By the mediaeval period there was already a permanent settlement on the right bank of the Alforja Torrent. From 1152 the kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon, having driven the Moors out of Catalonia Nova, granted a series of privileges to encourage the repopulation of the place known as Cambrils. It was in the 12th century that the foundations were laid for the establishment of a stable population centre here at the southern gateway to the Camp de Tarragona, well connected to El Camino Real (the Royal Road) that linked Tortosa and Tarragona. The area also had good maritime connections, as can be seen from the fact that the troops of Jaume I sailed from these beaches in 1229 to re-conquer Majorca from the Moors.
Due to this strategic position, the Crown kept title over the town by establishing a feudal lord—vassal to the king-count—and a detachment of soldiers here. In addition, they built the defensive walls and towers that also served to protect other nearby villages such as Els Tegells, Les Planes and Montbrió. This royal initiative lead to the development of the present-day Old Town, with a church, hostel, hermitage, hospital, convent, market, fair, artisans, and, above all, farmers who worked the rich lands that still surround Cambrils today.
From the 18th century the population began to increase, as can be seen from the establishment of workers’ neighbourhoods outside the walled area. At the same time, the coastal area, now the port quarter of Cambrils, began to be occupied, thanks to the construction of the Port or Moors’ Tower. For centuries living on the seashore had been fraught with danger, due to the constant pirate attacks. Fishermen and others who did not have time to flee to the shelter of the walled town were often killed or kidnapped. Other small mediaeval villages such as Mas d’en Bisbe, Vilagrassa and Vilafortuny, the latter of which had its own castle and church, also suffered the ravages of the pirates, which impeded the growth of their populations, a situation that did not change until they were annexed to the municipality of Cambrils in the 19th century. Over time, and with the danger largely a thing of the past, the families of fishermen and seafarers began to build their houses in the surroundings of the Port or Moors’ Tower, thus founding the quarter that, a century later, would see the construction of the harbour, which was finished in the mid 20th century and is now the best known symbol of Cambrils.
In addition to the production of flour in the town’s numerous water-driven mills, from the 19th century on small industries began to develop. These included liqueur producers, brick and building material factories, and boatyards building increasingly large vessels. The opening of the railway in 1867 gave a considerable boost to the town’s commerce, agriculture and fishing, despite a series of wars, epidemics, and meteorological disasters suffered during the 19th century. The 20th century brought with it the beginning of an increase in population that would be multiplied in the 1950s with the arrival of various waves of immigration from other parts of Spain.
At the beginning of the 1960s the potential of tourism was discovered and began to be exploited. Large estates were built to house these new arrivals, who mainly came to enjoy the Mediterranean sun, beach and cuisine.
Looking at Cambrils today, the city, together with the Tarragona district, have enjoyed a very fast development over the last two decades. With fishing and agriculture background new emerging industries like chemical, petro chemical, services and tourism have had a great development leading to major investments in infrastructure and increased life standard. The Port of Cambrils today and its surroundings appears like a high standard modern village compared to only some few years ago. Luckily there are no tall buildings nor signs of mass tourism, so the locals have been successful in balancing local culture and integrity with tourism. Most of the tourists in this area are Spaniards that have their summer house at this beautiful fishing village with high quality beaches.
Travel: Great Escape: We found the key to a perfect break SUE HESELTINE takes a family holiday to Salou/ Cambrils on the Costa Dorada, Spain
Nov 23, 2005; IF you take two slightly stressed adults and two hormonal teenagers, is it possible to create a recipe for holiday success? That...