This 16th century drawing describes the Fal estuary in Cornwall, from Falmouth (the mouth of the river Fal) to Truro. The inclusion of Pendennis and St Mawes Castles suggest that the drawing was made after the 1540s, when the two castles were built. These castles formed part of a defensive chain built by King Henry VIII (1491–1547) after a peace treaty was signed by King Francis I of France (1494–1547) and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain (1500–1550) in 1538, making invasion of England probable.
This drawing was probably made as a record of this vulnerable area of the coast for defensive purposes. It is possible that this drawing may date from 1598–1599 when the military engineer Paul Ivey was responsible for strengthening St Mawes and Pendennis following the threat posed by the 3rd Spanish Armada to England, and the Cornish coast, in 1597. Despite the accurate plotting of key castles, towns and defensive structures on this map, much of the detail – including the depictions of the castles, and the naval battle in the top left – can only be described as fanciful. However, the clover leaf pattern in the bottom left hand corner is does represent an accurate ground plan of St Mawes Castle: though, a later hand may have drawn this in an attempt to correct the inaccuracy of its pictorial depiction in this drawing.
- Article by:
- Anthony Gerbino
- Military and maritime, Science and nature
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.
- 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.