This is a chart from the Cotton Manuscripts showing the Bristol Channel and the River Severn. Sandbanks in the River Severn are indicated by stippling and the anonymous draughtsman has labelled the ‘Channell betweene the groundes’. Figures along the banks record the distance in miles between the mouths of the river’s tributaries. Locations of note, such as ‘Bristowe’ (Bristol), Bath and ‘Cardyffe’ are represented by generalised perspective views of houses and churches.
The map is thought to date from 1595, reflecting the contemporary fear that the Spanish were planning to invade the Bristol Channel, rather than initiate a more obvious and direct attack via the English Channel. The Anglo-Spanish relationship had steadily deteriorated since the accession of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I in 1558. England’s support of the Protestant rebellion in the Spanish-ruled Netherlands as well as raids on transatlantic shipping by English seamen such as Francis Drake had brought tensions to a head, culminating in the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish in 1588.
Although the Spanish Armada was defeated, England remained at war with Spain for many years and further attempts to invade were made by Philip II. In 1595, the year this chart was produced, the Spanish attacked Mounts Bay, Newlyn and Penzance in Cornwall.
- Article by:
- Ann Payne
- Antiquarianism, Country, Transforming topography
Former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library Ann Payne provides an introduction to the scope and content of the extensive collections of topographical drawings at the British Library.