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Hull f.85

Hull f.85

Cartographer: Browne, W.

Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment

Date: 1588

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.i

Item number: f.85

Genre: Map

This is a plan of the Tudor defence fortifications at Hull. It dates from around 1588. 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 the time that these defences were constructed and also at the time that this plan was drawn.
Built by Henry VIII to defend the vulnerable eastern side of the town these defences consisted of two large trefoil shaped ‘blockhouses’ or ‘bulwarks’ located opposite each end of the harbour, with a ‘castle’ between them. Connecting these fortresses was a crenellated wall almost half a mile long which would run parallel to the river. It was the intention to provide a system of defence which could be used against overland attack from the east, or naval invasion via the Humber, it would also control the new bridge over the river. The plan for these new works was decided by February 1542. It is likely that the scheme was the work of John Rogers as the bastions were of a similarly distinctive form to those recently built under his supervision in Guines. Stone for the works at Hull was taken from the recently demolished Meaux Abbey, seven miles to the north of Hull and also possibly from St Mary’s Church in Hull. Sir Richard Long and Michael Stanhope were accountable for the works. In December 1543 costs were given as £21,056 5s.6d in total. In 1552 the fortifications were handed over to the town by the government of Edward VI in an attempt to avoid the high cost of maintenance.
Under the rule of Elizabeth I threat of foreign invasion became a concern once more. The Anglo-Spanish relationship had been in steady decline since the accession of the protestant Elizabeth I. Raids on transatlantic shipping by English seamen such as Francis Drake and England’s support of the Protestant rebellion in the Spanish ruled Netherlands made matters worse and war broke out in 1585, culminating in the events of the Spanish Armada. Although the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English, England remained at war with Spain for many years and further attempts to invade were made by Philip of Spain with a ‘second Armada’ dispersed in October 1596. In this climate it was vital that coastal defences were in good condition. Unfortunately, since the government handed over the fortifications to the care of the town in 1552, they had deteriorated progressively and were in need of repair. It is likely that this plan was part of a survey of the state of coastal defence that was made during the late 1580’s when the threat of a Spanish invasion became likely. The plan shows that the castle had a rectangular central section with a pointed segmental bastion on either side and a rectangular keep in the centre. The two blockhouses were trefoil shaped in plan, with an additional square building on one side.

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