river town principal
BILBAO, one of the principal cities of Spain, and capital of the province to which it gives its name, is situated in 43° 14' N. lat. and 2° 56' W. long., in a small but beautiful and fertile valley, bounded on three sides by mountains, about six miles from the sea, on the banks of the River Ansa, which is also known as the Ncrvion, or, in Basque, as the Ibaizabal. The old town lies on the left bank, while the new town, which is by far the more important, rises on the right in handsome terraces. Communication across the river is afforded by several bridges, of which the oldest, San Antonio, is of stone, and dates from the 14th century ; the second was finished in 1827, the third in 1847, and the fourth, an iron structure, in 1868. The houses in the principal streets are built of hewn stone, and are several stories high, with projecting eaves that give shelter both from sun and rain. Many of the streets are very narrow, and they have an appearance of cleanliness and quiet. For a long time no carts or carriages were permitted to enter the city for fear of polluting and injuring the pavement, and the transport of goods was carried on in trucks. The principal promenades are the Pasco del Arenal, which lies along the right bank of the river, the Campo Volantin in the same neighbourhood, and the Pasco de los Calios, so called from its forming the roof of the great aqueduct for conveying the water of the river to the town. The public buildings comprise several churches, of which the oldest, Santiago, is of earlier date than the city itself, the town-hall, the palace of the Diputacion Provincial, an arsenal, a hospital, a theatre, and an abattoir. Of the educational institutions the most important are the Coleyio General de Vizcaya, a nautical academy, and the schools supported by the board of trade for gratuitous instruction in design, architecture, languages, and mathematics. A bank of issue and discount was founded in 1857. The industrial establishments include iron and steel foundries (for which the town was at one time famous), anchor-forges, potteries, glass-works, paper-mills, and a cotton factory ; and leather, sail-cloth, ropes, and tobacco are also manufactured. The exports consist mainly of grain and flour, iron, zinc, and lead ore, wine, madder, liquorice, lamb and goat skins, chestnuts, and oil. The wool trade has ceased for many years, and shipbuilding has greatly declined. A great stimulus was given to the import trade by the construction of the Bilbao and Tudela railway, which was completed in 1863 ; but the prosperity of the place is hindered by its distance from the sea. Large sums of money have been spent in improving the river, but ships of any size have to discharge at Portugalete, the average depth on the bar being 13i feet at high tides. In spite of this disadvantage, however, Bilbao ranks as one of the principal trading ports in Spain. In 1870 the total tonnage of the ships that entered was 160,952, and the value of the imports amounted to £2,075,900. There is regular steam communication with London and Liverpool. Population, 17,619. Bilbao, or Belvao, was founded about 1300 by Don Pedro Lopez de Haro, and soon rose into importance. It was captured by the French in 1705, and was again held by them from 1808 to 1813. During the Carlist contest it was gallantly defended against Zumalacarregui in 1835.