Untold lives blog

15 posts categorized "Maps"

22 September 2020

The truth behind the myth: the colonial legacy of the Mayflower voyage - No.1 English colonisation of North America prior to 1620

This month marks a pivotal moment in English colonial and North American history: the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing to North America in 1620.

Approximately one third of the passengers on board the Mayflower were English separatists who wanted to make a living in the profitable ‘New World’ away from religious restrictions.  They are known euphemistically as the Pilgrim Fathers of the United States of America, and are mythologised today as symbols of religious freedom.  They have become a central theme in the United States of America’s founding story.

The settlers founded Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts and what was then Wampanoag land.  Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoags, had no choice but to sign a peace treaty with the invaders.

Jamestown and Plymouth were the first of many English colonies in North America and the Caribbean.  This was driven by the pursuit of economic profit and the fight for influence amidst other European powers.

The consequences of colonisation were grave for everybody who was not European. Native Americans were devastated by disease, the buying out of land and violent conflict. The racial enslavement and transportation of African people to work on colonial plantations became endemic and horribly profitable.

More colonists wanted

The English Virginia Company established the colony of Jamestown in 1607 on Paspahegh land.  The Powhatan Confederacy, a collective of Algonquian peoples that included the Paspahegh, resisted English colonial establishment and expansion for many years in the Anglo-Powhatan Wars (1610-1646).

The settlers defeated the Powhatan Confederacy but they did struggle in the early years of the colony.  No crops were planted in the first year and supply ships either brought more hungry settlers or failed to arrive at all.   There were many fatalities from 1609 to 1610, a period known as the starving time.  The colony desperately needed more settlers.

An advert printed in London by the Virginia Company in 1609 calling for people to sign up.

For the Plantation in Virginia, 1609, C.18.e.1(63) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

This is an advert printed by the Virginia Company calling for people to sign up, giving no indication that Jamestown was on the brink of collapse.


Native Americans as seen through European colonial eyes

Picture entitled ‘A weroan or great Lorde of Virginia’ showing two men with bows and arrows, with text describing these 'Princes' of Virginia‘A weroan or great Lorde of Virginia’ Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Picture and text explaining the manner of making boats by Native Americans in Virginia, hollowing out tree trunks‘The manner of making their boates’ Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Engravings by Theodor de Bry in Thomas Harriot’s A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, 1590. C.38.i.18

These engravings are the only surviving visual record of the Native Americans encountered by England’s first colonists.

Although stylised, they depict the Secota, Roanoke and Pomeiooc peoples of North-Carolina and their settlements. De Bry based his engravings on the watercolours of John White, a member of the short-lived Roanoke Colony, who drew from life the Carolina Algonquian people in that area.

These images played a central role in shaping European conceptions about the so-called New World and its inhabitants.


How New England became New England

Map of New England unfolded from a book, first printed in 1616Map from John Smith, New England’s Trials, 1622, G.7197 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

This map, first printed in 1616, marks the first time that New England was called New England.

It was named by John Smith, the coloniser famous for his association with Matoaka, the Powhatan woman who was captured and held for ransom by colonists during the First Anglo-Powhatan War.  She is known today as Pocahontas.

John Smith’s book is essentially a promotional brochure about North America’s riches and natural resources.  The then Prince Charles (who became Charles I in 1626) renamed the Native American places with English alternatives, erasing their people’s history and culture.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

 

30 July 2020

Sir Andrew Scott Waugh and the naming of Everest

In a letter from Charles Canning, Governor General and Viceroy of India to Lord Elgin, dated 2 October 1861, he writes that Lady Canning has set out on a trip to Darjeeling and that she talks of going into Sikkim to see the highest mountain in the world – ‘Deodunga or Mount Everest as the Surveyors have barbarously christened it’.

Guarinsankar  or Mount Everest  in the Himalaya of NepalGuarinsankar, or Mount Everest, in the Himalaya of Nepal from Results of a Scientific Mission to India and High Asia, undertaken between the years 1854 and 1858, by order of the Court of Directors of the Honourable East India Company, by H., A. and R. de Schlagintweit Shelfmark1899.a.8  BL - Images Online 

How did ’Mount Everest’ get its name?

