Tag Archives: Festival of Britain

London Maps

To help research London’s history, I have a collection of London maps, built up from when my father purchased his first map of London in 1941, along with collecting maps issued to mark special events in the city over the years.

Maps provide not only street plans, they also show how the city has developed, what is important at the time and how the approach to map-making has changed over the centuries.

As well as being functional, many London maps are also a work of art, with some fantastic design being used to also make the map a pleasure to look at and use.

I also find it fascinating to take some of these old maps out when walking London, to try and follow the streets on these maps, to understand the changes and the London we see today.

For this week’s post, I present a sample of the maps I use which I hope you will find of interest.

If you click on any of the following maps on the blog, a much larger version of the map should open.

My first map is a reproduction of the 16th century map of London by Ralph Agas, included in the 1904 book “London In The Time Of The Tudors” by Sir Walter Besant.

Map 1

The Agas map is the most comprehensive map of London in Tudor times, drawn probably between 1553 and 1559 when the population of London was not more than 100,000. The map is rich in detail and shows a city still bounded by the city walls with mainly fields beyond. There is a single bridge over the Thames leading to the south of the river which was a place of entertainment.

To the west of the city the Fleet River extends a considerable way in land with the Fleet Bridge at the bottom of Ludgate and further upstream a Holburne Bridge over the Fleet.

Although named the Ralph Agas map, there is no certainty that he was the artist who drew the map. Agas was a map-maker, originally from Suffolk where he was also a land-surveyor. Born in the mid 16th century he died in 1621. The period of his birth also being around or slightly before the assumed period when the map was drawn would also argue against Agas being responsible.

Despite the uncertainty of who created the map, it is a superbly detailed view of London from a time when London had yet to expand in any degree beyond the original city walls.

The next map is the Ogilby and Morgan map from 1676. My copy is again from Sir William Besant, but this time from “London In The Time Of The Stuarts”.

Map 2

This map shows in considerable detail the city rebuilt after the Great Fire which had occurred 10 years earlier. The section shown above is centred on Spittlefields with the Old Artillery Garden to the left below which is Petticoat Lane. The wide street running from bottom to top starts off as Bishops Gate Street Without, then becomes Northern Folgate (note the difference in name from Norton Folgate as it is now), and then becomes Shore Ditch.

John Ogilby was born in 1600, originally from Scotland he moved to London and had an unusual career, first as a dancer, then running a dance school, a theatre and a publisher in Whitefriars which was lost during the Great Fire. It was at the age of 69 that his short career as a map-maker started, although he died in 1676, just before the map was published.

Ogilby worked with William Morgan who drew each house and garden on the map. It is this level of detail which makes the map so interesting.

In the late 17th Century Richard Blome produced a series of maps of the City Wards. These were published with the 1720 edition of John Stows Survey of London. My example below is Tower Street Ward.

Thames Street Map

Originally published in black and white, many examples were later hand coloured. They provide a detailed view of each individual ward as it appeared at the end of the 17th century.

In the map above, the Customs House is lower right with Billingsgate Dock to the lower left. The church of St. Dunstan’s is to the centre left and Allhallows Barking to the centre right with the Navy Office to the top right.

It is fascinating to walk around the London Wards with these maps, trace the outlines of the wards and see how much remains from the time they were drawn.

A series of Ward maps were also drawn for William Maitland’s History of London published in 1756. My following example is the map of Cordwainer Ward.

Cordwainer Ward Map

Drawn by Benjamin Cole who was an engraver working near Snow Hill. As well as providing a detailed street map, Cole’s maps are also illustrated with pictures of important buildings within the wards (mainly churches) along with the Coat of Arms of prominent inhabitants.

We now move forward to a series of maps published between 1744 and 1746 by John Rocque which covered a very wide area of London, including much that was still mainly agricultural.

Two examples from John Rocque’s map. The first shows London north of London Wall, the street running left to right along the lower part of the following map.

