This drawing of the Dorset coast dates from 1539. It shows the defensive capacity of the county, depicting forts and gun towers as well as the network of beacons that run the length of the coastline. The defences depicted here probably include planned as well as existing fortifications. Defences were bolstered and built all along the south coast during this period as a response to the threat of invasion from King Francis I of France (1494–1547) and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain (1500–1550).
This particular map was made in 1539 under the auspices of Thomas Cromwell (b. in or before 1485, d. 1540), who had issued orders to the inhabitants of vulnerable, coastal areas to survey and report on the military condition of their counties. These surveys, which were often just sketches or even text, were sent to Greenwich where they were edited, compiled and copied out for presentation to King Henry VIII (1491–1547), who displayed them in Whitehall. Such large scale fortification planning is symptomatic of the growth in consciousness of the value of maps that occurred in the Tudor period. This map forms what is most likely to have been the original survey for a pictorial roll map measuring 10 feet long which contains information concerning the state of defences, detailing the distance between points along the coast and measurements at sea. The prominence given to beacons is notable, as are the manuscript notes detailing the various depths of water throughout.
- 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
- 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.