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Guide to Guadiaro, the Roman town of Barbesula

in San Roque Municipality in Cádiz Province, Andalucia, Spain
By Nick Nutter | 16 Feb 2020
Guadiaro Bridge Guadiaro Ferry Estuary of the Guadiaro at Torreguadiaro Soon after opening

Barbesula under the Romans

There has been a settlement at Guadiaro since pre-Roman times. The Romans called the place Barbesula. It was situated on the west bank of the river Guadiaro a few kilometres inland, a sheltered spot where the small cargo vessels of the day could safely moor and take on board the salted fish manufactured at Barbesula. Remains of the kilns used to make the amphorae that held the fish have been found in the area.

The Romans departed and were replaced by Visigoths, then the Moors and finally the Christians. Guadiaro, although continuously occupied during those centuries, carries few signs of that period. It seems to have escaped attention.

Guadiaro Ferry and Bridge

The first record of a ferry dates to 1707 when the Cabildo (equivalent of a mayor) of the city of Gibraltar in the Campo de San Roque, named Pedro Delgado as boatman of the Guadiaro river. The ferry was originally a raft, hauled across by a continuous rope. It carried wagons, animals and people. In the late 19th century, with the advent of the motor vehicle, it became a somewhat larger raft. The ferry remained in service until 1929 when Spanish engineer Eduardo Torroja y Miret built the iron girder bridge seen today.

Until 1969, the coastal road, the N340, wound its way inland 2 kilometres from the coastal town of Torreguadiaro to the iron bridge at Guadiaro and then re-joined the coast. The new coast road, the A7, effectively bypassed the village of Guadiaro. A concrete bridge was built spanning the Guadiaro river downstream of the iron bridge. The town of Guadiaro again slipped from view and is now a sleepy place depending on agriculture, principally citrus fruit growing, and to a lesser extent, tourism for its sustenance. So little happens in Guadiaro that it made local news in 2010 when a roofed taxi stand entered service.

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