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This text was copied from Wikipedia on 11 July 2024 at 3:11AM.

Downland, Downs, or The Downs may refer to:



In the 'hill' context, the word 'down' derives from Celtic (Gaelic or Welsh) dun "hill, hill fort".



North America


See also

7 Annotations

First Reading

Mary  •  Link

The Downs

An area of sea lying between the Thames Estuary and the Straits of Dover, protected by the Goodwin Sands from easterlies and by the land mass of Kent from westerlies. Hence a favoured (and often very crowded) holding point for merchant, and other, shipping that was awaiting a favourable wind for an outward voyage. (annot. 3 April 1660)

Pedro  •  Link

The importance of The Downs.

From Command of the Oceans by NAM Rodger…

The Downs is a broad anchorage which lies off Deal, enclosed by the Kentish coast to the west, and the Goodwin Sands to the east. At its northern end it can be entered from the North Sea or the Thames Estuary through the Gulf Stream, and its southern end from the Channel round the South Foreland. In the age of sail this anchorage was one of the crossroads of the world: during the prevailing south-westerlies ships from London and ports throughout the southern North Sea and the Baltic lay here waiting for a fair wind down the Channel, while ships that had come up the Channel for London waited their chance to get up the Thames. From the strategic point of view the Downs is the perfect position for warships to watch the upper Channel and the southern North Sea. From a tactical point of view it is a trap in the prevailing wind, for the Gulf Stream was too narrow for a large force to get through in a hurry. A fleet lying in the Downs might be caught like a lobster in a pot by an enemy entering by the southern entrance with the wind behind him.

(Tromp for the Dutch had won his great victory against the Spanish in 1639 in this way)

Pedro  •  Link

On the 30th August 1661...

Allin nears the Goodwin after his voyage from Constantinople…

"The wind was WSW. A stiff gale, and in the narrow we sunk our longboat and overwelmed before we could get our topsails down and broke both her fasts and one poor man in her, and by great chance the boatswain's yawl was made fast astern the longboat with one in her, so the man got into the yawl and our ketch took her up with the two men in her, but lost our longboat, grap-iron and hawser and all her oars, windlass and davit. Before we brought St. Peter's Church upon Broadstairs, which is the mark that you are clear of the north head of the Goodwin, the wind was WNW, and stood a mile further and wended."

"The marks to come through the Gulls between the Goodwin and Brake is the lighthouse upon South Foreland upon a broad valley and a church upon the third valley and you have St. Peter's steeple or Church upon Ramsgate, then you are clear of the north head of the Brake, and St. Peter's church upon Broadstairs, then you are clear of the north end of the Goodwin and may run to sea what you please..."

(The Journals of Sir Thomas Allin edited by RC Anderson)

See sight above for map of the Goodwin.

Second Reading

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I wish I had known this information when I started reading the 1660 Diary: I assumed (!) Dover was the major port serving the Downs. But NO:

The town of Deal served the anchorage of The Downs, where navy ships were stationed and merchant fleets would pick up pilots for the river, or wait for a following wind or a convoy.

Homebound ships put passengers and mail ashore at Deal, to take the faster overland route to London; it was a crucial entry point for intelligence from everywhere.


This information comes from a long article about Secretary of State Joseph Williamson's information/spy network; because of Deal's marine business he had two correspondents there, and the article is instructive on how the post office, innkeepers, post houses, and local authorities worked together -- or not.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Goodwin Sands lie in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and posing a serious threat to shipping. The lack of navigational aids in the early days of sail contributed to the toll of shipwrecks as ironically, did the presence of the calm anchorage called The Downs that is also created by the presence of these treacherous sandbanks.

The first markers warning mariners of the threat were the North and South Foreland lighthouses situated just north of Broadstairs and at St. Margaret’s Bay respectively.
The first North Foreland light was mentioned in 1499 and consisted of a wooden pole with a basket at the top in which a fire was lit.

In 1634 two lighthouses were placed at South Foreland to create a transit light enabling ships to steer clear of the Sands.

The first chart was drawn in 1583 by Dutchman Lucas Janszoon Wagenaer but attempts to erect warning beacons did not happen until 1840.

The Goodwin Sands have earning the nickname of ‘the shippe swallower’.
The glutinous, quicksand nature of the Goodwins means that a ship foundering on the Sands quickly ‘swaddle down’ to a watery grave, often breaking its back before disappearing.

In a 2015 report written by the Historic England, Wessex Archaeology the Goodwin Sands area was described as ‘archaeologically extraordinary’ as they ‘hold the highest density of heritage assets in UK waters with all these wrecks having the reputation of being abnormally well preserved’.

The first recorded wreck was in 1298 when ship owner William Martyn appealed to Edward I for a jury to investigate a claim of plunder near Sandwich.
Since then, over 2,000 shipwrecks have been recorded with the true number probably nearer 3,500. As many as 50,000 souls have drowned there.

Ironically, it is the safe anchorage of The Downs that often led to the loss of ships as they dragged their anchors onto the Sands during bad weather. One occasion was the Great Storm of 27 November 1703 when 130 ships and 1,200 sailors were lost in one night.

During the Great Storm, 4 warships, HMS Northumberland, Mary, Restoration and Stirling Castle all sank with the loss of most of their crews. The 4 warships are all listed as Protected Wrecks. (Protected Wrecks are the marine equivalent of Listed Buildings and are managed by Historic England.)

A number of Protected Wrecks lie around the Goodwins – including HMS London which lies in the Thames and is currently undergoing conservation work.

For more info on ships that went down on the Goodwin Sands see the website below.

It is surprising to think the town of Sandwich was an important port with an "enormous" harbor which could accommodate the fleet.

Two notable naval battles took place here were the 1457 Battle of Sandwich (against the French) and the 1639 Battle of the Downs (the Dutch against the Spanish, with England trying to remain neutral).

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.









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