The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from:

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This text was copied from Wikipedia on 7 October 2017 at 6:02AM.

The Downs are a roadstead (area of sheltered, favourable sea) in the southern North Sea near the English Channel off the east Kent coast, between the North and the South Foreland in southern England. In 1639 the Battle of the Downs took place here, when the Dutch navy destroyed a Spanish fleet which had sought refuge in neutral English waters. From the Elizabethan era onwards, the presence of the Downs helped to make Deal one of the premier ports in England, and in the 19th century, it was equipped with its own telegraph and timeball tower to enable ships to set their marine chronometers.

Timeball Tower, Deal, Kent

The anchorage has depths down to 12 fathoms (22 m).[1] Even during southerly gales some shelter was afforded, though under this condition wrecks were not infrequent. Storms from any direction could also drive ships onto the shore or onto the sands, which—in spite of providing the sheltered water—were constantly shifting, and not always adequately marked. The Downs served in the age of sail as a permanent base for warships patrolling the North Sea[2] and a gathering point for refitted or newly built ships coming out of Chatham Dockyard, such as HMS Bellerophon, and formed a safe anchorage during heavy weather, protected on the east by the Goodwin Sands and on the north and west by the coast. The Downs also lie between the Strait of Dover and the Thames Estuary, so both merchant ships awaiting an easterly wind to take them into the English Channel and those going up to London gathered there, often for quite long periods. According to the Deal Maritime Museum and other sources, there are records of as many as 800 sailing ships at anchor at one time.[3]

In the present day, with the English Channel still the busiest shipping lane in the world, cross-Channel ferries and other ships still seek shelter here.[4]


  1. ^ The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office Goodwin Sands/South Sand Head Assessment GS1/2006.
  2. ^ Robson, Martin (2005). The Battle of Trafalgar. Conway Maritime Press. pp. 29, 36, 158. ISBN 0-85177-979-4. 
  3. ^ Harding, David, ed. (1999). Kingsdown and Ringwould: A History and Guide (3 ed.). Kingsdown and Ringwould Twinning Society. pp. 61–64. 
  4. ^ "Maritime Accidents: Pride of Canterbury". Retrieved 8 September 2014. 

External links

Coordinates: 51°11′08″N 1°29′23″E / 51.1856°N 1.4897°E / 51.1856; 1.4897

5 Annotations

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.

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









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