A Perambulation of Kent: Conteining the description, Hystorie, and Customes of that Shyre
Tudor Englishmen’s love of their country is evident in the many chronicles of its past available to readers. Publication of William Lambarde’s A Perambulation of Kent in 1576 marks the beginning of the process of chorographing (describing and putting into a historical context the principal places and features of) Britain, an activity which complemented chronicling the isle’s monarchs and their reigns. The impetus to chorograph Britain heightened antiquarian interests, helped transform chroniclers into more scholarly historians, and coincided with the first detailed mapping of the kingdom.
Lambarde was born in London and after schooling was admitted into Lincoln’s Inn. He served as a justice of the peace for Kent and held other political posts as well. With a legal background and interest in history, he published a collection of Anglo-Saxon laws, Archaionomia (1568), as his first work. Lambarde set out to compile a description of his home shire, Kent. As he describes in the book, his aim was to: “shew in particular, the boundes [of the shire], the severall Regiments, Bishops Sees, Lasts, Hundredths, Fraunchises, Liberties, Cities, Markets, Borroughs, Castles, Religious houses, and Scools: The Ports, Havens, Rivers, Waters, and Bridges: And finally, the Hilles and dales, Parkes, and forests, & whatsoever the singularies, within every of the same.” He finished the manuscript in 1570. A Perambulation of Kent is the first such work for any county in England. Lambarde’s carefully orchestrated tour was published in 1576 and dedicated “To his Countriemen, the Gentlemen of the countie of Kent.” It was reprinted in 1596; the present copy is a first edition.
Lambarde considered writing a similar work for all of Britain, but he set the idea aside when he learned that William Camden had already started such a project. In his completed Britannia, Camden wrote that “the county of Kent has been so exactly described in a work expressly on the subject by William Lambarde, a person of great learning and character, and so happy in his researches, that he has left very little for others.”
Coincidentally, the year after Perambulation was printed, William Harrison’s panoramic Description of England was published as the introductory section of Holinshed’s Chronicles. In 1579 Christopher Saxton issued his grand Atlas of the counties of England and Wales, with maps based on a detailed surveying of the entire kingdom.
Chrzanowski 1576l *