The surveying of Everest was carried out under the auspices of Major General Sir Andrew Scott Waugh, Sir George Everest’s successor as both Surveyor General of India, and Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.  Waugh was born into an Indian military family in 1810. He was appointed a cadet in the East India Company in 1827, and joined the Bengal Engineers.  He was assigned to the GTS in 1832.

Page from Andrew Scott Waugh's East India Company cadet application papers - a glowing report from his schoolmasterPage from Andrew Scott Waugh's East India Company cadet application papers - a glowing report from his schoolmaster IOR/L/MIL/9/166 f.239 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Trigonometrical Survey had been instituted in 1802 by the East India Company to survey scientifically the entire Indian subcontinent.  Initially it was thought that India could be surveyed in five years: in reality, it was to take seventy.  From 1823, the GTS was under the superintendence of George Everest, and he appointed Waugh to the service.  When Everest retired in 1843, he nominated his protégé to succeed him.

By the late 1830s, the Great Trigonometrical Survey reached the Himalayan region.  Foreigners were not allowed to enter Nepal, so observations were taken from Terai.  By 1847, Waugh and his team had noted that a mountain known as ‘Peak B’ appeared higher than Kangchenjunga, the then ‘highest mountain in the world’.  Calculations and observations continued, with the mountain rechristened ‘Peak XV’.  By 1852, the GTS’s talented mathematician or ‘Chief Computer’ Radhanath Sikdar established beyond doubt that the peak was indeed the highest mountain.  It was normal for the GTS to use local names as far as possible when naming peaks.  In this instance, Waugh stated “But here is a mountain, most probably the highest in the world, without any local name that we can discover, or whose native appellation, if it have any, will not very likely be ascertained before we are allowed to penetrate into Nepaul and to approach close to this stupendous snowy mass”.  He went on to suggest ‘Mount Everest’ as a suitable epithet, a name that was finally confirmed by the Royal Geographical Society in 1865.

Photograph of Sir George EverestPhotograph of Sir George Everest by Camille Silvy, 28 July 1862. NPG Ax60654 © National Portrait Gallery, London National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence


So, was the mountain ‘nameless’?  It is true that it was difficult to establish a definitive local name.  However, its Tibetan name Qomolangma (or Chomolungma) had been recorded in 18th century maps.  In Darjeeling, it was called Deodungha, meaning Holy Mountain, a name championed by Brian Houghton Hodgson, the naturalist and previous Resident to Nepal.  Even Sir George Everest made objections.  He had never seen the mountain, was not involved in its discovery, and pointed out that his name was difficult to pronounce in Hindi.  Interestingly, he appears to have pronounced his name ‘E-vrest’ rather than ‘Ever-est’.

Andrew Scott WaughPortrait of Andrew Scott Waugh by William Glynn c. 1857 British Library Photo 139/1(3)

Andrew Scott Waugh received the Royal Geographical Society’s gold medal in 1856, and was elected to the Royal Society in 1858.  He retired in 1861, having been promoted to Major General and knighted in the same year.  He died in South Kensington in 1877.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Mss Eur F699 Papers of Charles Canning and Charlotte Canning, Earl and Countess Canning:
Mss Eur F699/1/3/2/53, item 2623 - correspondence from Sir Andrew Scott Waugh, including his memorials, and letters in praise of Sir George Everest; Mss Eur F699/1/1/2/1, letter 31 - Charles Canning to Lord Elgin, 2 October 1861.
IOR/L/MIL/9/166/232-39: Cadet papers of Andrew Scott Waugh.
Paper read by Andrew Scott Waugh to the Royal Geographical Society on 12 May 1857, reported in Illustrated London News, 15 August 1857, p.170.
John Keay, The Great ARC: The Dramatic Tale of How India was Mapped and Everest was Named (2000).
General J. T. Walker, ‘A Last Note on Mont Everest’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, Vol. 8, No. 4 (April 1886), pp. 257-263.

