The Canon That Took Admiral Nelson’s Arm

Sat, May 7th, 2011 - By Colin

Some parts of history are so important you just can’t keep them buried. That was very much the case when Plaza de España in Santa Cruz was given a new look in 2006. The sea water lake and imposing statues make a great centre piece near the port of Tenerife’s capital city but many visitors are unaware of the turbulent past of this key defensive point and the underground presence of the mighty firearm that scuppered Horatio Nelson’s invasion attempt in 1797.

Extensive digging to rebuild the plaza unearthed fragments of the defensive wall of Castillo de San Cristobal. A free visitors’ centre has now been built around the remains of the castle, built in 1575, and can be accessed from a set of steps at the Atlantic end of the lake. It’s a modest and modern looking set of tunnels but is packed with historical information in English and Spanish on the illuminated wall panels. These are mixed with drawings and paintings of some of the many sea assaults on Santa Cruz.

As I eagerly absorbed all the information I was aware of a military drum beat in the background and turning the corner I was facing the small stretch of the original stonework littered with small rusty canons. On the end wall a screen was showing a potted history with commentary in Spanish and English sub titles. Of all the attempts on this key trading post, Nelson’s was the most famous and a separate room has been dedicated to his chapter.
The Tigre (tiger) canon is widely credited with blowing the valiant Admiral’s right arm off but although a celebrated symbol of Tenerife’s fighting spirit, it never had a fitting home – until now. The details around the walls recount the battle in letters and memoirs from serving sailors and soldiers on both sides and the canon itself looks sturdy and unforgiving.

Santa Cruz has many surprises. Brits will find another less known link to London and the founding of Jamestown, Virginia down in this well of knowledge. Nelson was celebrated by the locals immediately after his defeat, and since, as a great sailor and gentleman. Just behind the entrance to the Castillo, the Via Litoral  adjacent to the coastal road is undergoing a massive reconstruction, part of that will see a monument to Nelson’s surrender moved to a more prominent spot in the city. So as Santa Cruz continues to evolve, the past is impressing a new generation and Castillo de San Cristobal will add a new appreciation of Tenerife’s place in history.

FACT FILE
Castillo de San Cristobal
Plaza de España, Santa Cruz
Open Weekdays (except Tuesday) 10 am to 6 pm
Open Saturday & Sunday 11 am to 7 pm
Entry Free

Posted : Saturday, May 7th, 2011 at 8:32 am
Category : days out
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One Response to “The Canon That Took Admiral Nelson’s Arm”

  1. […] bronze busts adorn the wall but after Nelson’s defeat they dined together and parted as friends. The Tiger canon widely credited with blowing Nelson’s right arm off now lives in its own shrine under Plaza de España but the museum points out that it was musket […]

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