Marshlands and Townships in Norfolk
This is a map showing seven marshland townships in Norfolk. It is titled 'Descriptio illius partis comitate Norfolcii que iacet ex parte occidentale magni Ripe de Ouse . . . marshlande septem vilata videlicet Emneth. Walsooken. Walton. Walpoole. Clenchewarton. Terrington. St Clementii . . . ' and is thought to date from 1582. This is one of the earliest larger-scale English maps drawn to a stated scale, and certainly the earliest measured map of the region. It is likely that it was commissioned by the government to distinguish rights of summer grazing on the Smeeth for the seven townships formerly owned by the Bishops of Ely and now belonging to the Queen and the Duke of Norfolk. Its decorative qualities also suggest that it was intended for display. Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely 1559-1580, had been an active reformer who had come into conflict with the Queen and also with Lord North and Sir Christopher Hatton. He resigned his See in February 1580 and died in July 1581. Elizabeth I took over the revenue of the estates which were administered from Canterbury. A new Bishop of Ely was not appointed until 1600. The map almost certainly dates from the period shortly after Cox's death, and was intended to establish the grazing-rights and fees of the estates the Queen had just acquired. Prick-marks suggest that copies were made directly from it, or that it was copied from an earlier map which has not survived. The towns of Kings Lynn and Wisbech are shown in perspective. Houses, churches and windmills are also marked. Rivers and drainage ditches are depicted in blue, drove roads and pasture commons in green, and the Ouse estuary features five ships and a whale. The illustrated whale may be in commemoration of one which was sighted near Kings Lynn in 1555. The map is orientated with east to the top and cardinal points are inset into the decorated border.
1 : 31680 This plan covers part of East Anglia, with the town of Wisbech depicted at lower left. The Great Ouse estuary, depicted near top right, served as a way into the Port of Wisbech until it became so silted up that the river was diverted into the sea at Kings Lynn. Drains across fens and marshland are highlighted in blue. These date from the 17th century, when James I appointed Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden to direct the drainage of the fens wetlands. Many local people opposed the scheme as the plan involved commonland on which they grazed cattle. As a result of Vermuyden's work, the Fens changed radically in appearance, from an area of flooded marshes to one of extensively farmed agricultural land. Yeakell, Thomas Jr.