 

23 April 2019

Map showing Air Force of the USSR, 1939

In a previous blog post, I noted that the files of the India Office contain many different kinds of maps, although not always of India.  Another fascinating example, marked ‘Secret’, is a map showing the strength and distribution of USSR Air Forces in 1939.

Cover of file on the order of battle of the Red Air Force IOR/L/WS/1/130 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The map is in a file in the series of War Staff Papers in the India Office Records on the subject of the order of battle of the Red Air Force.  The War Staff was a section within the Military Department of the India Office, formed by the Military Secretary on the outbreak of war in 1939.  Routine military matters continued to be dealt with as normal by Military Department staff, while all administrative arrangements relating to the war were handled by the War Staff.

Distribution map of Soviet Air Force IOR/L/WS/1/130 Distribution map of Soviet Air Force Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The situation in the summer of 1939 would have looked very bleak indeed and the drift towards war seemingly unstoppable.  On 23 August 1939, a German Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was signed in Moscow by Soviet foreign minister Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.  In September 1939, Germany and Russia invaded Poland, dividing the country between them.  Information on the strength and position of the enemy’s armed forces was therefore vital in defence preparations.  However, access to information was tightly controlled and the first page of the file lists the names of those who were to see it. 

Document about Central Asiatic Military DistrictIOR/L/WS/1/130 Central Asiatic Military District Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The file contains tables of information analysing the strength of the Russian air force, such as the number and type of aircraft, and where they were stationed.  The map accompanies this analysis, and understandably shows the bulk of the Russian air force stationed along the European border.  However, the India Office would presumably have been particularly interested in the 58 aircraft stationed at Tashkent, and the 105 aircraft stationed at Baku, the places closest to India’s northern border.

Detail of map showing European borderIOR/L/WS/1/130 Detail of map showing European border Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Detail of map showing Indian border IOR/L/WS/1/130 Detail of map showing Indian border Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
USSR: Order of battle of the Red Air Force, 1939 [Reference IOR/L/WS/1/130]

 

19 April 2018

The Plans, Maps and Views of Lieutenant-General William Skinner, Chief Engineer of Great Britain

Born to a merchant in St Kitts in the Caribbean, William Skinner (1700-1780) lost his parents at a young age and was adopted by his Aunt and her new husband Captain Talbot Edwards, Chief Engineer in Barbados and the Leeward Islands.

Skinner was educated at military colleges in Paris and Vienna and received his warrant as practitioner engineer in 1719. By 1757 he had risen through the ranks to become Colonel William Skinner, Chief Engineer of Great Britain, and in 1770 he was made Lieutenant-General.

Watercolour view of Newfoundland from the seaA View in Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 26)

At the British Library we hold Skinner’s personal collection of maps, plans, surveys and views (Add MS 33231-33233) which show the variety of places where he worked throughout his career, as well as giving an insight into the working process of a military engineer in the 18th century. 

From the start of his career Skinner was sent all over the world.  He became known as an authority on fortifications, and worked on important projects including the building of fortifications on Menorca and surveying Gibraltar, where he later served as Director of Engineering.

A View of the South Front of the Mountain of GibraltarA View of the South Front of the Mountain of Gibraltar (Maps K.Top.72.48.d.)

After the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Skinner was asked to lead a major project to build fortifications in the Highlands. Fort George, built on the sea front north-east of Inverness, was finally completed in 1769 and is still in use today.

Colour plan of Fort St GeorgeA Plan of Fort George (Maps K.Top.50.33.)

Skinner became Chief Engineer in 1757, just after the Seven Years War (1756-1763) had begun, and many projects that he worked on at this time were as a result of this conflict. In 1761 Skinner was sent to Belle Île in France, which had been captured by the British in order to have a base from which to attack the French mainland. General Studholme Hodgson who had led the raid on the island, complained about ‘the set of wretches I have for engineers’, at which point Skinner was brought in to survey the defences and provide accommodation and shelter for the Armed Forces which had been left to hold the island.

