The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine

The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine followed the model of Ortelius's Theatrum orbis terrarum first published in English in 1606 -- in its title and its format, with map sheets backed by historical and geographical texts and gazetteers of place names. This was the earliest English attempt at producing an atlas on a grand scale, with the first detailed maps of the provinces of Ireland, the first set of county maps consistently attempting to show the boundaries of territorial divisions, and the first truly comprehensive set of English town plans a notable contribution to British topography. Perhaps as many as fifty of the seventy-three towns had not previously been mapped, and about fifty-one of the plans were probably Speed s own work. In 1606 Speed might have been helped by his son John in surveying towns. A balance is struck between the modern and historical, with information placed on the edges of the maps about antiquarian remains, and sites and vignettes of famous battles, together with arms of princes and nobles. This additional information is one of the Theatre s most significant contributions. Scotland is covered in less detail, as Timothy Pont was surveying there. Individual maps for the Theatre were prepared from about 1602, plates were engraved by Jodocus Hondius noted for his skills in decoration from 1607, George Humble was granted a privilege to print the Theatre for twenty-one years from 1608, and the Theatre and History were published together in 1611-12. They were an immediate success: three new editions and issues of each appeared during Speed s lifetime, and a miniature version was first published about 1619-20. The maps in the Theatre became the basis for subsequent folio atlases until the mid-eighteenth century.

Sarah Bendall, Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Map-Makers of Great Britain and Ireland 1530-1850 British Library Board; 2nd edition (September 1, 1997) pp. 771-773


A wapentake is a term derived from the Old Norse, the rough equivalent of an Anglo-Saxon hundred. The word denotes an administrative meeting place, typically a crossroads or a ford in a river where attendance or voting would be denoted or conducted by the show of weapons.

The counties of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Lincolnshire were divided into wapentakes, just as most of the remainder of England was divided into hundreds. In some counties, such as Leicestershire, the wapentakes recorded at the time of the Domesday Book evolved into hundreds later on. In others, such as Lincolnshire, the term remained in use.

Hundred (division)

A hundred is an administrative division which historically was used to divide a larger region into smaller geographical units. The name is derived from the number hundred. It was a traditional Germanic system described as early as AD 98 by Tacitus (the centeni).

In England a hundred was the division of a shire for administrative, military and judicial purposes under the common law. Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred was supposed to contain approximately one hundred households headed by a hundred-man or hundred eolder. He was responsible for administration, justice, and supplying military troops, as well as leading its forces. The office was not hereditary, but by the 10th century the office was selected from among a few outstanding families.

Hundreds were further divided into tithings, which contained ten households.


A lathe was an ancient administration division of Kent, and may well have originated during a Jutish colonization of the county. These ancient divisions still exist, but have no administrative significance. There are seven Lathes in Kent; Aylesford, Milton, Sutton, Borough, Eastry, Lympne and Wye. these units are recorded as intermediate between the county and hundred. . The Domesday Book reveals that in 1086 Kent was divided into the seven lathes or 'lest(um)' for administrative, judicial and taxation purposes and these units remained important for another six hundred years. Each of the seven lathes were divided into smaller areas called hundreds, although the difference between the functions of lathes and hundreds remains unclear.

Taken from Frank W Jessup's History of Kent 1958
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



Copyright © J. S. Hensinger