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Estate Map of Smallburgh, Norfolk

Estate Map of Smallburgh, Norfolk

Cartographer: Darby, John

Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment

Date: 1582

Shelfmark: Maps Dep. 1741

Item number: f. 1

Length: 102.2

Width: 173

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Plan

This is a map of the parish of Smallburgh in Norfolk. It dates from 1582 and is the work of John Darby, who was active as a map maker between 1582 and 1594. It is significant as it is one of the first English local maps to be drawn to a consistent scale. It is in unusually good condition which is probably due to it never having been displayed because of its unfinished status, there is no title, several field name panels are left blank and some decoration is only in pencil. In addition to these omissions there is no numerical or alphabetical key to the terrier, the written register of plots, that with the information it contained of acreage’s, tenants and leases, would have been indispensable for the practical management of the estate.
The map was made for Edward Park, 10th Lord of Morley, who had only regained his lands in 1578, some four years prior to the creation of this map. The lands had been confiscated from his father the 9th Baron Morley, a Catholic accused of treason in 1572. It is likely that the map was intended as a celebration of Lord Morely’s regained possession of the lands and that it would have been, if finished, displayed as a proclamation of his wealth and triumph in the face of adversity. The decorative qualities of the map can thus be explained. It includes an unusual wealth of animals, people and country pursuits. It is not unusual for scenes of this nature to be included as a tradition for including images of seasonal rural activities exists in maps and manuscripts, such as the Luttrell Psalter. What is unusual however is that rather than depicting seasonal activities, this map depicts scenes that are specific to the fenland area that is mapped.
The figure of the traveller with a monkey on his shoulder could be an allusion to Lord Morley’s father who, having been evicted from his lands, spent the remainder of his life wandering the Continent, being recorded in Valenciennes, Brussels and Bruges in 1570. These decorative details show how maps could be highly personal articles with hidden meanings as well as practical tools for land administration. This map was annotated in 1762 to record minor changes in the shape of the plots of land and the course of the stream that runs through the parish, showing that it was used as a functional record, even almost 200 years after its creation

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