Written by C. Rolé
Żurrieq or "Iż-Żurrieq" is a rural village situated at the South of Malta. Our parish covers an area which extends from the limits of Qrendi and Imqabba to Kirkop and from the limits of Gudja till Birżebbuġa. Though the land covered by the parish is quite substantial as it involves also the lands of Ħal-Millieri, Ħal-Far and its surroundings, as well as Bubaqra, historical data reveals that the parish of Żurrieq covered a larger area in 1618 (Guillaumier, 1987).
Most probably the village of Żurrieq started to develop after the 11th century, though its countryside was already used for agricultural purposes from earlier times. A proof of this statement lies under the plain of Ħal-Millieri, where an unexcavated agricultural centre dating back to the Roman Empire era can be found (Guillaumier, 1987).
In early medievial times, around the 12 century, a number of small residential areas started to develop, of which only a small proportion were still occupied by 1400. These villages included Żurrieq, Qrendi, Ħal-Millieri, Ħal-Manin, Ħal-Lew, Bubaqra and Ħal-Far. By early18th century only the villages of Qrendi, Żurrieq and some households in Bubaqra remained (Guillaumier, 1987).
Our village gained importance when Malta was under the rule of the Sovreign Military Order of St. John through the construction of palaces and defence towers as well as a remarkable improvement from a social aspect. The 17th century saw the construction of the tower situated in Bubaqra together with the famous armoury located in the village centre. During the 18th century, the village was enriched by the construction of a palace in the Nigret area together with a number of large villas and houses. Amongst the Grand Masters that left their mark in our village are Grand Master Lascaris, who constructed a watchtower in Wied iż-Żurrieq and Grand Master De Redin, who constructed three watchtowers located in Ta' Ħamrija, Tal-Wardija and Ta' Bengħisa. The Università, also constructed a tower in Wied Żnuber and a number of trenches were constructed in the 18th century by Ing. Marando following Vendome's plans. The Knights also constructed a number of windmills in order to help sustain the construction of fortifications. These windmills included one from Cottoner's foundation and another one from the foundry of Vilhena. These are both situated at Nigret. Some Knights of St John who resided in Żurrieq include Mattia Preti, Jacob de Togares, Roevero de Guarena and Grand Masters Raffaele Cottoner and Zondadari (Guillaumier, 1987).
According to the historian Gian Franġisk Abela, the area of Żurrieq was popular for the industry of carpet, cape making, together with wicker basket making, the latter being highly sought all over the island. The Żurrieq people were also renounced for their ability in making pottery without the use of 'the wheel'. Due to the fact that our village is surrounded by sea and countryside, many people especially the sick used to move to this village (Terribile, 2004).
Guillaumier, A. (Ed) (1987). Iż-Żurrieq f'Bliet u Rħula Maltin. 35, (pp. 953 - 971). Valletta: Valletta Publishing and Promotions Co Ltd.
Terribile, T. (2004). Teżori fil-knejjes Maltin: Ħal Kirkop, l-Imqabba, il-Qrendi, Ħal Safi u ż-Żurrieq. Pietà: Publikazzjonijiet Indipendenza.