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A coloured chart of Portsmouth Harbour, Spithead, and part of the Isle of Wight, on a scale of one mile to an inch

A coloured chart of Portsmouth Harbour, Spithead, and part of the Isle of Wight, on a scale of one mile to an inch

Author: William Cecil, Lord Burghley

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1585

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.i

Item number: f.27

Genre: Map

This is a map of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight dating from 1585. It has been annotated by William Cecil Lord Burghley, Secretary of State to Elizabeth I, who has added the names "Westburhunt" and "Chichest". Burghley was an avid map collector and his application of geographical knowledge to matters of government is well known. Three beacons are indicated on 'Portesdowne', showing the systems in place for alerting the locality in an invasion scenario. Either side of these beacons are red windmill symbols named "westmyll" and "estmill", two further windmills, again highlighted in red, lie towards the centre of the map. It is likely that these have been highlighted due to their height which would facilitate their use as vantage points or beacons. There is a scale bar indicating a scale of one inch to a mile.
Portsmouth became the focus of a new program of defensive works in 1584. Since the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth I to the English throne in 1558 Anglo-Spanish relationship had deteriorated. The continued English raids on Spanish colonial interests and England’s support of the Protestant rebellion in the Spanish ruled Netherlands had induced the Catholic Philip II to plan an invasion of England.
It is likely that this map, detailing the beacons in the area, was produced for military purposes connected with the strengthening of the defences for the Portsmouth area against the expected Spanish Invasion.

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