Ferrol - Urban History
'A Tale of Two Cities'. The Memory of Ferrol, between the Navy and the Working class.
Beginning Chapters: 1 2 3 4 Bib >

Chapter 1

A city charged throughout history with segregation and violence (V)

La Magdalena was designed by military engineers, and its first stage was built at around the same time as the Dockyard.19 By 1755 a city was being planned where the different social classes were mixed, since Esteiro was a temporary solution and was set to be demolished at some future stage. But following the fall of the Marquis of Ensenada a new offensive naval policy took hold. The war expenses monopolized an increasing part of the budget, in detriment to work on the Dockyards and the new city. In 1761, the military engineer Francisco Llobet considered Esteiro a 'fait accompli', and designed a smaller La Magdalena, which was 'de facto' set apart for the military men.

In 1763, military engineer Julián Sánchez Bort came up with the final version of the plan: six longitudinal streets, nine cross-streets, identical in width and crossed rectangular blocks of equal size. Two squares were planned at each end, 'Dolores [Our Lady of Sorrow] Square' and the 'Parade Ground', which the three main streets led into. The result was a stage, suitable for civil and military parades. It also facilitated the movement of troops in the event of a revolt (as prescribed by military engineering treatises). Sánchez Bort designed the first major public 'tree-lined walk' in Galicia, called 'Alameda', situated between La Magdalena and the wall surrounding the Dockyards. This would be a favourite area for strolling and the celebration of civil ceremonies until the second half of the 19th century. A careful setting was displayed before whoever walked along the 'Alameda': towards the Dockyards, the 'Battalions Barracks', the 'Dock Gate' and the 'Arms Hall'; towards La Magdalena, the magnificent San Julián Church, the public Prison (1802), and the 'Capitanía Palace' (1760), headquarters of the Commander-in-chief of the Naval Department and watchtower over the city and the Dockyards.20 And it was Sánchez Bort himself who designed the final plans of the first four buildings, which were officially opened between 1765-66. 21

The military authority took charge of the construction of the city. The Commander-in-chief of the Navy was the 'Military Chief of the Fortress', and the marines carried out police tasks until 1774.22 In that year, the city walls were finished. From a military point of view their poor construction made them useless, but they were an omnipresent reminder of the military jurisdiction, and a valuable aid in the collection of local taxes on food and drinks. Civil authority was placed in the hands of an 'Alcalde Mayor' (Mayor), who was appointed at first by the military authority, but from 1774 became elective. The civil power was lacking in financial resources, and for this reason the town hall was located opposite the 'Dock Gate' in buildings which it did not own, as occurred with both the Prison building or the 'Cátedra de Latinidad' (a municipal school). The weakness of the civil power and its subordination to the Navy authorities would go beyond the first stage of design and the city's early beginnings. Indeed, the lack of funds and the thorny question of the delimitation of jurisdiction meant that the sewer system drained La Magdalena sewage into the Dockyard's moat for more than a century, causing a stench that failed to be eradicated due to the inability of the Civil and Naval authorities to reach an agreement.

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