Map 3

Above London Wall are the Lower and Upper Walks of Moore Fields, with to the left of the Upper Fields is the New Artillery Garden which contains ranks of Artillery Men and Tents.

John Roque was of Huguenot ancestry. He lived in Soho where he practised his career as a surveyor. For the time, his map of London was a massive undertaking. It was not just drawing the streets and ground plans of the buildings, but measuring these as accurately as possible.

The streets were measured with chains or with a surveyor’s wheel, an instrument which can still be seen in use today and consists of a wheel of known circumference on the end of a handle. The distance walked is simply the number of turns of the wheel multiplied by the circumference.

Roque also used a theodolite to measure the angles of street corners (again an instrument still in use today).

The map took nine years to complete and was partly funded by Hogarth.

The following extract shows St. Paul’s Cathedral with to the left the Fleet still running up past Ludgate at the Fleet Bridge, although the name in Roque’s map has now been relegated to Fleet Ditch rather than river. A sign of the decreasing importance of this waterway and that it was probably considered a nuisance rather than an asset to the city.

Map 5

My next map is from the 19th century and is Cruchley’s New Plan Of London Improved to 1835 and shows the advance of London to the east. The extract shows the Isle of Dogs.

Map 4

This was at a time when much of East London, north east of Limehouse was unbuilt. The two West India Docks had been built and below these are shown the proposed Collier Docks which was probably a mistake for Cruchley to include as these did not get built, the South Dock and Millwall Dock being constructed instead.

The Lea River is to the top right with Westham Abbey Marsh alongside (note also the “marsh land” just above the East India Dock) which gives an indication of the condition of the land in this area at the time.

The next map comes from the atlas which, although not that old, is my personal favourite. This is Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London, this edition published in 1940. It is my favourite as this is the one my father purchased during the war from Foyles in Charing Cross Road. He was about 13 when he got hold of this copy and he had to get a neighbour who was in the Home Guard to purchase the atlas as only those in uniform could purchase maps.

Map 11

I use the Bartholomew’s Atlas as a reference to compare London as it was just before the last war with the redevelopment after. Significant bomb damage, along with future reconstruction resulted in the loss of many streets. In the above extract, the area between St. Paul’s and Newgate Street (consisting of the area around Paternoster Row and Square) was obliterated by bombing, mainly the fires created by incendiary bombs on the 29th December 1940. These streets were not rebuilt and a whole historic area was lost.

Along with street maps, there are also many maps for special events that have taken place across London. The following map is of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. A work of art as well as a map, created by Kennedy North in 1923.

Map 10

As well as providing a plan of the exhibition, the map also shows Motor Bus and Rail routes to the Exhibition, with a ring of stations centred (stations and lines which would form the Circle Line) around Nelson’s Column, described as “The Heart Of The Empire”

The next map shows the locations across London for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Map 7

As well as the main site on the South Bank, the map also includes;

– the Festival Pleasure Gardens at Battersea

– the Exhibitions of Science and Books at Kensington

– the Exhibition of Architecture at Poplar

A functional map, but also with some artistic design with the flags showing the location of the festival sites, the colours, and the border extending around the plan of the South Bank site.

Maps were also produced for many of the major ceremonial events during the first half of the 20th century. The following map was produced jointly by the London Transport Executive and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Coronation of Elizabeth II on Tuesday 2nd June 1953.

Map 6

The map shows the route of the royal procession, bus and coach routes, entry to viewing points, which stations are open all day and which will be closed until after the procession, or closed all day etc.

The colour coded Processional Route  has individual boxes at the bottom of the map to show the best way to get to that part of the procession.

The other side of the map contains detailed written instructions and advise for travelling in London, a map of the London Underground and details of interchange stations.

The map was issued free and shows the degree of planning that went into the event.

I always pick up new editions of the London Underground maps, but in the past there have been maps showing other forms of transport across the city. The following is the Trolleybus and Tram Map of London issued in 1940 by London Transport.

Map 8

A detailed map showing Trolleybus and Tram routes across central London and also out into the suburbs, also showing Underground and Mainline Rail Stations.

