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A coloured chart of Falmouth Haven and the river Fal up to Truro; drawn 1590-1600

A coloured chart of Falmouth Haven and the river Fal up to Truro; drawn 1590-1600

Cartographer: Unknown

Date: 1597

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.i

Item number: f.37

Genre: Map

This sixteenth century drawing shows the layout of Falmouth harbour in Cornwall. It must have been drawn after the completion of Pendennis and St Mawes Castles in the 1540’s as these are depicted, although in a fanciful manner bearing little resemblance to the real structures. These castles were part of a defensive chain built by Henry VIII after a peace treaty was signed by Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain in 1538, making invasion of England probable. England and France were ancient enemies and the catholic Charles V, nephew of Catherine of Aragon, was angered by Henry VIII’s decision to divorce her. Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries provided him with enormous wealth with which he was able to commission surveys of the vulnerable coastline and build defence fortifications.
This drawing was probably executed to provide a record of this vulnerable area of the coast for defensive purposes. It is possible that this drawing may date from 1598 – 1599 when the military engineer Paul Ivey was responsible for strengthening St Mawes and Pendennis following the 1597 scare that the Spanish might direct an armada towards Falmouth Haven.
Pictorial depiction’s of castles, ships and sea monsters feature on this map which verges on the fanciful in its details, the naval battle in the top left is simply an embellishment.
In the bottom left hand corner is a clover leaf pattern that is in fact an accurate ground plan of St Mawes Castle. A later annotator may have drawn this in an attempt to correct the picturesque inaccuracy of its depiction in this drawing.

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