John Speed

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John Speed Map of Chester.jpg

A larger version

A larger version, also showing the key.


John Speed.

John Speed's map of 1610 shows some changes since Smith's Map. There is now a considerable tract of land between the City Walls and the River Dee. Brown's Lane in Handbridge appears for the first time. The central water-lifting tower on the Bridgegate has also appeared, having been built in 1600. Stone Bridge on Flookersbrook (over Bache Brook) can also be seen. Speed himself describes Chester as follows:

  • "Over Deva or Dee a fair stone-bridge leadeth, built up on eight arches, at either end whereof is a Gate, from whence in a long Quadren-wise the walls do incompass the city, high and strongly built, with four faire Gates opening into the four winds, besides three Posterns and seven Watch-Towers extending in compass 1940 paces. On the south of this city is mounted a strong and stately Castle, round in form, and the base Court likewise inclosed with a circular wall. It hath been accounted the Key to Ireland, and great pity it is that the Port should decay as it daily doth, the sea being stopped to scour the River by a Causey that thwarteth Dee at her Bridge."


  • The solitary tower north-east of the Watergate is the tower of the Greyfriars, who settled here about 1237. The friary occupied a walled, rectangular site of approximately seven acres to the north of Watergate Street; it was bounded on the west by the city wall and on the east by Linenhall Street. The precinct was entered by a gate-house at the southern end of Linenhall Street. Building operations in 1920 uncovered several sections of wall and indicated that the friary may have been built on Roman foundations. The church seems to have been about 200 feet long with a wide, aisled nave. It had a steeple with 'a sharpe spyar' and two bells and also a 'crosse yle' on the south, probably a large transeptal chapel projecting from the nave and similar to chapels found in some surviving Irish friaries.


John Speed's map of Chester dates from 1610. Speed was born at Farndon, near Chester in 1552, and went into his father's tailoring business. While working in London, his knowledge of history led him into learned circles and he joined the Society of Antiquaries where his interests came to the attention of Sir Fulke Greville, who subsequently made him an allowance to enable him to devote his whole attention to research. As a reward for his earlier efforts, Queen Elizabeth granted Speed the use of a room in the Custom House. John Speed is considered the most famous of all English map-makers. He was the author of the most important, and prestigious atlas of his day, and his maps still find favour today, with collectors from all over the world. Speed is best known today for two atlases, the "Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine", published in 1612, and the "Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World", published in 1627. The latter is attributed to Speed in the title, although it is not certain how large a contribution he actually made.

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