Thursday, July 14, 2022

San Andrés Tower Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Torre de San Andrés (St Andrew's Tower) or Castle of San Andrés

Alonso Fernández de Lugo granted the Ibaute Valley to the naval captain Lope de Salazar for having helped him in the conquest of Tenerife in 1494. The Count changed the original Guanche name to Valle Salazar, building his house there and the first hermitage with the images of San Andrés and Santa Lucía.
 
To defend that area from pirates, in 1656 there was already a redoubt with two short-caliber pieces, around which a company of Canarian Militias, made up of some 40 residents of the valley between 16 and 60 years old, would gather on Sundays, to train in the handling of weapons.
 
As the construction of a fortress in this place was of vital importance, because it also defended the beach where the ships fleeing from the pirates took refuge, necessary to be able to approach the castles of Paso Alto and San Cristóbal, in 1693 the Count of the Valley of Salazar asked Carlos II (Charles II of Spain) to build a tower in that place.
 
In 1706, the Commander General Agustín de Robles y Lorenzana would order the engineer of S.M. Miguel Tiburcio Russell de Lugo that in the small cove formed by the Cercado and Las Huertas ravines, erect a circular barbette tower with stone ashlars, 16 meters in diameter and 5 meters high, with two vaults for the troops and capacity for 50 men. The entrance to the tower was made by a wooden drawbridge and to access it you had to climb three stone steps.
 
The five pieces of artillery were placed on its esplanade, made of lozas chasneras (tiles; a traditional element in Canarian construction), in which its parapet had no loopholes, no merlons, nor did it cover the artillerymen. The rainwater that fell on the aforementioned esplanade was poured into a cistern, capable of holding 18 pipes. The guardhouse was located to the south of the tower, about 11 meters away, where there was also a vaulted warehouse that held 100 quintals (a unit of weight equal to a hundredweight (112 lb) or, formerly, 100 lb) of gunpowder. It had a metal bell, with a wooden trap and iron clamps, with which the alarm signal was given to the residents.

The tower suffered major damage in 1740, caused by the rise of the aforementioned ravines, although the damage caused was repaired the following year. In 1769 the Military Engineer Alfonso Sánchez Ochando would rebuild it again giving it the final dimensions, 17.6 meters in diameter and a height of 8.4 meters.
 
Armed with six 24-gauge cannons, two 16-gauge cannons, 1 12-gauge mortar and one 9-gauge mortar, it was manned by 1 officer, 1 sergeant, 2 corporals and 13 artillerymen. Its first keeper, appointed in August 1741, was don Salvador Agustín de Vera.
 
Its role in the Gesta
 
The most notable action in which the artillerymen of the Torre de San Andrés participated, led by Lieutenant José Feo de Armas, was on Tuesday, July 25, 1797, after the English had collected the survivors of their frustrated expedition and Nelson had signed the Act of Capitulation.
 
Due to the prevailing wind, the HMS Theseus (1786) was forced to cut the bow anchor cable, since it was 42 fathoms deep, being drifted by sea currents towards San Andrés, where it came under fire from the Torre's cannons.
 
Then, Lieutenant José Feo, unaware of the surrender of the English, since they were very far from the main castle, directed the fire against them, hitting the rigging of the Thesseus, which was quickly joined by a frigate and a boat, launching several bombs on the tower that did not cause appreciable damage, while the frigate did suffer damage in one sail and the bomber received a direct hit on the bow that almost capsized it, having to be towed alongside the ship, disappearing from the scene.
 
When General Gutiérrez heard about the cannonade, he urgently sent Lieutenant Sierra and Gaspar Fuente to order a ceasefire.
 
The deplorable state in which the fortress was found on that date is noteworthy, since of the four cannons it possessed, the two 24-gauge ones were useless because the axis of the gun carriages had broken, and of the two 16-gauge cannons, only one was useful because the other had given up its axis.
 
Such was the speed with which the firings were made from the tower, one of the cannons burst and took the life of Vicente Talavera, a veteran artillery militiaman, a carpenter by profession. Ironically, the cannon was called Assassin.
 
State of ruin
 
The tower was declared in ruins after the overflow of the Cercado and Las Huertas ravines, which occurred on October 30, 1893 and March 6, 1894; therefore, by order dated June 14, 1894 it was sold at public auction for a value of 1,083.23 pesetas, the valuation made by the master builder Domingo Pisaca, but the sale would not take place because another flood, which occurred on October 28, 1898, would finish collapsing it, leaving it as it is today.

Finally, on January 2, 1924, it was declared inadequate for the needs of the Army, being delivered to the City Council on January 15, 1926.
 
Between the years 1950 and 1970 it was used as a jail for the City Council and, years later, as a municipal warehouse for the various objects and utensils that were used in the urban maintenance of San Andrés.

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