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John Speed: Flint-Shire

Map: WCTS1363
Cartographer: John Speed
Title: Flint-Shire
Date: 1614
Published: London
Width: 21 inches / 54 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: WCTS1363
In the early 17th century, Flintshire was the smallest county in Wales and was one of the more deprived areas of the country. It was the northernmost county, bordered with Cheshire. It had a coastline on the Irish Sea and the River Dee estuary provided some fishing industry.

Speed illustrates this with a map that shows few settlements and gives particular prominence to Wrexham, the major population centre. However, it is the town of Flint, on the River Dee Estuary, which is given prominence on the upper right. The plan is unusual as it seems extraordinarily symmetrical for such an old settlement. The prominent castle was built by Edward I to support his conquest of Wales in the 13th century and the town seems to have been very carefully laid out in an oval shape behind two earthen ramparts.

Speed adds two further illustrations on this map. Unusually, one is a vignette of a church, standing on St. Winifred’s Well, a site built over miraculous healing waters which has been visited by pilgrims for centuries. The other illustration is of St. Asaph, another important settlement in the county and the site of a cathedral.

Geographically, the map is based on Saxton; Speed also marks the course of Offa’s Dyke, which he calls “Offa’s Ditch”; this was an earthen rampart built by the Saxon King Offa of Mercia to defend his territory against Welsh raids. This line began at the Dee Estuary and today runs remarkably parallel to the modern Welsh border down to the estuary of the River Severn.

Finally, there is a small illustration of two parties on horseback facing off with each other and a caption stating that this refers to Henry Percy’s betrayal of Richard II during the Wars of the Roses.

This is considered the most beautiful published map of Flintshire.

English text on verso. Image available on request.