Tag Archives: London Maps

London Maps in Books

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If you have been reading the blog for a while, you will know that I am fascinated by London maps, and make use of a number of maps in many of my posts.

They can help us understand the development of London in many different ways. They are a snapshot of the city at the time they were made, showing the limits of development at a specific time. They record change, and they show features of the city, man-made and natural, that have long since disappeared under the built city we see today.

They can show different interpretations of the city, they can show how people at the time the map was made interpreted the city, what was important to them.

There are some brilliant online mapping sites, such as the National Library of Scotland and Layers of London, however nothing beats the feel of a paper map in your hands.

Many of these maps can be found in books. Large, fold out maps, or even better, a pocket at the end of the book stuffed with a number of maps. You do not find this with the majority of books published today, probably down to cost, however it was once a more common feature, and for today’s post, I have a small sample.

At the start of the 20th century, Sir Walter Besant published a series of books on the history of London, and a number of these included maps.

(You should be able to click on the maps to open a larger image)

In “London In The Time Of The Tudors” (1904) there is:

A Reproduction of the Map by Ralph Agas, Circa 1560

Although the map is known as the Agas map, it appears to be an incorrect attribution. Ralph Agas was a surveyor who lived between 1540 and 1621, however there is no firm evidence that he was the creator of the map, and the coat of arms at the top left of the map is not from the Tudor period, but is the Stuart coat of arms, and the version of the map that survives is believed to date from around 1633.

At the time the map was made, the population of the city was around 350,000, and was still mainly contained within the old City walls, although there were small areas of building outside the walls, for example the route from the City to Westminster can be seen with buildings either side of what is now Fleet Street and the Strand, and the Eleanor Cross can be seen at Charing Cross.

The following extract shows the City of London:

In the following extract, the River Fleet can be seen from the point where it enters the Thames, then heading north where the two crossing points at what is now Ludgate Circus and Holborn Viaduct can be seen, before the river starts wandering to the north:

In the next book in Besant’s series, “London In The Time Of The Stuarts”, we then have:

A Large And Accurate Map Of The City Of London (John Ogilby, 1670s)

John Ogilby was a printer and publisher, translator, Master of the Revels in Ireland, he had served in the Army, and in the period after the Great Fire of London, he created a detailed and carefully surveyed map of the City of London.

There are some significant changes to the City we see today, however there is much that is basically the same (although the buildings will be very different).

In the following extract, the Wool Church Market is where Mansion House is today, and to the right is Cornhill, with the Royal Exchange and the churches of St. Michael Cornhill and St. Peter Cornhill, and there are the same alleys between Cornhill and Lombard Street that we can walk today, although between 19th and 20th century buildings, rather than those Ogilby would have known:

The map still shows the River Fleet in the 1670s, as a channel running up from the Thames, with what looks to be walkways along both sides of the river, between the Thames and Holborn:

After publishing his map of the City of London, Ogilby published perhaps his best known work, “Britannia”, which was a map of the routes between the principal towns and cities of the country.

For Britannia, Ogilby used the innovative method of a strip map, where the route was shown running along a series of strips, with the main geographic features, towns and villages, houses, side roads etc. that could be found along the route.

The following map is the strip map for the route from the Standard in Cornhill (a water pump at the eastern end of Cornhill, and one of the places in London used as the base for measuring distances) to Portsmouth in Hampshire:

In the text in the box at the top, the distance is given as 73 miles and 2 furlongs, and John Ogilby is given the rather grand title of His Majesties Cosmographer, a title given to Ogilby by King Charles II.

We then come to the book “London in the Eighteenth Century”, and:

London in 1741-5 by John Rocque

Rocque’s map is one of the maps I use regularly in blog posts, as it provides a comprehensive view of the city, including the wider, as yet undeveloped part of the city.

The River Fleet can still be seen, but it is now starting to be built over, and where the Fleet runs into the Thames is now Blackfriars Bridge:

Looking to the west of Rocque’s map, and we can see Chelsea Water Works (roughly where Victoria Station, and the tracks leading out of the station are today). About 70 years after Rocque’s map, Chelsea Water Works would be closed and the space backfilled with the soil excavated for the new St. Katherine Docks.

We now come to “London in the Nineteenth Century”, and the city is expanding rapidly. The time when the city was enclosed within the old city wall as shown in the Agas map is long gone. This is:

Cruchley’s New Plan of London improved to 1835

London has expanded rapidly, however there were still fields to the east and west, land that would be built on during the rest of the 19th century and early 20th century.

Part of the city’s expansion has been to the east, as trade carried along the river has grown considerably, and the original wharves and docks in the heart of the City were no longer capable of supporting the volume of goods and the size of ships.

If we look to the Isle of Dogs, we can see the West India Docks which were built in the early 19th century, and below these docks, we can see the outline for some proposed new docks, each capable of supporting 200 ships:

One of the early roads that ran through the Isle of Dogs to the ferry at the southern tip can be seen running across the outline of the new docks.

The docks would not be built as shown in Cruchley’s map, the new docks would be the southern dock below the West India, and the Millwall Dock.

Another book with an impressive fold out map is Henry Chamberlain’s:

A New and Complete History and Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, and Parts Adjacent

The book dates from 1770, and has a large fold out map of the city in that year:

Again, there are plenty of little details which show the city at the time, and if we look at the top of the map, there is New River Head and Sadlers Wells:

New River Head was the large pond built at the end of the man-made New River that brought water in from springs around Ware in Hertfordshire, ready for onward distribution across London.

