Town of Portsmouth
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
This is a map of Portsmouth, showing the old town and extending to cover Gosport. It dates from around 1552. The old town is shown in some detail, including the defences, buildings, streets, house plots and fields. The purpose of the plan seems to be to show the progress of the works that began in 1545 and finished in 1551. However, there are some differences between what this plan shows and what was eventually built. For example the bulwark adjacent to Guy’s Bastion appears here in a form that was not adopted. This suggests that the defences along the north-east wall show proposals and not completed works. The north east section of the plan is drawn in greater detail that other areas, supporting the idea that works here were still under consideration. Apart from Guy’s Bastion, the north-eastern defences were eventually built as this plan depicts, notably with a square bastion at the western end and an orillon -type bastion at the main gate.
The exact date of the map is uncertain but it was drawn sometime between works commencing in 1545 and 1563 when the Town Quay was rebuilt in a manner different to that presented here. In 1552 Portsmouth saw the arrival of John Rogers, the military engineer who came to survey the town and also King Edward VI, who professed himself to be unhappy with the state of the defences and ‘devised two strong castellis on either side of the Haven at the mouth thereof’.
It is likely that this plan is connected with these visits as it combines existing features and also proposals for future works and therefore a date of the early 1550’s can be suggested.