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Ralph Gardiner Map (1655)


This map has undergone many iterations, but an early version appeared in a book by local merchant Ralph Gardiner in 1655. It was drawn by renowned the Czech artist Wenceslaus Hollar in 1651 and may have been commissioned by Gardiner.

Production of this map and its accompanying treatise, in short: England’s Grievance with the Coal Trade, is framed by the long-standing acrimony between Newcastle and North Shields. The hostmen and keelmen of Newcastle frequently employed strongarm tactics to extinguish the growth of Shields — once described as “A Town Where No Town Ought To Be.”

Ralph Gardiner (b.1625) was a yeoman merchant and successful brewer from Chirton. He represented the businesses interests of the rapidly expanding North Shields. But he was made bankrupt and imprisoned as a result of the concerted effort of the hostmen of Newcastle to nip Shields in the bud. The cycle of violent crackdowns had being going on since the very birth of North Shields in 1225 and continued until the inception of the Tyne Improvement Commission in 1850.

The hostmen were businessmen with vast power and means on a local level, owning the coal mines with their associated infrastructure and controlling the supply of coal on a national level. They held a formidable monopoly and employed the river’s keelmen, who were responsible for moving coal from the drops to the larger vessels down river. This was for centuries the main occupation in Newcastle.

In Gardiner’s book, addressed to Oliver Cromwell, he makes the case for the granting of a charter to Shields. It appears that Gardiner had a hand in the design of the map, as the Long and Bill reaches nearer Newcastle show a number of sandbanks and shipwrecks, while North Shields harbour, Tynemouth Castle and the Spanish Battery are greatly embellished. The Black Middens are also omitted. This was likely done in order to persuade Cromwell of Shields’ rightful place as the favourable location for industry and trade as well as from a military standpoint. Gardiner also paints a stark picture in the book of the cruel and corrupt nature of the Corporation of Newcastle, describing the town’s governors as: “unchristian, illegal, oppressive and repugnant to the Laws of England.”

His appeal fell on deaf ears, however, and North Shields was confined to being a fishing port, which it proudly remains to this day. Yet Gardiner’s document still serves as an early piece of discourse in the nation’s progression from a mercantilist economy to one with free trade as its premise.

SKU: MAP-GARD Category:

Wood frame has a 13mm face width. Printed on fine art paper and shipped ready to hang.

Artwork is printed to a size of 304 x 243mm, with matt texture.

Iced white top mount has a border of 5cm. Glazing is an exceptional grade acrylic.

Overall Dimensions (W x H): 410 x 349mm.


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