The Bichi family, in the past being owners of several plots on the Salvatore Hill, used to lease parts of these plots to third parties, on which small cottages with gardens were built. On the 2nd November 1744, certain Carlo Zammit from Valletta, sought permission to repair an outhouse and erect two new ones in the three gardens he owned on the road of San Salvatore between the fortifications of Borgo and Ricasoli, The Commissioner for the Fortifications in his report stated that applicant had obtained the site from the noble family of Bichi on perpetual lease. Permission for the works was accordingly granted on 9th November. The same Zammit, requested on 1st August 1746, to be allowed to add an alcove to one of the rooms recently built, and permission was granted to proceed with this work, on the 9th of that month.
Mons. Domenico Sceberras owned a garden at Rinella and his claim is supported by the following references met with in Ms. No. 372 at page 46:
“An epig ram (on marble) composed by Dr. Gio. Fancesco Bonamico in 1677, for the entrance to the house and garden of Can, Costanzo, was subsequently removed from there, (locality and date not given) and placed over the entrance to Mons. Sceberras’ garden at Rinella.”
The epigram runs as follows:
Hic ubi terra negat fontes frondesque vireta
Nec ullas umbras frons dedit ulla virens
Cernis ut ars fontes frondes umbrasque paravit
Et gratum musis exhibet hospitium
Translation: Here where earth denied water, greenery or trees, nor trees spread any shadow, behold how skill produced founts, greenery, trees and shadow offering a welcome hospice to the muses.
Mons. Sceberras died in Malta on 25th June 1744, at the age of 73, and was buried in the Church of the Friars Minor in Valletta. On the marble slab over his tomb several initials frustrate the attempt of the over-curious to decipher, the meaning of which he apparently wished to keep vailed for ever.
After Bishop Sceberras ‘s death, the Baroness Margherita Sceberras, his sister, by right of succession and also in virtue of the Indult of Pope Benedict XIII, of 29th November 1721, took possession on 30th June 1744 of all the family property which included the gardens and large House at Rinella.
In the deed drawn up by Notary Arnaldo Morello, read on the 17th April 1762, “Donna Margarita Muscat left as a legacy to her son Barone Lorenzo Muscat, besides other property, the large House (Casaumento) at Rinella, with its garden and adjoining lands…”
After the death of Baron Lorenzo Muscat, it passed into the hands of his son, Baron Emmanuele, who in December 1807, granted it to William Douglas on 60 years’ lease at the rent of 220 Scudi (£18.6.8). After the death of William Douglas which occurred in 1828 the unexpired term of the lease was taken over by the Admiralty from his trustee, Thomas Southwood, on 25th December 1829.
Baron Muscat finally ceded it, on 31st March, 1831, to Thomas Briggs, Naval Commissioner, for the use of the Royal Navy, and in the Notarial Act drawn by Diego Vella the property is described as follows:
“The property situated in Malta, in the vicinity of Rinella and included in the estate so called “Bighi”, and on which it is intended to build a Naval Hospital, consists of a large house (Casamento) a garden and lands, on one side adjoining the said large house and garden, and on the other by a road on the south; the same property which was Ieased for a period of 60 years commencing on the 13th December 1807, to Ninian (sic) Douglas, at the rent of 220 Scudi, with the burden of 12 Scudi and 9 Tari’ (£1.1.3) towards the Rector or Beneficiary of SSo. Salvatore”, The property, which was estimated by Sig, Giuseppe Bonivia at 10,850 Scudi (£904.3.4) was sold at 10,340 Scudi , the sum of 510 Scudi (£42.10) being deducted on account of the annual burden of 12 Scudi and 9 Tari’ towards the Rector or Bencficiary of SSo, Salvatore.”
THOMAS BRIGGS, Commissioner
SAC. VINCENZO BALZAN (Of the City of Notabile. Witness)
JOSEPH BECKETT COLLINGS, Chief Clerk to the Naval Commissioner (Witness)
In the Recognition by the Department of the Royal Navy in favour of Can. Don Gio, Batta Debono, as Beneficiary of SS. Salvatore, drawn up by the same Notary, on 31st December 1831, it was stipulated that:
“Thomas Briggs, on behalf of H. M. Naval Department binds himself for the said Royal Navy, to pay the Rev. Can. Treasurer of the Collegiate Church of the City of Vittoriosa, Don Giov. Battista Debono. beneficiary of the said Church of SSo. Salvatore in Calcara, in the vicinity of the Palazzo Bighi, and to his successors, the perpetual annual burden of 12 Scudi and 9 Tari..”
THOMAS BRIGGS, Commissioner
Gio. BATTISTA DEBONO, Can. Treasurer Beneficiary.
J.B. COLLINGS (Witness)