Naval History

Rare Spanish Armada Maps To Stay In UK After Fundraising Campaign

A last-ditch campaign to keep the maps in the country raised £600,000 in just two months.

A set of rare maps which chart the defeat of the Spanish Armada have been saved from being sold overseas after an urgent fundraising campaign by the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).

The maps, which date back to 1589, are thought to be the earliest surviving representations of the naval battles and have not left the UK since they were drawn.

The 10 hand-drawn maps depicting the famous battle of 1588 were completed by an unknown draughtsman, possibly from the Netherlands.

They were sold to an overseas buyer last year before an export bar was placed.

In order to prevent their sale abroad, the Portsmouth-based museum raised £600,000 in just eight weeks through public donations and grants of £212,800 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £200,000 from the Art Fund.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the NMRN, said he was "incredibly proud" that the museum managed to save the maps for "generations to come".

"It was an amazing response from our funding partners and the public, who dug deep in extremely difficult times, to save these treasures," he said.

According to the museum, the 10 ink and watercolour ‘Armada Maps’ depict in "real time" a navy defending England’s shores against invasion by the 16th century’s imperial super power of Spain.

The ink and watercolour maps detail the position in the channel of individual ships in the English and Spanish fleets (Picture: NMRN).

Each map details the position in the Channel of individual ships in the English and Spanish fleets.

The defeat of the Armada was a defining moment in England’s national and naval history, the NMRN added.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage, who approved the overseas sales embargo of the maps, said: "The Armada Maps are an important piece of British heritage serving to remind us of this pivotal naval battle.

"The export bar system exists so we can keep nationally important works in the country and I am delighted that, thanks to the tireless work of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the armada maps will now go on display to educate and inspire future generations."

To ensure the maps can be viewed and enjoyed by members of the public for the first time, a new phase of fundraising has now started.

The NMRN wants to put the maps on display during 2021, with longer-term plans to tour them around the UK when COVID-19 restrictions permit.

Cover image: One of the Spanish Armada maps (Picture: NMRN).