Sadlers Wells was named after a well and the first owner of the site and the entertainment venure he developed.

At the time, the land between Sadlers Wells and the city, was still open land, as the map shows, and was a risky place for those returning from a night at Sadlers Wells to their city homes, with many reports of theft across what would have been dark fields.

If we look at the area of Lambeth covered by the map, we can see at the time there were no other bridges between Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges, and we can see one of the pleasure gardens south of the river, Cuper Gardens, which is where the approach to Waterloo Bridge and the large roundabout at the end of the approach road are located today.

Narrow Wall can be seen on the map, one of the early attempts to stop the river from encroaching on the land and reclaiming Lambeth Marsh. Narrow Wall is today Belverdere Road and Upper Ground.

The next book is “A Dictionary of London” by Henry Harben (1918). This book has a pocket at the end, in which there are a selection of maps. The first being:

A Map of the Cities of London & Westminster and the Borough of Southwark together with the suburbs, 1708

Some of the maps in Harben’s book are based on several different maps to provide coverage and detail not seen within one individual map. The above map is based on “Hatton’s New View 1708, but it incorporates material supplied in Philip Lea’s map of 1673, John Ogilby’s of 1677 and Morden & Lea’s map of 1682. Further details come from Richard Blome’s ward maps published in Stryp’s edition of Stowe, 1720”.

The benefit of this composite approach is the level of detail in one map, and in the following extract we can see the stairs and houses along the river between the mouth of the Fleet and the horse ferry in Westminster:

Interesting that in St. James’s Park there is a feature labelled “Decoy”. This may have been a pond where ducks, or other waterfowl would be lured into and trapped. The benefit of such a place was that if they were to be served as meat for food, then not having been shot, they would not contain lead shot.

The next map in Harben’s book is the product of three maps, and is titled:

A Map of London about 1660. The Ground Plan is based on Hutton 1708. The details from Faithorne and Newcourt Circa 1658

Again, there are many small details. Wapping is mainly built along the river and along the Ratcliffe Highway, and the area of Rotherhithe is using the old name of Redriff.

There is one, small detail I really like. Take a look at Limehouse to the east, and next to the small indentation from the river (Limekiln Dock, see this post), there is a drawing of a lime kiln:

The lime kiln is shown in the correct location for the first lime kiln in the area, and is the structure that would give Limehouse its name. The accuracy of the image extends to the smoke issuing from the top of the kiln, from the burning of chalk brought up from Kent.

We then come to:

Map of London shows its size at the end of the 16th century. The ground plan is for convenience based on the plan in Hatton’s New View 1708. The main details are from Norden 1593 & Speed 1610

In this series of maps from Harben’s book, we have been going back in time, and this map shows the city at the end of the 16th century, overlaid on a plan of 1708.

It shows a much smaller city, and there are details which show just how undeveloped parts of London were at the time.

The area south of the river, where much of Lambeth is located today, is labelled Lambeth Marsh, and has the symbols for a marsh along with some lines of trees.

The area between Narrow Wall and the Thames are areas of agriculture, with inlets leading from the river up to Narrow Wall. This area between Narrow Wall and the river was used for agricultural purposes, such as growing reeds.

Some of the maps in Harben’s book show how you can add additional detail to a map, and these are the pre-Internet versions of the Layers of London site, for example:

Plan of London in the 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries Superimposed on the Present Ordnance Survey Plan

The above map is the Eastern Sheet and the map below is the Western Sheet:

A small detail from the map shows the outline of the pre-Great Fire St. Paul’s Cathedral overlaid on the outline of Wren’s cathedral which we see today, showing a slight change in orientation and size:

Another of Harben’s maps where has overlaid data on a street plan is a:

Plan of London showing the Levels of the Natural ground below the present Surface, the Line of the Roman Wall of the City, and the Sites of Discoveries of Roman remains etc.

Walking the city streets today, it is hard to appreciate just how much land levels have changed over the last couple of thousand years.

Centuries of dumping of building rubble, accumulations of rubbish, waste and soils, demolition rubble from events such as the Great Fire, leveling of the city, for example, the land running down to the Thames (when Queen Victoria Street was built, parts were raised to level out the street), covering of rivers such as the Fleet and the Walbrook etc. have all contributed to raising the ground level of the city.

The lowest levels where evidence of human occupation of the city are those from the Roman period, and in the map, Harden has located where remains have been found, and the level below the current surface, for example, as shown in this extract showing the area around Cripplegate and London Wall:

One of the best places where this raising of surface levels can be seen is the part of the Roman Wall shown in the above map, which is preserved in the underground car park below London Wall. Whilst there are many runs of the wall above ground in the area, these are all medieval, we have to look below the surface to get down to the Roman Wall, as can be seen in this post where I photographed the wall in the car park.

A small sample of some of the old maps of London that show how the city has developed over the centuries, and finding an old book with a large folding map, or even better, a pocket at the end of the book stuffed with maps is always a bonus.

Some of the other maps I have looked at in the blog are Reynolds’s Splendid New Map Of London , the 1944 report on the Reconstruction of the City of London, and the 1943 London County Council Plan for the redevelopment of London.


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.