Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment
This map show the town of Hull, situated where the River Hull flows into the Humber Estuary. It is one of a series of plans which were drawn to show the condition of coastal defences in the late around 1539-40. Survey and fortification of large sections of coast was carried out at this time as Henry VIII feared an invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain. In 1538 Francis I of France, and Charles V Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain signed a peace treaty. This union gave rise to the possibility that France and Spain may combine forces to invade England. France was England’s historical enemy and Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon, Charles V’s aunt, had offended the militantly catholic King of Spain.
Hull is shown here as a walled town with defences to the north, south and west. However, the eastern side of the town, bordered by the River Hull, is largely unfortified leaving the town vulnerable to overland attack from the east or naval invasion from the Humber. The defensive features of the eastern side of the town are shown here and consist of only a single tower at the mouth of the river Hull and a chain. Hull, located on the east coast close to the Scottish border was of strategic importance as it could be used as a base for war against Scotland or the European Catholic powers that threatened England at this time.
The draughtsman has recorded the expanse of empty land on the opposite side of the River Hull that was later to be used to build the necessary fortifications. In October 1541 Henry VIII visited Hull and observed that the defences were inadequate. A fortification plan was accordingly drawn up. On the empty land shown here two large trefoil shaped ‘blockhouses’ or ‘bulwarks’ located opposite each end of the harbour, with a ‘castle’ between them were built. Connecting these fortresses was a crenellated wall almost half a mile long running parallel to the river.
The map is pictorial in style, a feature typical of Tudor maps, and depicts the town in great detail, even sketching in the layout of gardens. However it clearly illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the town as a strong hold and shows the land available to improve defences. Lines and figures record the distances between Hull and its neighbouring towns.