaque commemmorating the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

The Andalucia.com forum has played a major part in bringing together victims, relatives and others involved in this tragedy.

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