Braun and Hogenberg

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Braun and Hogenberg's map of Chester dates from 1581. The following can be seen on the map:

  • The gallows at Boughton (near St Giles Cemetery);
  • The Water Tower, still in the water;
  • Watergate, opening directly onto the river;
  • A somewhat reduced Roodee, with cross;
  • In Edgar's Field, a location marked "ruin of the house of the count of Chester". Interesting that this is the only feature which merits an actual label on the map;
  • The Old Dee Bridge with defensive towers at both ends;
  • The old market square;
  • St Peter's (with steeple - taken down in 1597) by the High Cross;
  • Frodsham Street, leading to the cattle market at Gorse Stacks was then "Cowe Lane" (only remembered today in "Cow Lane Bridge");
  • "The Barrs", has another fortified gate at the end of Foregate Street;
  • St Johns, with the Choir already in ruins;

The following description of the map was written by T. N. Brushfield, M.D. and published in the July 1879 edition of The Cheshire Sheaf:

  • “One of the most interesting, as it is perhaps the most ancient of the engraved Plans of Chester is the one that appeared in Braun's Vivitates orbis terrarutn, published at Cologne (“Coloniae Agrippinae”) in 6 vols. folio, between the years 1523 and 1618. The Plan is No. 3 in vol. iii., and measures 14 in. by 13 in. It is headed “Cestria vulgo Chester Angliae civitas,” and bears along its upper and its left hand borders the Royal, Episcopal, and Civic Arms, together with those of the Earls of Chester. The date of this volume is 1616, that of the preceding being 1575. We may fairly assume the plan to represent the City as it was during the closing years of Elizabeth's reign, the latter part of the 16th Century- this is to some extent corroborated by the costume of certain figures depicted on the lower part of the engraving. The Plan is a bird's eye view of the City, as it would have appeared from the south side. The river channel (lettered “Dea fl. vulgo Dee") is shown to flow close up to the Water gate ("Porta ad aquam"), on either side of which several boats and small ships are moored; it then runs parallel and close to the Wall as far as the Water Tower ("Turris noua"), which is surrounded by water, some portion of which runs through two large arches in the masonry connecting this Tower with the main Wall; near this is represented a large three-masted ship with high poop. The Bridge ("Pons") over the Dee is defended at the Handbridge end by a strong entrance gateway, to the West of which is a mill with one wheel. One with two wheels occupies the site of the present Dee Mills. In the Wall, close to the eastern side of the Bridge gate ("Porta ad pontem”), is an archway from whioh water is issuing: may not this have been the termination o£ one of the subterranean Canals alluded to by Stukeley? The "Rood eie” has on it a Cross elevated on a base of three or four steps, and guarded by pillars at each corner. The Walls are embattled. The four principal gateways, as well as the one at "The barrs," each consist of two castellated towers, with an archway for the road between them, those guarding the Dee Bridge having a portcullis. Between the Eastgate (“Porta ad Orientem”) and the Barrs is "Forijat platea," (Foregate Street) out of which branches “Cowe Lane," leading to green pastures occupied by cattle. On a mound at Boughton is a gallows, and beyond this the road bifurcates into the "Via ad Taruen" and the "Iter ad Wicum malbanu”.

Brushfield is wrong about at least one thing - the "subterranean canal" is actually the "Capelgate", where horses were taken to water and nothing to do with the underground passages which were probably Roman drains/sewers.


Georg Braun (also Brunus, Bruin; 1541 – 10 March 1622) was a topo-geographer and a cleric of Cologne. From 1572 to 1617 he edited the Civitates orbis terrarum, which contains 546 prospects, bird's-eye views and maps of cities from all around the world. He was the principal editor of the work, acquired the tables, and hired the artists. This great city atlas was largely engraved by Franz Hogenberg (1535-1590) the son of a Munich engraves who settled in Malines. Braun was greatly assisted in his project by the close, and continued interest of Abraham Ortelius, whose Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of 1570 was, as a systematic and comprehensive collection of maps of uniform style, the first true atlas. Braun died as an octogenarian in 1622, as the only survivor of the original team to witness the publication of volume VI in 1617. The first volume of the Civitates Orbis Terrarum was published in Cologne in 1572. The sixth and the final volume appeared in 1617.

The Civitates, indeed, was intended as a companion for the Theatrum, as indicated by the similarity in the titles and by contemporary references regarding the complementary nature of two works. Nevertheless, the Civitates was designs to be more popular in approach, no doubt because the novelty of a collection of city plans and views represented a more hazardous commercial undertaking than a world atlas, for which there had been a number of successful precedents. Franz Hogenberg engraved most of the plates for Ortelius's Theatrum, and may have been responsible for originating the project.

Over a hundred of different artists and cartographers, the most significant of whom was Antwerp artist Georg (Joris) Hoefnagel (1542-1600), engraved the cooper-plates of the Civitates from drawings. He not only contributed most of the original material for the Spanish and Italian towns but also reworked and modified those of other contributors. After Hoefnagel's death his son Jakob continued the work for the Civitates. A large number of Jacob van Deventer (1505-1575), also known as Jacob Roelofszof, unpublished works, plans of towns of the Netherlands were copied, as were Stumpf's woodcuts from the Schweizer Chronik of 1548, and Munster's German views from the 1550 and 1572 editions of his Cosmographia. Another important source for maps was the Danish cartographer Heinrich van Rantzau (1526-1599), beter known under his Latin name Rantzovius, who provided maps of Northern Europe, specially of Danish cities. The Civitates provided a uniquely comprehensive view of urban life at the turn of the sixteenth century. Other sources were the maps of Sebastian Munster from around 1550.

Braun added to the maps figures in local dress. Braun's motives for adding figures to the views, as stated in his introduction to book one, was that he believed that his plans would not in consequence be scrutinized for military secrets by the Turks, as their religion forbade them from looking on representations of the human form.

The plans, each accompanies by Braun's printed account of the town's history, situation and commerce, form an armchair traveler's compendium, which the scholar Robert Burton in "The Anatomy of Melancholy" of 1621 asserted would not "only provide instructions but would uplift the spirit as well".

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