All along the watchtower

To celebrate 180 years of the municipality of Fuengirola this series reviews the rich history of the location, from prehistory to the founding of the modern town

PATRICK H. MEEHAN

Under the Romans and Moors, Fuengirola Castle was the centre of an authority stretching from Cabopino to Benalmádena. After the conquest of Fuengirola in 1485, the first royal act was the appointment of Álvaro de Mesa as Warden of the Castle and its lands. In 1489 he was followed by Alonso de Mesa who would rule for two decades.

Alonso was controversial; he was denounced to the Council of Malaga for smuggling, unfair land distribution and inhumane treatment of Moorish refugees. His unacceptable behaviour eventually drew the opprobrium of church and state leaders from Mijas to Malaga who would end his reign. By 1515 the authority of the Warden was confined to within his castle walls and its vast lands were placed under the administration of Mijas.

  • Patrick H. Meehan is a 20-year resident of Fuengirola and author of Fuengirola Revisited, a unique book that tells the story of the location through the ages. Feedback can be sent to info@fuengirolarevisited.com For more information visit www.fuengirolarevisited.com or follow @fuengirolarevisited on Facebook.

As Spain became larger and more powerful it acquired enemies eager to make violent attacks on its coast. The French, British, Dutch, Moors, Ottoman Turks, Berbers and private pirates were all encouraged to destroy property and kidnap people. During the 1540s and 1550s the Turkish Ottoman Empire would visit with vast fleets of 100 galleons making violent raids on coastal towns as 'refuelling' stops. Farming, fishing, transport and trade were dependent on defence, which was prioritised by each raid.

Over the centuries budgets were created to defend the coast, to maintain and extend the castle and build new watchtowers. By the 1770s watchtowers identical to the one in La Cala (pictured) were built at Torreblanca and at 'Tarahal', the current site of the church in the Plaza de la Constitución.

Not long after they were built, France took control of the western Mediterranean, ending the invasion threat and leaving the watchtowers redundant. The Torreblanca watchtower was painted white, becoming the white tower in the name Torre Blanca.

The watchtower at Tarahal became a shrine and over time a town emerged around it. By the 1790s the population of hundreds was supported by livestock, agriculture and fishing with stores, auction houses, homes and hostelries. The halfway point between Malaga and Marbella, this was the extraction port for marble and food, where ships could land and pay taxes. For our 'ideal location' this was the beginning of over two centuries of growth.

The first property deeds were issued and wooden buildings were replaced with stone. No longer needing the protection of the watchtowers, the town had taken root and would soon seek control of its own direction.