This is a map of Wiltshire by Christopher Saxton which dates from 1576. It forms part of an atlas that belonged to William Cecil Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State. Burghley used this atlas to illustrate domestic matters. This map is actually a proof copy of one which forms part of Christopher Saxton’s Atlas of England and Wales. This atlas was first published as a whole in 1579. It consists of 35 coloured maps depicting the counties of England and Wales. The atlas is of great significance to British cartography as it set a standard of cartographic representation in Britain and the maps remained the basis for English county mapping, with few exceptions, until after 1750. During the reign of Elizabeth I, map use became more common, with many government matters referring to increasingly accurate maps with consistent scales and symbols, made possible by advances in surveying techniques. Illustrating the increasing use of maps in government matters, Lord Burghley, who had been determined to have England and Wales mapped in detail from the 1550s, selected the cartographer Christopher Saxton to produce a detailed and consistent survey of the country. The financier of the project was Thomas Seckford Master of Requests at the Court of Elizabeth I, whose arms appear, along with the royal crest on each map .Lord Burghley has added several place names to the map. This map was engraved by Remigius Hogenbergius, one of a team of seven English and Flemish engravers employed to produce the copper plates for the atlas.
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Although this drawing was surveyed six years before the obligatory inclusion of archaeological sites on drawings, several are featured. The most famous of these is Stonehenge, to the right of the drawing. Ancient camps, earthworks, castles and grave mounds ('tumuli') pepper the area, indicated by concentric shapes and a title in neat script. Their inclusion reveals the meticulous nature of the survey. To the right of the drawing, opposite Wishford, a trigonometrical station is indicated by a dot within a circle (annotated 'Col. Mudge's station' - Major-General William Mudge was Superintendent of the Ordnance Survey). This station denotes a point from which angular measurements were taken. In the right hand margin of the drawing a point titled "End of Base" marks the end of the Salisbury Plain baseline: an important measurement allowing for the triangulation of the area.
This drawing highlights Bath and the River Avon. Major communication routes are coloured yellow/buff, according to military cartographic convention. Shading and 'hachuring' denote relief and give an overall impression of the undulating landscape. The Somerset Coal Canal is clearly visible leading into Bath. It was established by Act of Parliament in 1794 and welcomed by the mine owners of north Somerset as a cheaper way of transporting coal to Bath and the surrounding areas, curbing fears of an influx of Welsh coal. The canal was one of the most successful in the country, carrying over 100,000 tons of coal per year. That success was to be checked, however, by the expansion of the local rail network, in particular, the opening of the line between Radstock and Frome, which hastened the canal's closure in 1898. At the time of this survey, the canal was fully operational.
The small pencil markings at the edges of this drawing were used as reference points by the draughtsman from which to plot the area accurately. The road to Earl Stoke is marked "TG", meaning toll gate. The precision with which the survey records the road network is testimony to the military imperative of the Survey and is a major advance on earlier county maps. Running diagonally across the drawing is the Roman road from Bath, indicated by grey lines. The Kennet and Avon Canal and the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal are shown in aquamarine, with each lock recorded, most notably on the section leading into Devizes. The canals were opened in 1810 to better exploit the resources of the Somerset coalfield, and are therefore contemporary with the survey of this drawing. The paper is watermarked JAMES WHATMAN TURKEY MILL KENT 1807.
Several orientation points used to plot the survey appear at the edges of this drawing. The draughtsman has recorded the precise layout of the fir plantations at Everly, a chalk pit on Bushton Down, and the Roman road from Bath to Malborough, which is at the top of the drawing. The Kennet and Avon Canal also features. Opened in 1810 to better exploit the resources of the Somerset Coalfields, the canal is contemporary with the survey of this drawing. Extending from Shepherds Shore, a thick grey line is marked 'The Wansdyke'. This is a linear defensive earthwork dating from the 5th century. The area is rich is archaeological sites: Casterely Camp on Black Heath is a large hillfort. The paper is watermarked JAMES WHATMAN TURKEY MILL KENT 1807.
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The Avon barracks and battery are documented at the mouth of the River Severn, at the top of the map, protecting the Bristol Channel. Gravemounds ('Tumuli'), hill forts, ancient camps and antiquities are distinguished by the use of gothic lettering. The recording of archaeological details became obligatory in 1816. Quarries, kilns, mills, brickyards and pits dominate this industrial region of the West Midlands. According to a note in the Ordnance Survey Day Books, held in the National Archives, a one inch-to-the-mile reduction of this plan was delivered to Captain Gossett for engraving in the Drawing Office at the Tower of London in March 1830.