Plan of the Citadel and Part of the Town of Palais Belle-IslePlan of the Citadel and Part of the Town of Palais Belle-Isle (Add MS 33232, f. 3)

As Chief Engineer all military building projects needed to be submitted for his approval. One such project was the building of fortifications around St John’s in Eastern Newfoundland. This area had been reclaimed from the French in 1762 after the Battle of Signal Hill, which was the final battle of the Seven Years War in North America.

watercolour View of Conception Bay, NewfoundlandA View of Conception Bay, Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 34)

William Skinner died on Christmas Day 1780. He kept on working right up until the end of his life, and had passed on his engineering talent to his grandson, who worked successfully as an engineer in the US.

All the items from Skinner’s collection are available to be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms, and one of his views of Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 34) can currently be seen in our Treasures Gallery.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Catalogue links:

Maps and Plans, chiefly of fortifications or surveys for military purposes, Add MS 33231 A-PP
Surveys of Belle Isle, France, and plans and sections of its fortifications during the British occupation after its capture in 1761, Add MS 33232
Views of fortifications and landscapes, Add MS 33233

 

01 February 2018

'A Prospect of Fort St.George and Plan of the city of Madras'

The 'Prospect of Fort St.George’  was commissioned by  Thomas Pitt, governor 1698-1709, but was only completed after his death in 1726. The sheet consists of both a prospect (a bird’s eye view sketch of the civic buildings) and an urban plan. The map represents west at the top rather than the left of the sheet, is superbly detailed and very large - over 1 metre wide and ⅔ metre high.

A prospect of Fort St. George and Plan of the City of Madras

All images are taken from Bodleian Library Gough Maps 41 No. 138 – ‘A prospect of Fort St. George and Plan of the City of Madras actually surveyed by order of the late Governr. T. Pitt ...’ c.1730. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library.

Fort St. George was, in origin, essentially a fort. The inner citadel was built in 1640, the outer wall and four bastions by 1659, primarily as protection from the ‘inland Enemy’, variously Mughal generals, nawabs, and the rulers of Golconda.  Visitors approved of the fortifications’ height and thickness, although Andrew Cogan was summoned to explain why he had ‘extravagantly and irresponsibly built Fort St George when the Company’s stock was so small’.

The English population in Madras was very small: under 200 at the end of 1699 with 30 servants of the Company, 35 free merchants, and 38 seafaring men not constant inhabitants of the town. There were 14 widows, 10 single young women and 22 wives. The ‘native’ population of the Presidency was however estimated at 300,000 and their influx for work made Madras  a rapidly expanding town. The street names reflect the very active commerce in cloths: Comatee is the Telugu for ‘trader’, and Chitee was a member of any one of the trading castes in southern India.

Let's take a look at some of the features of the plan:

Anchorage at MadrasAnchorage at Madras for large ocean-going Indiamen was always problematic.  Ships had to anchor some way from shore, and narrow lighters beat the ferocious surf. 
 

Plan of White TownWhite Town

Plan of Black TownBlack Town

Each community had its own space with a burying ground.  The most basic division of social space was that between Black Town and White Town (reserved for Europeans). Workers such as weavers were actively sought after by the town’s governor, but others came by themselves to avoid the arbitrary rule of the sultans of Golconda.

  Plan of  Inner and Outer Gardens
The Inner and Outer Gardens were complemented by the New Gardens in the 1680s, complete with ceremonial garden houses and a pavilion. Pitt was a keen horticulturist. Visitors commented on the variety and healthiness of the guavas, oranges, mangos, grapes, lemons and coconuts grown. 

  Governor's House


Governor’s House, on three storeys, crenelated into a three-part façade including a central projection, was built in 1693 close on the seaboard walls.

 

Plan of neighbourhood of Muttial PetaThe northern neighbourhood of Muttial Peta was a spillover area populated by urban artisans, such as goldsmiths and blacksmiths, which developed as New Black Town (George Town) in the 1750s.
 

