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Map of London's Defences 1642-3



This map by George Vertue was published long after the Civil War, in 1738. Between 1642-3, an estimated twenty thousand of London’s populace, male and female, adults and children, were recruited to help build these defences: eighteen miles of trenches and about twenty-three forts, all designed to withstand a Royalist attack that did not happen. The defences stretched from Constitution Hill to Whitechapel in the east. William Lithgow, in his 1643 Surveigh of London, describes the process of their digging and construction, and once they were finished in mid-May of that year, he wrote that “London was never truly London til now, for now she sits like a noble lady upon a royal thron, securing all her encroaching pendicles under the wings of a motherly protection.” They were tested only once, in 1647, when they failed to keep the New Model Army from entering the City, and were levelled in the same year by Parliament. Very little archaeological evidence remains of them today. In The Best of Men, Beaumont procures his friend Wilmot a map that I based largely on Vertue’s, and in The Licence of War there are numerous references to the defences; Beaumont is even briefly held prisoner at the fort in St. George’s Field.


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