The reverse of the map has a timetable including details of all night trams and trolleybuses.

This is one of my father’s maps and when going through his map collection the following ticket fell out:

Map 9

His ticket from the Last Tram Week in July 1952. (See the photos he took of the event here).

London is constantly changing and maps provide a snapshot of the city at a point in time. They show how London has expanded out from the original walled city, they show the significant development of the London Docks, they show how transport has been provided across the city and they show how London has marked significant events.

It will be interesting to see how long paper maps continue to be published with the growth in on-line mapping and the easy availability of a map on a smart phone. Whilst they are, I will continue to collect them to keep a record of a changing city.


An Optimistic View Of The Future – Adverts From The 1951 Festival Of Britain

My father took a range of photos of the south bank area of London just after the last war, prior to the construction of the Festival of Britain Exhibition.

Some I have already published here and here.

I have been researching and reading about the Festival of Britain and one very good source is the Guide to the South Bank Exhibition that was published to guide the visitor around the site and to provide a “Guide To The Story It Tells”.

The content about the Festival is fascinating, but I also find the adverts within the guide of equal interest. They provide a snapshot of how advertising reflected the country of the time.

The adverts are highly artistic and the colours used are very vivid, probably reflecting the optimism about the future that was one of the main themes of the Festival after so many years of austerity.

The adverts also tell a story of how British industry has changed over the past 64 years.

So, for a change of theme this week, let me show you some of the advertising from the Guide to the South Bank Exhibition.

Advert 12

The first is from Costain. A construction company founded in 1865 by Richard Costain who moved from the Isle of Man to Liverpool and began trading as a builder. Costain are still an independent company to this day and are actively involved in many major infrastructure projects around London including the London Bridge station redevelopment.

The advert shows the transformation of the Festival site and the Dome of Discovery from initial plans in 1949 through to completion in May 1951.

Advert 20

Horseley Bridge and Thomas Piggot were a major firm of construction engineers specialising in iron and steelwork and were responsible for the steel work on the Dome of Discovery. Much of their work remains in use to this day, including Richmond Railway Bridge.

Advert 11

The Shell and BP advert shows the view  of part of the Festival site, the current location of the Royal Festival Hall, prior to demolition. The view is from Shell-Mex House which is directly opposite the site on the north bank of the Thames and although not now occupied by Shell, the building is unchanged to this day.

The view of the Festival site shows the Shot Tower on the left and the Lion Brewery building to the right.

Shell would continue to have a link with the Festival of Britain site as following closure, Shell Centre, the head office for the international part of Shell’s business was built on the site.

Advert 16

Allied Ironfounders Ltd was formed in 1929 from the consolidation of ten smaller companies and was responsible for a wide range of products including the Aga Cooker through the takeover of Aga Heat in 1935.

Allied Ironfounders lasted as an independent company until 1969 when it was taken over by Glynwed. Within 30 years the company had sold off virtually all of the metal working parts of the business and in 2001 was renamed Aga Foodservice Ltd to concentrate on the remaining part of the business.

Note the text underneath the illustration regarding the gates from the Great Exhibition of 1851 and their transfer to the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens – I did not know that.

Advert 23

Ovaltine was invented by a Swiss chemist in 1904 and was first available in the UK in 1909. Still widely available over one hundred years later and based on the same core ingredient of barley malt. If I have understood chains of ownership correctly, Ovaltine is now owned by Twining’s which in turn is owned by Associated British Foods.

Very idealised view of the Ovaltine Egg Farm, the Ovatine Dairy and the Ovaltine Factory in a Country Garden.

Advert 8

Horlicks is another malted drink which is still in production today, now owned by GlaxoSmithKline (who have their head office in Brentford, West London).

Another idealised view, but this time of a house in the country (very different to the homes of the majority of Londoners at the time)

Advert 13

Barkers of Kensington was a Kensington department store which opened in 1870. Sold to House of Fraser in 1957, it was finally closed in 2006. The Barkers building still remains and is a major landmark on Kensington High Street.

