Old cast iron street sign at Cooperage Lane at its junction with Main Street (November 2020).
Section of the 1753 map of Gibraltar showing a ‘cooperidge’ where the International Commercial Centre (ICC) is today. North is to the left.
Have you ever wondered where the name for Cooperage Lane comes from? The word coop originally comes from the Middle Dutch küper, from küpe, which means a basket or a tub. There was no cooperage in the area in the early 18th century but the cooper’s house was nearby where the western side of the International Commercial Centre (ICC) is today; the Cooperage itself was at the other end of town, close to the walls at Southport.
There is a map in the Museum dating to 1753 where the cooper’s house is now shown as quarter for clerks and the cooperage is now close by, roughly where the patio behind Pizza Hut is located. So the area was associated with coopers since very early on in the British period.
Barrels were very important in the 18th and 19th centuries as they were multipurpose containers, used for storing virtually anything from beer, wine, oil and water.
Although barrels are still used widely today, especially in the wine industry, there are very few coopers, although machines can be used to help them in their work, a lot of the time many of the steps that go into making a barrel still have to be done by hand. In fact, the cooper’s art has changed very little since the time of the Romans, whose barrels were very similar to the ones still used today.
The cooperage can be seen near the bottom centre of the image. Note the Naval Stores close by that would have made good use of the barrels being produced and repaired in the cooperage.
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