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Henry VIII’s coastal defence maps

Henry VIII’s coastal defence maps

Shelfmark: Cotton Ms. Augustus I i, 35, 36, 38, 39

In February 1539 Thomas Cromwell ordered certain ‘sadde and expert men of every shire in Ingland beyng nere the see… to viewe all the places alongest the secost wher any daunger of invasions ys like to be and to certifie the sayd daungers and also best advises for the fortificacion thereof’. 

The information was sent to court in the form of sketch plans as well as text. In Greenwich it was compiled into attractive maps that would have appealed to Henry. In order to emphasise the areas at risk of enemy landings, the mapmaker exaggerates the size of the beaches and reduces the size of the cliffs. Defensive measures include real and proposed forts with cut out church towers and beacons for conveying the news of an invasion to court. 

The map was probably explained to Henry personally and annotated to reflect decisions, such as the positions for additional blockhouses.

Clips from the Channel 4 series 'Henry VIII: The mind of a tyrant'

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