An unusual little map came to light recently following an enquiry from a reader. William Hole’s map of the archery marks in Finsbury Fields dates from the early seventeenth century and runs from Bunhill in the south to roughly the location of the current Regent’s Canal in the north. The map names all of the archery targets in this open space which until 1498 was garden and orchard enclosures. These were removed to turn it into a practice ground for archers, a popular, and legally required pursuit for men. It is a rare thing, with only a couple of other examples in the Guildhall Library and Bethlem Royal Hospital. The format of being pasted onto two pieces of oak board which could be folded to makes it both durable and portable, indeed there are the remains of hook and eye clasps which would have locked the boards together. Later in its life, it had a black roan cover and wallet-style case to protect it.
Some of the archery targets are named after physical features, such as Sonday Hill and Stone in ye plaine, or people (Dick Marigold). Notable other places on the map include the well of Dame Agnes Clare “all that well comonly called or knowne by the name of Dame Anne A Cleere invironed aboute with a brickwall, scituate, lying and being on the late King’s waste . . . in a certaine higheway leading from a certaine streete called Old Streete towardes Shoreditch.” which can clearly be seen towards the bottom of the map. Much further north is a butt named “Ros:brach” which could feasibly mark the Rosemary Branch inn which is the only building known to have existed away from town at this period. Allegedly it was a meeting place for Levellers a few years later, each identifying themselves with bunches of rosemary in their hats. Now the area is marked by the Rosemary Branch pub and theatre which was rebuilt after a fire in 1783 destroyed the original building.
William Hole was an etcher and engraver who was born near Leeds. Although known for producing maps, he was also a distinguished engraver of portraits and music. This little map has a more personal, almost playful feel, dedicating it “To his affect: frends M:R: Bake & M:R Sharpe, and all other louers of Archerie frequenting Finsbury-fields” so may not have been produced as a commercial venture. However, judging by the map symbols for the targets, being denoted by the common graphic of a dot in a circle, it looks like the map was accurately surveyed by a plane table or similar device. The scale of scores and half scores is unusual too and I can’t find any reference to the length of a score. Also, Hole included the arms of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in top left corner, of which he was a member. It is also rather difficult to date with any certainty and only that it appeared sometime between 1605 and his death in 1624.
The map was then traced or copied for inclusion in James Peller Malcolm’s Londinium Redivivum, or, an ancient history and modern description of London published in 1807. It is these copies which are more common with examples in libraries all over the world. However, on these tracings and facsimiles the compass points east, south and west are not noted leading to these works having the erroneous title Finsbury Fields North, as on the original the four compass points are clearly shown. In 1856 John Williams wrote a carefully researched article for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London comparing the names of map’s archery marks with a manuscript list in the Society of Antiquaries.
Fold it up, pop it in your quiver and off you go for an afternoon’s archery in Finsbury Fields.
Finsbury Fields. [London: William Hole, approximately 1620?] Arch. A d.1
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