Advert 4

Arthur Lassenby Liberty started trading in Regent Street in 1875. The current store shown in the above advert was built-in 1924. Liberty’s are still trading in the same building to this day with much the same ethos.

Advert 5

The Gas Council’s advert with Mr Therm standing in front of a backdrop of the festival site with the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon. Gas provision at the time was a nationalised industry, privatised in the 1980s as BG Group and Centrica.

Note the comment about gas and coke helping to get rid of fog – still a major issue in 1950s London.

Advert 9

This is an advert you will not see today – cigarettes, in this example Craven ‘A’ trying to project a very sophisticated image for the brand. Still available as a brand today, but as far as I can tell, mainly in Canada.

Advert 15

And perhaps in 1951, to complement your Craven ‘A’ you would also have had a Curtis London Dry Gin, distilled in London since 1769.

Advert 10

Also advertising in the Guide were many of  the country’s industrial companies of the early 1950s.

English Electric were a major industrial concern, manufacturing a very wide range of electrical, engineering and aeronautical products and during the early 1960s were a British manufacturer of mainframe computers.

The aeronautical part of the business became a founding member of the British Aircraft Corporation which in turn became BAE Systems.

The rest of the business was merged with GEC in 1968 which spectacularly failed in the first years of the 21st century after the disastrous decision to try to turn the company into an Internet infrastructure business to the detriment of the core engineering parts of the business.

I wonder what those attending the Festival would have thought if they had known that companies that at the time seemed so innovative and core to the country’s industrial identity would have disappeared within 50 years.

Advert 14

Another manufacturer that would disappear was E.K. Cole or Ekco who started manufacturing radio sets from 1924 and later television sets in Leigh-on-Sea and Southend.

Ekco products must have been in many homes across the country at the time of the Festival and must have appeared to be a very strong company and brand.

Ekco merged with Pye, another British electronics manufacturer in 1960 and the combined company was taken over by Philips in 1967 with the Ekco brand disappearing.

Advert 19

Cossor was another British electronics company that would disappear in a couple of decades. The company started trading in 1859 as a manufacturer of scientific glassware and this expertise helped the company move into the production of electronic valves and cathode ray tubes. This led into leading technologies such as radar both during the 2nd World War where Cossor was one the companies that helped develop the Chain Home radar system along the coast and following the war into radar for air traffic control.

Cossor was purchased by the US manufacturer Raytheon in 1961, just ten years after the Festival of Britain and is another example of the loss of British industrial capability over the last 60 years.

Advert 3

Sperry was a manufacturer of navigation equipment and gyrocompasses. Now owned by the American business Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Advert 7

Siemens Brothers and Company Limited was the 1951 incarnation of the original Siemens company formed in 1843 by Wilhelm Siemens of Germany. The shares of the British business were confiscated at the start of the 1st World War and finally became part of Associated Electrical Industries in 1955 which then merged with GEC in 1967 which as stated above with English Electric failed in the early 2000s.

The original German part of Siemens is now a major global manufacturer and well established in the UK, manufacturing in Germany many of the trains that now service London

Advert 21

One brand that is still very much in business today is Cow and Gate. originally a grocery shop in Guildford owned by the Gates family in 1771, the business expanded into dairy products which led to powered milk and then to milk food for babies.

Smiler, the Cow and Gate “royal baby” was introduced to the branding in 1930.

Although still in business, Cow and Gate is now owned by the French multinational Groupe Danone.

The Festival of Britain and the South Bank Exhibition that formed the core of the Festival was intended to show a strong, confident country, full of innovative industrial and manufacturing companies that could be expected to bring a prosperous future after the long years of war and the austerity that followed. The following decades would bring significant change to, and the demise of many of these companies.

I have shown just under half of the adverts featured in the 1951 Guide to the Festival, the rest have the same standards of artwork and it is interesting that there is only one financial business (Lloyds Bank) featured. Again perhaps how the country (or at least the organisers of the festival) wanted to portray what was important to the country and to the future from the perspective of 1951.