Heritage100

Saxton’s Map of Hampshire, 1575

Saxton’s Map of Hampshire 1575

Saxton’s maps are attractive works of art in their own right

Christopher Saxton published the first County map of Hampshire in 1575.

By the 1570s there was an urgent need for a complete and accurate survey of the realm, both for the purpose of efficient administration and for national defence. Christopher Saxton was commissioned to survey the whole of England and Wales, county by county, and was supplied with an open letter from the court of Elizabeth I requesting assistance from landowners and local community leaders.

Saxton managed to survey the whole of England and Wales in less than 10 years, a remarkably short space of time given the somewhat rudimentary equipment available. 

Apart from its interest to cartographers, Saxton’s maps are attractive works of art in their own right. The plates for printing the maps were engraved in the Netherlands and sent back to England for printing, the colours were then applied by hand.

The Hampshire map was one of the first to be published. Major settlements are named and significant features such as rivers, bridges and woodland are all represented, with hills marked in profile. Maps at this time were not considered to be of value as a means of travelling from A to B, and therefore roads are not shown.

Quick Facts

  • Accession number HMCMS:FA2002.79
  • Dimensions Width 49.5cm, Height 42.5cm
  • Date made 1575
  • Medium paper, printed, hand coloured, watercolour
  • Surveyed by Christopher Saxton
  • Made in London
  • Engraved by Leonard Terwoort
  • Plates engraved in Antwerp, Belgium (then known as The Netherlands)
  • Map of Hampshire

Facts

  • Little is known about Saxton’s early life, except that he was a native of Wakefield in Yorkshire and was born in the 1540s. He was fortunate enough to gain as a patron Thomas Seckford, who held an important position working for William Cecil, Lord Burghley, at the Court of Elizabeth I 
  • Purchasers of the maps, either as single copies or in the Atlas, would have been expressing their interest in the new sciences, so ownership was as much a statement of intellectual attainment and prestige as an expression of interest in the local topography.
  • Saxton was rewarded with a gift of land and the right to a coat of arms by Elizabeth I, who also granted him an early form of copyright giving him exclusive rights to reproduce and sell the maps for 10 years from 1577. It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that copies of Saxton’s maps were made and sold for at least the next 200 years.

Did you know?

Christopher Saxton was the first of the great English mapmakers who founded the modern science of cartography in the 16th century. Saxton’s 34 maps of the individual counties were published in the Atlas of England and Wales in 1579; the first national atlas of provincial maps in the world.

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