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Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight

Cartographer: [Rudd, John]

Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment

Date: 1570

Shelfmark: Royal MS. 18. D.III

Item number: f.18

Length: 39.7

Width: 54.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Map

Map scale description: Scale bar 5" = 6 miles

This is a manuscript map of the Isle of Wight. It forms part of an atlas that belonged to William Cecil Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State. Burghley used this atlas to illustrate domestic matters. It is thought to be by John Rudd, the man to whom Christopher Saxton was an apprentice to in 1570. John Rudd was Vicar of Dewsbury from 1554 to 1570. Rudd had a keen interest in cartography and had been engaged in the 1550s in making a "platt" of England. In 1561 Rudd was granted leave to travel further to map the country and it is likely that Saxton accompanied him, acquiring his skills for surveying.
The map shows the Isle of Wight and the coast of Hampshire. By the end of the reign of Henry VIII this area was one of the most heavily defended areas in Northern Europe, the reason for this being the need to defend the vital navel base of Portsmouth and the access that could be gained to this via the Solent. Portsmouth was provided with defensive structures in the 1520’s, making them one of the earliest artillery defences in Britain. The angular lines of these defences are shown here.
The distinguishing feature of this map is that the many fortifications in the area are noted and that the draughtsman has recorded the actual architectural plans of the castles. The trefoil shape of Hurst castle is clearly delineated as is the rectangular and triangular bastioned outline of Southsea castle. Calshot castle is marked on the map as ‘Calsharde’. This fort was vital in that it controlled the entrance to Southampton water and linked defensively with the forts of East and West Cowes, located opposite Calshot on the Isle of Wight on either side of the Medina River, which provides access to the centre of the island. In the centre of the Isle, Carisbrooke castle is shown. The draughtsman has recorded the walled and roughly rectangular shape. Interestingly at St Helen’s a plan of a concentric segmented circular structure is shown. This may be a fortification built sometime between 1539 and 1552 to defend the landing, of which little is now known.

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