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 (I)

Ferrol was founded as the result of a political decision. After signing the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the new Bourbon dynasty opted to reorganize the Navy, since it was necessary to defend the Spanish coast and the American colonies, and to protect trade. The coast of the Iberian Peninsula was divided into three maritime departments, and naval bases and dockyards were set up around their capital cities. Whilst Cartagena became the seat of the Department of Levante (the Mediterranean Sea), and Cadiz for the South [Atlantic], the capital of the Northern Department was located in the northwest of the Peninsula, on the Galician coast. The Ferrol estuary was strategically situated as regards sea traffic, and it could threaten British communications with America and the East Indies route. The deep draught estuary was easy to defend since it had a narrow mouth surrounded by mountains. The only obstacle was the absence of any urban settlements apart from the small town of Ferrol (henceforth referred to as 'Ferrol Viejo' [Old Ferrol]), with just over one thousand inhabitants. The monarchy decided to found a new city, also called 'Ferrol', and which became the capital of the Maritime Department of the North in 1726.5

The first stage took place during the reign of Felipe V and lasted until 1740. Warehouses, offices and shipyards were provisionally located in the small village of A Graņa. Two castles (San Felipe and La Palma) and seven coast batteries made the estuary impregnable. In the reign of Fernando VI and under the rule of the Marquis of Ensenada (1746-54), the shipyards and the civil and military sheds were moved to their current location out at estuary. The aim was to look for waters of deep draught and an area adjacent to the coast that was a suitable site for the new city.

The remote situation of the city set midway up the estuary surrounded by a rugged coast did not aid land communications or the diversification of the economy. The nearby city of A Coruņa absorbed the trading and the administrative functions,6 and communications by land between the two cities were poor. The new enclave's industry depended on external decisions, funds and technology. And the strategic advantages linked to the location and impregnability of the estuary would gradually vanish due to the changes brought about by international geopolitics and the art of war. In consequence, the reactivation of the facilities depended increasingly on political decisions in favour of Ferrol or of other different centres. Connections with influential national politicians became extremely important.

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