The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

A Case of mistaken identity

Malta Independent Sunday, 25 September 2005, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

I refer to Juan Ameen’s contribution “One of the oldest buildings in Sliema to be demolished” (TMIS, 18 September). Ms Ameen’s article attempted to make a case that a particular townhouse at 1, Ghar il-Lembi Street in Sliema, dates to the late 17th/early 18th century, hence, implying that my dating of the building to the period 1850-1920 was incorrect.

The anonymous “expert” adviser to Ms Ameen should take a basic course in map interpretation prior to making such assertions. The supposed location of this townhouse as illustrated in the details of the historic maps reproduced with the article is totally different from the house under question. Had the “expert” bothered to check with reputable academic sources he/she would have learned that the location highlighted in the map detail as ‘Ancienne Batterie nommèe tal Lembi’ was the Qala Lembi Battery built in 1757 and abandoned at the time Fort Tigné was constructed in 1793. Stephen C. Spiteri, in Fortresses of the Cross, (page 526) describes the Battery as follows:

“Qala Lembi Battery: As the name implies, this battery was built at Qala Lembi (Qui-si-Sana), close to Dragut’s Point in 1757. The battery consisted of a triangular gun-platform with its salient angle pointing landwards. A small blockhouse was attached to the work which was also surrounded by a ditch.”

The site highlighted was that of the original Qala Lembi battery and its ancillary buildings, which were originally situated in present day Qui-si-Sana, a considerable distance from the location of the supposedly ‘Baroque’ townhouse. The present-day Ghar il-Lembi Street/High Street certainly do not feature in the details of the historic maps illustrated in the contribution. The road indicated in the historic map linked the Lembi Battery and Fort Tigné at the tip of the Tigné Peninsula and does not correspond to the present day High Street/Ghar il-Lembi Street.

Regarding the much-touted Baroque pedigree of this townhouse, I regret to state that this is totally a figment of the imagination in the “expert” adviser’s mind. Sliema’s urban morphology evolved during the 19th century and its architecture certainly cannot be described as Baroque in character. Sliema’s architectural heritage belongs to the Victorian and Art-Nouveau era, a considerable part of which has regretfully been lost. The readers of your newspapers deserve to be presented with historically-accurate facts and that architectural history should not be distorted into fiction to accommodate someone’s personal agenda.

Conrad Thake


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