Casa No 21
Casa Number 21 is a three-storey villa built in 1885, that was carefully restored in 2013 to show how a British family would have lived in late-Victorian Andalucia, complete with furniture, toys, jars of food and other domestic accoutrements. Its owner was a middle-ranking engineer, and his children, who lived there, helped advise on its decoration for the period restoration.
In the late 19th century, Charles Prebble, the Rio Tinto Mining Company's first managing director, decided to build a separate area for the engineers to live in. Bella Vista, or the Barrio Ingles (English neighbourhood), was just outside the main part of the town, and had its own social club, tennis courts, church and village green. The houses were built with their backs facing the town, while their front doors opened onto a shady gravel path which links all the houses, giving it a cosy, intimate feeling. You could be in leafy Surrey.
In those days - the 1880s - it had high walls and gates with guards, as mixing with the locals was strongly discouraged; very few marriages between Spanish and English took place (33 in 81 years), until the 1940s when such rules were relaxed. These days, you still enter through gates, but these are kept open.
There were two types of houses in Bella Vista - one-storey and three-storey - according to the level of engineer or manager. Accommodation had to be of a high quality, to attract the cream of the engineering crop to make the journey out to Huelva by boat, then into the unknown by train, to this small town where they would work and live.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO SEE?
Casa No 21, a three-storey villa built in 1885, has been carefully restored to show how a British family would have lived in late-Victorian Andalucia, complete with furniture, toys, jars of food and other domestic accoutrements. Its owner was a middle-ranking engineer, and his children, who lived there, helped advise on its decoration for the period restoration.
The ground floor shows a living room, dining room and kitchen and a pantry with english style food products but is not missing a leg of Jamon hanging in the corner. The first floor shows the master bedroom, a second bedroom is an office with mining company pictures, the third room is childs room and play room and features period sports equiptment and photos on the wall including Victorian children in Rio Tino taking part in an egg and spoon race. The upper flloor was servants quarters.
One noteworthy aspect of the houses in Bella Vista, which differentiates the Barrio Ingles from the rest of Rio Tinto town, is the lack of security - all Spanish houses have fences or walls, and bars on the windows. Those in Bella Vista, however, have open lawns and flower beds, and while a few have doors or windows with bars, most don't - a pleasant reminder of times gone by.
The Presbyterian church, a small, pretty neo-Gothic building of stone and brick, was recently restored. When Rio Tinto Mining was sold (nationalised) to a Spanish group in 1954, it was the only non-Catholic church maintained by a Spanish company in the whole of (deeply Catholic, Francoist) Spain.
The Barrio of Bella Vista is now a living community with all the houses owned by private individuals. House Number 21 was purchased by the mining museum so that it could be restored and visited.