Parson’s Lodge is a mini Gibraltar – a narrow limestone dorsal, running North-South, laced with a labyrinth of underground tunnels and surmounted by a seemingly impregnable battery, which has witnessed the development of coast artillery over the last three centuries.
Rising 120′ sheer above the sea, Parson’s Lodge, is a most prominent of a series of batteries which surround Gibraltar’s only natural anchorage – Rosia Bay. It was into this bay that HMS Victory was towed, with Lord Nelson’s body on board, after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The Moors, who occupied Gibraltar for 727 years and the Spaniards, who stayed for 266 years, were aware of the strategic importance of Parson’s Lodge. The former built a wall shortly after 1333 and the latter improved it and recorded it in 1627.
When the British arrived in 1704 it was clearly necessary to protect the anchorage immediately north of Parson’s Lodge.
The armament list of 1720 records four guns at Rosia (sic) 2×18 pounders and 2×12 pounders. By 1744 this had risen to 19 guns in Rosia and two, to the South, in Camp Bay. The name Parson’s Lodge first appears in writing, in 1761, in a book in the Garrison Library. By 1771 it appeared, by name, in the armaments list. This name seems to be an irreverent reference to the hermitage and chapel of St. John the Green, situated immediately landward of Parson’s Lodge Rock.
In 1840 Maj. Gen. Sir John Jones recommended improvements to the battery. These were executed in 1842 and eight guns put in position on the terreplein. Between March and November 1872 the battery was further enhanced to accommodate three 18 ton 10"RML (rifled muzzle loading) guns. These were positioned behind a unique sandwich of armour plate and teak, known as "Gibraltar Shields". These guns, invented and produced in Woolwich, fired a 400lb (181 kilos) armour piercing projectile about 4,500 yards (2.6 miles:4kms). These guns remained in service until 1891.
By the end of the nineteenth century Parson’s Lodge was fast becoming a self-sufficient coast artillery searchlight position – with its own generating facility. However, infantry and artillery returned in the two Great Wars and a further spate of building was undertaken by the second Btn. Somerset Light Infantry, in 1941, to accommodate anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns and anti-aircraft searchlights. The site was abandoned by the military in about 1956 and has been used for training exercises periodically ever since.