A coloured chart of "The coste of England uppon Severne," being the whole north coast of Somersetshire; with the forts erected thereon; temp. Henry VIII ca. 1540
This is a pictorial representation of the north coast of Somerset. It shows the coast from the mouth of the River Avon near East Bristol to west Porlock and can be dated to 1539. At the top of the drawing round towers represent proposed blockhouses in the neighbourhoods of Porlock and Western-super-Mare on the north coast of Somerset. The intention to mount guns on platforms at Minehead and to the north of the Parrat is also represented in this drawing. Inlets are indicated and towns are shown schematically, an emphasis on the nature of the coast is evident as the draughtsman has recorded outcrops of rocks. The existence of this drawing and the proposals it contains can be imputed the threat of invasion which became probable in 1538 after a peace treaty was signed by Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor King of Spain. England and France were ancient enemy’s and the Catholic Charles V, nephew of Catherine of Aragon, was angered by Henry VII’s decision to divorce her. In the event, the works proposed here were not carried out. The paper upon which this map is drawn bears a watermark of a double headed eagle bearing a shield.
This map of Somerset is from the 1583 edition of the Saxton 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 used of maps in government matters, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State, 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. The decorative scale bar houses Saxton’s name and the name of the engraver Leonardus Terwoort, one of seven English and Flemish engravers employed to produced the copper plates for the atlas. Relief, in the form of uniform rounded representations of hills, is the main topographical feature presented in the maps. Rather than provide a scientific representation of relative relief these give a general impression of the lie of the land. Settlements and notable buildings are also recorded pictorially; a small building with a spire represents a village, while more important towns are indicated by groups of building. The county border are differentiated by different coloured shading. In neighbouring Wiltshire Longleat estate is marked. At the time this map was first engraved Longleat was still being built by Sir John Thynn and was not finished until 1580, the year after the maps publication. This perhaps is reflected in the somewhat modest appearance of the house and gardens? Saxton, Christopher Ryther, Augustine
Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary
This is a chart showing the Bristol Channel and the River Severn. Sandbanks in the River Severn are indicated by stippling and the draughtsman has indicated the ‘Channell betweene the groundes’. The tributries of the Severn are indicated and figures along the banks record the distance in miles between their mouths. Locations of note, such as Bristol, Bath and Newport are represented by generalised perspective views of houses and churches. The map is thought to date from 1595, reflecting the fear that the Spanish were planning to invade the Bristol Channel in the 1590’s, rather than initiate a more obvious and direct attack via the English Channel. The Anglo- Spanish relationship had steadily deteriorated since the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth I. Raids on transatlantic shipping by English seamen such as Francis Drake and England’s support of the Protestant rebellion in the Spanish ruled Netherlands had brought tensions with Spain to a crescendo culminating in the events of the Spanish Armada. Although the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English in 1588, England remained at war with Spain for many years and further attempts to invade were made by Philip II. In 1595, the year this chart was produced, the Spanish attacked Mounts Bay, Newlyn and Penzance.