Choultry Street Choultry Street (outside the Choultry Gate) was a place for transacting public business, and included the courts of law.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church

 

St Andrew's ChurchSt Andrew's Church

St Mary’s was the chief Anglican church, sometimes jokingly called Westminster Abbey in the East. It was consecrated in 1680 but only received a spire in 1710. Capuchin friars ministered to the Roman Catholic ‘Portuguese’ population in St. Andrew's church until it was torn down after the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle (1748).

   

HospitalThe hospital was purpose built in 1692 and rebuilt in 1710. It was later demolished for defensive reasons because its height was considered excessive.

  The MintThe Mint. Madras’ production of its own coins has prompted discussion about the nature of its sovereignty some time before the idea of empire was consciously put into action by the British.

  Sea GateThe Sea Gate. Here the keys of the town were handed to the French after the infamous surrender of 1746; here too, returning ships and cargoes were sold at packed, pre-announced auctions.
 
Stefan Halikowski Smith
Department of History, Swansea University

Further reading:
University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Gough Maps 41 No.138 – ‘A prospect of Fort St. George and Plan of the City of Madras actually surveyed by order of the late Governor T. Pitt ...’ c.1730.
British Library Maps 54570.(27.) is a collotype reduction from the original document in the Bodleian Library.
British Library - P2524 John Harris, Original copper plate for engraving 'A Prospect of Fort St George', Madras, used in Thomas Pitt's prospect and map of Madras in the Bodleian Library. c 1710. Also P363 - a modern printing of the Prospect  taken in July 1970.

Brimnes, Niels. Constructing the colonial encounter: Right and left-hand castes in early colonial South India (Richmond, 1999).
Fryer, John.  A new account of East-Indian and Persia, in eight letters. Being nine years travels, begun 1672. And finished 1681 (London, 1698).
Hamilton, Alexander. A new Account of the East Indies, (Edinburgh, 1727), 2 vols.
Lockyer, Charles. An account of the trade in India, containing rules for good government in trade, … with descriptions of Fort St. George, …, Malacca, Condore, Canton, Anjengo, …, Gombroon, Surat, Goa, Carwar, Telichery, Panola, Calicut, the Cape of Good-Hope, and St. Helena. Their inhabitants, customs, religion, government, animals, fruits, &c. To which is added, an account of the management of the Dutch in their affairs in India (London, 1711).
Love, Henry. Vestiges of Old Madras, 1600-1800, 4 vols. (London, 1913).
Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, ed. Rao Srinivasachari, (O.U.P. 1939)
Muthiah, Subbiah. Madras discovered: A historical guide to looking around (Madras, 1981)
Srinivasachari, C.S. History of the city of Madras (Madras, 1939)
Stern, Philip J.  The company-state : corporate sovereignty and the early modern foundation of the British Empire in India, O.U.P. 2011.

 

27 April 2017

Picturing Places - Taking a wider view?

Think of the British Library’s collections - it is probably books rather than prints and drawings which come to mind.  Think of Gainsborough, Constable or Turner:  do you picture Sublime, imaginary paintings rather than ‘topographical’, place-specific prints and drawings?

The eruption of Vesuvius

33.h.7.: Peter Fabris, The eruption of Vesuvius, from Supplement to the Campi Phelgraei (1779) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Picturing Places, a new free online resource launched today by the British Library, aims to widen perceptions of both the British Library’s holdings and topographical art.

Interior view of the east end of Netley Abbey near Southampton

Maps K.Top.14.83.e.: Anonymous, Interior view of the east end of Netley Abbey near Southampton (about 1790-1810) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Rather than seeing topography as marginal compared to the landscapes in oils or watercolours by the canon of ‘great artists’ or more imaginative and Sublime images, Picturing Places celebrates images of specific places in the graphic arts, sparking a lively debate around nationhood, identity, and cultural value.

