Held in the Cotton Manuscripts collection, this coloured bird's eye view of a “Castle in the Downs” dates from 1539. It is probably an early design for Deal Castle, one of a chain of castles along the south coast of England commission by King Henry VIII (1491–1547) to protect the Downs Anchorage and the “invasion coast”. Fortification of large sections of coast was carried out at this time because Henry VIII feared an invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain, who were united as a result of a treaty signed in 1538.
The dissolution of the monasteries had provided Henry with enormous wealth, and, as such, he was able to commission surveys of the vulnerable coastline in order to bolster and build defensive fortifications. When completed, Deal Castle resembled the emblem of the Tudor Rose. It is likely that this drawing came from the drawing office of the Hampton Court team responsible for the construction of the castles in the Downs. The Hampton Court team had previously been employed to design royal residences, and therefore, these early plans for defensive castles appear to have been made with domestic comfort, rather than military practicality in mind. However, subsequent castle designs did display a growth in understanding. Richard Benese was the surveyor at Deal, with William Clement and Christopher Dickenson working as master carpenter and master mason.
- Article by:
- Ann Payne
- Military and maritime
Documenting national defence was a key purpose of topographical drawings. Ann Payne explores examples of military art in the British Library’s collections.
- Article by:
- Anthony Gerbino
- Science and nature, Military and maritime
The first important transformation of English medieval design practice occurred in a military context, during the reign of Henry VIII. Pioneering plans, surveys and designs by leading Tudor engineers are housed in the British Library, particularly within Sir Robert Cotton’s manuscript collection. Anthony Gerbino, Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Manchester, explores further.