Marshlands and Townships in Norfolk
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
This is a map showing seven marshland townships in Norfolk. It is titled 'Descriptio illius partis comitate Norfolcii que iacet ex parte occidentale magni Ripe de Ouse . . . marshlande septem vilata videlicet Emneth. Walsooken. Walton. Walpoole. Clenchewarton. Terrington. St Clementii . . . ' and is thought to date from 1582.
This is one of the earliest larger-scale English maps drawn to a stated scale, and certainly the earliest measured map of the region. It is likely that it was commissioned by the government to distinguish rights of summer grazing on the Smeeth for the seven townships formerly owned by the Bishops of Ely and now belonging to the Queen and the Duke of Norfolk. Its decorative qualities also suggest that it was intended for display. Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely 1559-1580, had been an active reformer who had come into conflict with the Queen and also with Lord North and Sir Christopher Hatton. He resigned his See in February 1580 and died in July 1581. Elizabeth I took over the revenue of the estates which were administered from Canterbury. A new Bishop of Ely was not appointed until 1600. The map almost certainly dates from the period shortly after Cox's death, and was intended to establish the grazing-rights and fees of the estates the Queen had just acquired. Prick-marks suggest that copies were made directly from it, or that it was copied from an earlier map which has not survived.
The towns of Kings Lynn and Wisbech are shown in perspective. Houses, churches and windmills are also marked. Rivers and drainage ditches are depicted in blue, drove roads and pasture commons in green, and the Ouse estuary features five ships and a whale. The illustrated whale may be in commemoration of one which was sighted near Kings Lynn in 1555. The map is orientated with east to the top and cardinal points are inset into the decorated border.