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Scilly Isles

Scilly Isles

Cartographer: Unknown

Medium: Ink on parchment

Date: 1558

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.ii

Item number: f.18

Length: 31.5

Width: 40.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript Map

This is a map of the Scilly Isles. It is not dated but the hand and lettering suggest that it was made during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
The Scilly Isles are a key strategic point in the defence or attack of Britain as they lie south west of the mainland at a distance of only 28 miles. This map shows the islands, named and marked with generic house and church symbols. Rocky outcrops are shown by rough triangles. Water levels at low tide are recorded in words, and in one place the draughtsman records that it is safe to ride between S.Mary.Yle and Arthur at low tide in a westerly wind.
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 did not allay Britain’s fears of further invasion attempts from Spain. In 1591 the Privy Council pointed out to Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, that the defence of the islands needed improvement. Subsequently Robert Adams was sent to view the islands. In May 1593 he was appointed as surveyor of works for a new fort that was to be built on St. Marys Isle. Work began on this fort in June 1593 and was finished by December. The fort was distinctive, forming in plan an eight pointed star, taking advantage of the offensive and defensive capacity of angular bastions. It was located on Hew Hill but is shown here suggesting that this map pre dates the building campaign.

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