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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Celebrating New Year 1842 in Tenerife

The Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife before 1900

One-hundred-and-eighty years ago today, on 30 December 1841, three British troop ships of this expeditionary force arrived in the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. They'd left Plymouth Sound on 20 December 1841, bound for China, during the First Opium War

"1 Jan 1842 [Belleisle] is reported to have been at Santa Cruz for the last 2 days, with the troop ships Apollo, and Sapphire, schooner Wanderer ... the Belleisle arrived Teneriffe (sic) with the RN troop ships Apollo, and Sapphire, where the officer commanding of the troops, at the request of the locals, allowed the band of the 98th Regt to go on shore and play on the Mole, where comparison was made to Nelson's welcome some 40 years previously, and his unsuccessful attack. The ships took the opportunity to top up with water and fresh provisions, with prices reflecting the demand for 2,500 men on board the ships."

The Canary Islands, whose strategic position in the Atlantic, between Europe, Africa and America, made it a mandatory refuelling stop for ships for a long time. 

The water for the 2,500 men, they will almost certainly have had to collect from the Fuente de Morales, inaugurated in 1838, in the neighbourhood of El Cabo, the old fisherman's quarter. The first public fountain - La Pila, in the Plaza de la Candelaria, had broken in 1802 and it wasn't until two years after this, in 1844, that it was taken for repair.

Old Barrio de el Cabo (El Cabo neighbourhood) in 1869.
Photo taken from the Iglesia de la Concepción, on the right the iron bridge, the building opposite the old hospital, on the left at the top the Ermita de San Telmo and the arches in the background the barracks of San Carlos.

Located along the coast, just 600 meters from the city centre, the neighbourhood of El Cabo is one of the oldest in the city, since it was the first settlement of the Castilian conquerors at the end of the 15th century. The nucleus appears as early as 1588 in a plan of the city made by Leonardo Torriani, made up of just a score of scattered houses. Mainly inhabited by fishermen, it was separated from the rest of the city by the Barranco de Santos (Santos ravine), crossed by a single bridge located near the Concepción church. 

At that time, the Iglesia de la Concepción (Church of the Immaculate Conception) will have dominated the skyline of the city; the Castillo de San Juan Bautista (Castillo Negro) was then the second-most important fort in the defence of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the Castle of San Cristóbal (now buried under the Plaza de España) was the first fortification of significance on the island of Tenerife and the main defence on Santa Cruz Bay.

Pirotecnia Hermanos Toste (Toste Brothers Fireworks) the famous Los Realejos firework manufacturer responsible for many a display at events on the island, were founded in 1788, so if there were any New Year's celebrations in the city, it's entirely possible ... 

The ships left Santa Cruz on 1 Jan and arrived in Rio de Janiero on 2 Feb 1842.

Amusingly, I discovered this little nugget, not while researching Tenerife's history, but while researching my own great-great grandfather who had been part of the captain's guard on that voyage on HMS Belleisle. While I knew I wasn't the first in my family to visit Tenerife, I couldn't have imagined that one of my direct ancestors had visited that far back.

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