Exit Britannia

By Janet Sloss

BONAVENTURA
PRESS

Chapter 9

EXIT BRITANNIA

Britain’s Last Conquest of Menorca 1798 - 1802

© 2002 Bonaventura Press

  Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter9
Introduction Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter10
Acknowledgments Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter11
Bibliography Chapter 4 Chapter 8 Chapter12

Chapter 9

General Fox had professed himself “ignorant on the subject of fortification” when he arrived at the end of 1799. Instead he threw himself into improvements to the island, seeing his role as colonial administrator rather than military commander. Called “enterprising and restless” by the historian, Hernandez Sanz, Fox got 1,375,000 pounds sterling from the home government and asked for 10,000 additional troops. Leaving work on the island’s defences to Captain d’Arcy, he began by having the Royal Road (Kane’s Road) repaired. He first ordered the local town halls to carry out the repairs but when they refused, only asked for the necessary tools, and had men from the English regiments do the work.

Many of the hundreds of ships arriving in Mahon harbour after battle needed repairs. In the spring of 1801, he sent Doctor Brionis, surveyor of woods, to make a tour of the island along with a ship’s carpenter, Gabriel Corwell. They made a thorough survey of all the large estates, marking every tree suitable for ship repairs, with the exception of masts. No trees on Menorca ever grew tall enough for masts. Hundreds of oaks, olives and a few pines were marked with a triangular sign, and Brionis gave Fox an itemized report. 31

Fox also ordered a commemorative stone to Governor Kane to be carved and placed next to the horseshoe shaped road that leads to the Hermitage of St. John. This small church lies behind the market gardens outside Mahon originally developed by Kane. The inscription read: “NOMEN ET SUIS ET OMNIBUS MINORICIS MERITO CARISSIMUM ET JUXTA HAS SEDES HORQUE HORTOS PRAECIPUE SEMPERQUE MEMORANDUM”. In English: “A name beloved by his own men and by all Menorcans, especially in these gardens which will perpetuate his memory”. In Spanish, “Nombre muy apreciado con razon por los suyos y por todos los Menorquines, principalmente en estos lugares y vergeles dignos de que se perpetue su memoria”. The stone was designed chiefly by William Scoly, a lieutenant of the British Eighth Infantry regiment.

In September, 1801, he heard from the Franciscan friars that they were opening a new school in their convent. Masters in the principles of grammar, Latin and rhetoric had been appointed, with two readers in theology, “this for the public good,” the brothers told Fox.

Apart from maintaining the roads, overseeing the billeting and feeding of the troops and preaching good hygiene, Fox had been capable of supervising the constant activity of shipping in the Port of Mahon. In recognition of this, he was made commander in chief of naval activities in the Mediterranean by Lord Keith, who had succeeded Earl St Vincent, and, in 1801, when a peace treaty was being discussed, Fox was ordered to transfer his headquarters to Malta.

Footnotes

31 WO55/1556(3) [Extracts]

Admiral Viscount Hood
Engraving by Robinson from a portrait in oil by Sir Joshua Reynolds. James Maps collection, Mahon

Admiral George, Lord Keith.
Engraving by Meyer of oil portrait by Saunders. James Maps collection, Mahon

Caricature - Governor Fox on an Ass.
Watercolour by Captain Sturgeon, Royal Regiment, 1801

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