Spaniards landing at Porthcurno after 1588, in reprisals for the defeat of the Armada

Robert Dudley (1826-1909) was an illustrator, painter and book-designer, who did much work recording early submarine-cable operations, most famously the 1865-66 laying of the first transatlantic cable by Brunel's 'Great Eastern'. In early June 1870 he went to Porthcurno in Cornwall for the 'Illustrated London News' to record the landing there of the last section of the Eastern Telegraph Company's cable - the 'Red Sea Line' - to Bombay. His visit to this remote cove (where the early cable station is now a related museum) prompted him to do a number of other views of it, including as gifts for (Sir) John Pender, head of the Eastern company and also a notable art collector. Another recipient was his friend from the 'Great Eastern' operation, the marine and cable engineer Henry Clifford (1821-1905): Clifford was also an amateur artist in watercolours and oils, with whom he exchanged work. This is one of two drawings he gave to Clifford: the other is PAJ3542. Both were bequeathed to the Museum by the latter's grandson, Henry Dalton Clifford (1911-91) as the delayed part of a larger gift of family papers and other items in 1988. It is an imagined reconstruction of a Spanish raiding party landing at Porthcurno during the post-Armada years of Elizabeth I's war with Spain. H.D. Clifford's original typed list of items to be donated put the year shown as 1589 but he wrote 1595 on the back of a photograph of it that he subsequently sent to the Museum. Several such raids did, take place on Cornwall in August 1595, rather than in 1589. Whether Porthcurno was one is uncertain but there may have been a local tradition to that effect which prompted Dudley's interest. A further factor may have been his romantic belief in a family connection to Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (1532-88), favourite of Elizabeth I and her senior land commander during the Armada crisis. This had also led him to name his sons Guildford and Ambrose: the former was named after Lord Guildford Dudley (1535-54), who married Lady Jane Grey, and the latter - who was also an artist - after Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick and Leicester's elder brother. The view is towards the east side of the cove, from roughly the same vantage as Dudley's illustration of the cable-end being landed from the ship 'Investigator', published in the 'Illustrated London News' of 25 June 1870. The drawing is signed and dated 'R Dudley 1871', lower left. We are grateful to Bill Burns and Stewart Ash for their help in cataloguing this item. [PvdM 12/19]

Object Details

ID: PAJ3428
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Dudley, Robert
Date made: 1871
People: Dudley, Robert
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 350 x 538 mm; Mount: 480 x 633 mm

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