Panorama of Ratisbon (Regensburg)

Panorama of Ratisbon (Regensburg)

Add MS 36486 C: George Scharf, Panorama of Ratisbon (Regensburg) (1845) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The British Library holds the world’s most extensive and important collection of British topographic materials: from handwritten notes by antiquarians to rare first editions, extra-illustrated books and unique compilations of plates, text and drawings by named collectors, the British Library is a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in the intersections between place, art, representation and history.  The full extent and depth of the collections are only now being properly recognised and explored. 

A service in Bath Abbey (1788)

Add MS 15546, f.101: Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, A service in Bath Abbey (1788) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Picturing Places explores the Library’s extensive holdings of landscape imagery and showcases works of art by well-known artists such as J.M.W. Turner alongside images by a multitude of lesser-known figures.  Only a few have ever been seen or published before, as historically, the British Library’s prints and drawings have been overlooked by scholars.  The material in these extensive collections reflect the scholarly and artistic practices of earlier eras when images and texts would have been seen as more closely equivalent.  They have been neglected due both to the overwhelming volume of material and the perception of their relative ‘insignificance’ in the context of a national library where text has always taken precedence. 

Stonehenge

746.e.2.: Robert Wallis after JMW Turner, Stonehenge, from Picturesque Views in England and Wales (1829) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

While landscape images have often been treated as accurate records of place, this website reveals for the first time the many different stories involved – about travel and empire, science and exploration, the imagination, history and observation.

The ruins of Killaru, Islay (1772)

Add MS 15509, f.11: John Cleveley, junior, The ruins of Killaru, Islay (1772) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Picturing Places is an outcome of a current British Library research project, Transforming Topography, which we began in 2013 with a research workshop sponsored by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.   We have partnered with other institutions such as the Royal Collection and British Museum and with academics worldwide.  93 authors representing emerging and established experts in fields such as art history, history, cultural geography and geography are currently involved, and we have 108 essays now being processed for publication.  Films from the Library’s 2016 Transforming Topography conference exploring the depiction of place are also available, providing revelatory insights about the history of landscape imagery.

Keep an eye on Picturing Places and  @bl_prints for updates as the project progresses.

Felicity Myrone
Lead Curator, Western Prints & Drawings

 

06 June 2016

Making stale and nauseous water sweet!

An advertisement was sent to the Secretary of the East India Company in 1763 about the intended publication of a series of engravings of the Battle of Havana.  The views were to be taken from sketches drawn in 1762 by ‘the Inventor of the Machine for reducing stale and nauseous Water, sweet’. 

IOR E 1 45 f.470

 Advertisement sent to the East India Company in 1763, IOR/E/1/45 f.470 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The artist and inventor was Elias Durnford (1739-1794), a civil engineer with the British Army, who is better known for his role surveying and developing a town plan for Pensacola in Florida.

Durnford was born in 1739 in Ringwood, Hampshire, the eldest son of Elias Durnford senior.  He trained as a civil engineer under John Peter Desmaretz of the drawing office in the Tower of London.  Appointed ensign in the Royal Engineers in March 1759, he served with the Royal Navy at the battle of Havana in 1762.  Durnford was appointed aide-de-camp to Lord Albemarle and was asked to draw a series of sketches of the battle, which were later published as announced in the advert. After Cuba, Durnford was sent to Florida as chief engineer and surveyor, where he was responsible for drawing up the town plans for Pensacola. In 1769 he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor, an appointment he held until 1778.

During his time in America, Durnford also designed a plan for a canal to run from the Mississippi to the town of Mobile. If it had been implemented the scheme would have been the first canal in America.  As well as potentially bringing new trade and settlement, the canal could perhaps have changed the course of the War. Military and political difficulties at the time however meant the proposal was never properly considered.

Plan of Mobile, 1763

Maps K.Top.122.94.1 Plan of Mobile, 1763 Images Online  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Durnford was still living in Florida at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War and was given command of Fort Charlotte at Mobile, a town near his estates. Durnford was heavily outnumbered during the war but refused to surrender the fort, believing relief would come from Pensacola. He eventually surrendered in March 1780 after having safely negotiated safe passage home for the English residents, and protection from persecution for the locals who had assisted him. His estates and plantation were however burned to the ground.

