The village of Hal- Gharghur seems to be associated with the name “Gregory”. A church dedicated to St. Gregory which has also been known as Casale Gregori, San Gregorio and Gargur was located in the southern part of the village. Nowadays, this church does not exist anymore. According to historians, this could have given the name to the village. The community has now settled on Hal- Gharghur.
Hal-Gharghur is one of the oldest and smallest villages on the island of Malta. In fact, the area is of around 2 square kilometers with a population of approximately 3,000 people. This old village still retains many characteristics of a Maltese typical rahal (village) with its old building, niches, chapels and winding streets which lead to the village square, the centre of all activities. The pittoresque rural hilltop village is located between Naxxar and Madliena in the north of mainland, Malta. Its location makes the village a virtual peninsula surrounded not by water but by chasms and walls. Wied is-Dis which connects with Wied il-Faham forms the eastern border; Wied Anglu forms the western border while the Victoria Lines forms the northern part.
The locality is split into two parts, the rural part and the urban part. Hal-Gharghur is a clear example of a typical village which is surrounded by rural areas. Therefore, the village is separated from the surrounding localities. The abundant green natural areas make the locality a tranquil one where one can enjoy the particular rural setting and characteristics of the village.
Important ecological values are found in the border of this village. Clear examples are Wied Anglu, Wied il-Faham, Wied ta Santa’ Marija taz-Zellieqa, Wied ta’ Piswella, Wied ta’ Santa Katerina and Wied id-Dis, amongst others.
Hal- Gharghur is an old farming community. Their products have made its way to the homes of the Maltese families for centuries. For instance, the village was renowned for its Tewm (Garlic). A 17th century windmill tower located in Mill Street was used to ground wheat for bread. This is now a private residence. Social life has changed dramatically in the past years. In the post second world war era, there was a shift amongst the people from the farming community. Due to the new laws in Malta, more children were encouraged to complete secondary education. Therefore, the skills those were required for farming started to diminish. Here one can also mention that although, it was and still is a small village, Hal- Gharghur has produced some distinguished native sons in the past known as the “Father of Maltese Botany” and the “Father of the Poor”. The “Father of Maltese Botany” is Stefan Zahra who was a Professor of Medicine, Physiology, Pathology and Natural History at the University of Malta. He was a collector of the Maltese plants and he also has identified Widnet il-Bahar, which was to become Malta’s national plant. The other “Father” is Giovanni Gafa who was a military leader. He was extremely generous where some of the foundations he set up for the poor are still distributed nowadays. Furthermore, he has left his house to be used as a residence of the parish priest. He died in 1814.
The village of Hal-Gharghur houses number of churches and chapels. The village became an official parish in 1610. The Parish church is dedicated to St. Bartholomew. The feast of St. Bartholomew is celebrated each year on the last Sunday of August. The statue, which was sculptured from a tree trunk by Melchior Gafa in Rome in 1666, was brought over to Hal-Gharghur in 1772. One can also find a chapel dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and two chapels dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. One of the chapels dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady is also well-known as Taz-Zellieqa following a claim that a person had been cured of an illness after Our Lady appeared to her. The other one was known as Ta’ Bernarda named after Bernarda Cauchi left some benefices to the church in her will.
The prominent church and square located in the village core is surrounded by residential area. Commercial and retail activities are limited. There are few retails available in the church area.
The 12km Victoria Lines or as unofficially known by many, the Great Wall of Malta was constructed during the reign of the Knights of Saint John. When the British arrived in Malta in 1800, their major task was to protect the Grand Harbour area. Due to this fact, a defensive system was built and developed over a 29-year period between 1870 and 1899. This fortification comprises of four forts, number of gun batteries, entrenchments, stop-walls and an unbroken infantry line which connects them together to form a continuous defense from east to west. The wall divides the main island in half and was built to protect the populated south including The Grand Harbour area from the undeveloped and exposed north area. In the view of the great technological advances made by artillery which could launch attacks from a far greater distance, their major concern was that the enemy will attack from an undefended land in the north of Malta.
The original name of these fortifications was the North West Front. However, in 1897, they have amended the name to Victoria Lines to commemorate the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It is one of the major British fortifications in Malta.
The walk route stretches from Madliena Heights in the east to Kuncizzjoni near Fomm ir-Rih Bay in the west. Along the walk, one can catch sight of the cliffs of Gozo on a clear day and also the rest of Malta, both north and south. The walk is considered as an easy one as long as you know where to start and finish.
The Semaphore Tower
The restored Semaphore Tower which is identical to the towers in Ghaxaq, Malta and ta’ Kenuna, in Nadur, Gozo consists of three rooms built on each other with a spiral staircase linking them together and gives access to the roof of the said building. The Signalling equipment was located on the roof of the tower.
The equipment consisted of a wooden pole with three movable arms. Only two arms were used at a time and this was achieved by swinging the arms in a particular position to correspond with a letter of the alphabet or a number, as provided in the signalling code. The first successful electrical telegraph was made during the Crimean War between 1854 and 1856.
According to research, the invention of the mechanical semaphore was introduced by the French Chappe brothers, Claude and Ignace, who had constructed a pole with mechanical arms to keep contact while they were studying in different schools.
The said signal tower was occupied by the Second Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers during the Second World War as a viewpoint for observation.
Hal- Gharghur Local Council took over the tower in 2004. The building was restored in 2009 and is open to the public on special occasions.
Top of the World
A well-known place for Maltese and tourists to go for a walk in the countryside is the Top of the World.
On the way to this area, in Triq il-Gnien, one can witness the building known as the ‘Palazz tal-Kmand’, built in 1803. Walking further, one can see the Chapel of the Assumption known as ‘Taz-Zellieqa’. From this Chapel, on the right hand side, there is located Eye’s Delight Road ‘Triq Ghaxqet L-Ghajn’.
At the end of the this street, one will arrive on the top of the area where one can sit down on one of the benches available and enjoy the astonishing scenery from the belvedere overlooking the blue sea and green land.
Until 1960, the village was a socially confined area. However, nowadays families from urban areas and number of foreigners have settled in this village. Hal- Gharghur has still much to offer to the visitor who seeks country walks, scenery and healthy environment.