Rare maps on display


03 July 2023
The Map Room at The Armada Maps National Treasures exhibition at The National Museum of the Royal Navy The Map Room at The Armada Maps National Treasures exhibition at The National Museum of the Royal Navy (Harvey Mills)
The extremely rare Spanish Armada maps are on display for the first time in their history at the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Rare maps on display Images

The Armada Maps National Treasures exhibition is a once in a generation opportunity to view the 10 incredibly rare maps that chart the defeat of the Spanish Armada in August 1588 a defining moment in the UK’s national and naval history. The maps can only be displayed for 45 days due to their fragile nature and the dangers of exposure to light.

All 10 maps are now on display to the public at the National Museum of the Royal Navy for the first time in their history only until Tuesday 8 August 2023 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy commented, “Our job is to tell epic story of the Royal Navy, its impact on Britain, as well as the world, from the earliest times to the present day, to that end we’re delighted to display the complete Armada Maps Collection for the first time at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The defeat of the Armada was a turning point in forging our nation’s identity and the maps act as a powerful commemoration of this pivotal naval battle. The Armada Maps National Treasures exhibition is hugely significant; it is an opportunity for us to link Navy to Nation and educate future generations about the origins of the Royal Navy as a protector of an Island Nation.”

The Armada Maps were first drawn in 1589 and are thought to be the earliest surviving representations of the campaign. They show the defence of England’s shores against invasion in the 16th century by the Spanish fleet (141 ships and 24,000 men), dispatched with the aim of killing Queen Elizabeth I and replacing her on the throne with King Philip II of Spain. Each map details the position in the Channel of individual ships on both sides of the battle.

Following expert guidance from world-leading conservation experts and The National Archives, the maps can only be displayed for 45 days due to their fragile nature and the dangers of exposure to light. This exhibition also explores the build-up to the Armada campaign and includes an extremely rare map from May 1588 of the Spanish Armada outside Lisbon.

The ongoing story of the Armada and its resonance throughout history is also unpacked, through later representations of the maps, especially those by engraver John Pine. Visitors can digitally engage with the maps through an on-gallery touchscreen and animation created specifically for the exhibition.

Arts and Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said, “The Armada Maps are incredibly rare documents from the most significant naval battle of the early modern period. I am delighted that the export bar placed on these 10 hand-drawn maps allowed time for the National Museum of the Royal Navy to secure these national treasures and keep them accessible to the public. These maps chart a defining period in British history and I, like so many others, cannot wait to see them when they are placed on public display for the first time.”

Entry to The Armada Maps National Treasures is included in a ticket to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Ultimate Explorer Ticket is the best value option for 12-month entry to all the attractions at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard including the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, HMS M.33, the galleries and exhibitions of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, Gosport and Harbour Tours and starts from £39 per adult and £29 per child. It is valid for multiple entries throughout the year, with family tickets available. Book online at www.historicdockyard.co.uk 


Entry onto the 12-acre historic area of the Dockyard is free with a Historic Quarter Pass, which is issued at the Visitor Centre between 10am and 4:30pm.




Content continues after advertisements


Can't get to the newsagents for your copy of The Armourer? Order it online (now with free postage!) or take out a subscription and avoid the general public for the next 12 months entirely. And if you're confined to quarters, stock up on some bookazines to keep you entertained.

Buy the latest copy or any back issues, either in print or digital editions by clicking on The Armourer.

They were the mightiest of ships, able to project power around the world courtesy of fearsome armament. Now, a new 132 page bookazine, Battleships of WWII, brings their story to life with 85 battleships from seven nations. Here is your guide to why they were built, how they were armoured and fitted out with equipment and weapons, and what action they saw in WWII, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With colour photos and blueprints, statistic tables and key production details, it’s the ultimate guide to the greatest ships of World War II. Order your print or digital copy here.



Military Collectables of WWIGet your WWI collecting fix here. It's Military Collectables of WWI, a special digital magazine from the archives of The Armourer, for only £4.99. Covering Badges of Kitchener’s New Army; Anzac uniforms; shoulder titles; Wound stripes; East Africa uniforms; ID signs; Sweetheart brooches. Then there are medals; Photography in WWI; The black art of propaganda; Great War comic postcards; American Liberty Bonds; Trench art; Princess Mary Christmas box; Canadian recruiting posters. Don't forget weapons, battles and equipment from the Battle of the Somme; Trench mirrors; Collecting the Kaiser’s Battle; Military bugles; Collecting the Battle of Arras.  Click here for your digital copy.


How about Tanks of WWII, a 164-page guide to the tanks, commanders and battles of WWII. With over 170 tank prototypes, variants, models from the Axis and Allied nations, plus blueprints, rare photos and 3D illustrations. This collector's bookazine can be yours for just £9.99. Click here for your copy.

Or how about a copy of the Collecting German Militaria bookazine for £7.99? Click here to buy this.


Content continues after advertisement