The Marlowe Society
19 July 2009

On The Map

British Library Publishes 1623 Map of Deptford Online

For those intrigued by the details of Marlowe's last day at Deptford, the British Library has now placed online (with superb zoom facilities) its disintegrating and invaluable detailed map (dated 1623 at bottom right) of the then tiny village, adjacent to the extensive dockyards.

The diarist John Evelyn lived in Deptford for over 40 years, and in extensive annotations 80 years later, commented in particular on the great expansion over those decades, so it may well have been smaller still in 1593. One looks in vain 30 years on for any house labelled "widow Bull's". But the burial register of St. Nicholas (seen at the end of the "common greene", with its lower tower surviving today) preserves 1st June as the date of an actual funeral held there by Marlowe's friends - strongly implied by some phrases in Blount's 1598 heartfelt dedication of Hero and Leander to Thomas Walsingham:

"... we think not ourselves discharged of the duty we owe to our friend, when we have brought the breathless body to the earth; for albeit the eye there taketh his ever-farewell of that beloved object, yet the impression of the man that hath been dear to us, living an after-life in our memory, there putteth us in mind of farther obsequies due unto the deceased ..."

Though this dedication is first seen in the extant 1598 edition of the poem, the referenced funeral sounds recent, giving the impression that it was written much closer to 1593, although there is no record of any earlier edition.

Detail from a transcript of the 1623 map of Deptford, showing St Nicholas' Church
St Nicholas' Church in Deptford
Detail from a transcript of the 1623 Map.

London's port facilities can be clearly seen in Norden's map of London (first published in 1593, and also available on the British Library website) where one finds, on the Thames north bank between the bridge and the Tower, "Custom house", three "kayes", and a few cranes.

All London shipping traffic could thus offload most conveniently within the city walls. Compare this with tiny Deptford which, in Marlowe literature, is usually referred to as a 'port' (without supporting references), and sometimes 'escape' scenarios are built around this. Scrutinising the map, however, one sees only three 'watergates', some steps and a tiny jetty. And what need would there be for any significant 'port' facilities over and above the dockyard activities?

St Nicholas' Church, Deptford
St Nicholas' Church on Deptford Green: A view of the church from the South after rebuilding work in 1697-8.
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