Pensacola maps_k_topCoastline of Pensacola as seen from the sea, 1763 _122_97

Maps K.Top.122.97 Coastline of Pensacola as seen from the sea, 1763 Images Online Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

On returning to England Durnford worked on the ‘Makers Height’ defences at Plymouth Docks, before being appointed Chief Engineer in the Caribbean, where he eventually died of yellow fever on 21 June 1794.

Several of the engravings produced from Durnford’s original sketches are in the King George III Topographical Collection at the British Library. The Library also holds a copy of the published engravings from the 1760s.

I have been unable to discover anything so far about Durnford’s machine for purifying stale water. Was it a success?  Can any of our readers help?

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/45, f 470 - advertisement for a publication of engravings of the battle of Havana.
William Elliot,  A view of the Harbour & City of Havana.  Six views for Lord Albemarle, inscribed by Elias Durnford (London, 1764).
Maps K. Top. 123.28.a through to Maps K. Top. 128.28.f - The King's Topographical Collection holds the six engravings, produced from Elias Durnford’s original sketches, which were published between February 1764 and August 1765.
Add MS 16367 G - A coloured military plan of the attacks carried on by the English in 1762 against the city of Havanah and Moro Fort, surveyed by Lieut. [Elias] Durnford, 1762.
The National Archives hold the plans and drawings for the town of Pensacola; along with drawings and correspondence relating to the proposed canal from Mississippi to Mobile.

 

11 March 2016

Did he intend to blow the [insert film quotation here] doors off? An eighteenth-century powder mill in Germany.

King George III’s Topographical Collection, currently the subject of an ongoing cataloguing and digitisation project here at the British Library, contains some approximately 40,000 maps and topographical views from around the world. Amongst the collection are objects that suggest an interest, perhaps George’s own, in engineering and other technical endeavours; there are plans, projected and realised, for canals, roads, military fortifications, siegeworks and so on.

One recently catalogued item within the collection could be seen to embody this combined interest in maps and engineering. It is an eighteenth-century manuscript map showing a powder mill, for the manufacture of gunpowder, in Germany.

Maps K.Top.100.34.

PLAN DER IM AMTE HARBURG OHNWEIT MEKELFELD belegenenen Pulver Mühle / G. Braun fec. Maps K.Top.100.34. Untitled

Entitled PLAN DER IM AMTE HARBURG OHNWEIT MEKELFELD belegenenen Pulver Mühle, this map is signed at lower right by “G. Braun”. A date of about 1770 is attributed for the map’s production based on comparison with another map in the collection (Maps K.Top.100.33.) that is dated and also signed by Braun.

  Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail showing signature]

Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail showing signature] Untitled

The map shows the mill at Meckelfeld in present-day Lower Saxony, located south-east of Harburg in the borough of Hamburg. The mill buildings are shown on the river, the source of power driving the mill to grind the gunpowder.

Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail of mill buildings]

Maps K.Top.100.34. [detail of mill buildings] Untitled

The skill and care involved in the map’s production (it is certainly not a preliminary sketch) could suggest that it was intended to be seen (and used?) by a person or persons of note. Had George III himself, perhaps as King of Hanover, expressed an interest in this mill?

It is the decorated title cartouche at lower left that emphasises the map’s unusual subject matter.

Maps K.Top.100.34. [title cartouche]

Maps K.Top.100.34. [title cartouche showing an explosion] Untitled

Not only does this cartouche include a lettered key to the individual buildings shown on the map, which comprise the powder magazine, the drying house, the coal house and the saltpetar store (?), amongst others, it also depicts, quite fabulously, what happens when things, perhaps, don’t turn out exactly as planned. Given the look of mild surprise rather than abject horror and outright panic on the depicted gentleman’s face within the cartouche, one might conclude that such explosions were not uncommon!

Kate Marshall, Maps Cataloguer, King George III's Topographical Collection

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