From this lookout post, the guards used to alert the population to the arrival of ships by firing signal cannon and raising flags. The number of cannon shots fired and type of flags raised varied according to the nationality and type of ship approaching the rock. Cannons were also fired to announce the opening and closing of the City gates at sunrise and sunset, or to signal a fire on the Rock. Towards the end of the 19th century, the signal station was converted into a gun battery. And during the Second World War it was equipped with anti-aircraft guns.
Cable Car Tour
Plaque on site:
A signal station which existed here from before the British days was closed in 1922 because Levant cloud often obscured the view. It’s duties were continued from Windmill Hill signal station.
On this point is the Signal Station, from which a constant watch is kept for ships entering the Straits. There was a tradition that it had been an ancient watch-tower of the Carthaginians, from which (as from Monte Pellegrino, that overlooks the harbor of Palermo) they had watched the Roman ships. But later historians think it played no great part in history or in war until the Rock served as a stepping-stone to the Moors in their invasion and conquest of Spain. When the Spaniards retook it, they gave this peak the name of “El Hacho,” The Torch, because here beacon-fires were lighted to give warning in time of danger. A little house furnishes a shelter for the officer on duty, who from its flat roof, with his field-glass, sweeps the whole horizon, north and south, from the Sierra Nevada in Spain, to the long chain of the Atlas Mountains in Africa. Looking down, the Mediterranean is at your feet. There go the ships, with boats from either shore which dip their long lateen-sails as sea-gulls dip their wings, and sometimes fly over the waves as a bird flies through the air, even while large ships labor against the wind.
“Gibraltar”, Henry M. Field, 1889