A reconnaissance visit before the battle?

Fuengirola was visited by two members of British Parliament in 1810

PATRICK H. MEEHAN

In 1810 Fuengirola was visited by two Honourable Members of the British Parliament. The first was by William Jacob MP for Rye in Sussex, merchant, scientist and politician. The second was the MP for Old Sarum, Lieutenant General Andrew Thomas Blayney, the 11th Baron Blayney.

In 1810 Britain had been at War with France for seven years, the French had taken control of Spain and Napoleon's brother had occupied the Spanish throne since 1808. Fuengirola Castle was manned by Polish troops because Poland was bound to France by a treaty.

William Jacob (and his team) wrote a 'travel memoir' between 1809 and 1810 which can be found online by searching for "Travels in the South of Spain by William Jacob". It is mostly about road conditions, fortifications, resources and populations. He published nothing about the defences of Fuengirola Castle, all he says is:

"The town of Fuengirola in the Valley, and the small white houses, interspersed among the vineyards upon the rising ground, were admirably contrasted with the various green tints below, and the brown and red colour of the marble mountains which tower majestically above.

"We reached the Posada at Fuengirola about noon, and rested ourselves and our horses; the house was filled with tubs, in which they were salting sardines and anchovies. These fish are slightly cured, are packed in baskets, and conveyed on asses into the mountainous parts of the country, where they are considered a most desirable and luxurious riposte. The price paid by the curers to the fishermen is about half a dollar a bushel.

"We left Fuengirola at half past one, expecting, as the distance was only four leagues, to reach Malaga early in the afternoon; but we found the road most intolerably bad..."

The second visit was five months later when Lord Blaney arrived at the Castle with a 74 cannon warship, four gunboats, five frigates and 2,500 troops. Blaney's expedition needed intelligence such as road conditions, troop placements and re-enforcement times from Malaga. A bloody battle ensued (the subject of the next column); the British incurred a serious defeat, Lord Blaney was taken prisoner and Fuengirola Castle would record its finest hour.

In the British inquiries into this ignominious defeat, bad intelligence was among the culprits. Jacobs's memoir may be remembered as the first known account of Fuengirola in English and equally forgotten for the failed intelligence it provided.