Rocque’s Small Scale Map – River Thames

Above: Part of Rocque’s small scale map of 1746 showing the River Thames between old London Bridge to Wapping and Rotherhithe (Click image to enlarge to 1280×800).

John Rocque’s small scale map shows nearly all of Inner London and a large part of the Outer London Boroughs, particularly to the west. Working from the bottom left-hand corner – in the direction of ‘the source to the sea’ – the map shows the village of Thames Ditton on the south bank and the extensive property of Hampton Court Palace on the north bank. After flowing past Twickenham and Isleworth (north bank) and Richmond (south bank) the Thames reaches Chiswick (north bank) and Barnes (south bank). Further east, the Thames flows through Inner London and continues to the most easterly edge.

All the riverside villages – they were all riverside villages in 1746 – are shown probably invoking a nostalgic sigh as we realise that all those fields and footpaths have been ‘gobbled up’ by the 21st-century urban sprawl. The ‘Ouses in Between (as the title of the Victoria Music Hall song puts it) started to spread in the mid-19th century and the phrase from that song is probably one of the best ways of describing the growth of London. People living in the countryside – as they regarded it – in the 1800s began to see the fields turned into streets and houses, making the old-timers think that their whole world was going to become brick walls and chimney pots. How right they were!

The ‘villages’ now in Inner London are Hammersmith then Fulham (north side), Putney, Wandsworth and Battersea (south side). On the south side after the village of Battersea is seen the open fields – ‘Battersea Common Field’ which is today Battersea Park. Facing that on the north bank is the village of Chelsea. As the river turns to flow north, we see Vauxhall and the tiny village of Lambeth on the south side. On the north, just before we reach Westminster Bridge, is Westminster Abbey which is easy to recognise. Once around the next bend in the Thames, we notice how built-up the land is around the Strand but how open the land is on the south side. How different today!

The river is shown flowing under London Bridge, with the City on the north side and Southwark to the south. Notice the Tower of London whose plan has changed little from 1746 until today. To the east lies Wapping and Shadwell. On the south side is Rotherhithe. By the time the river reaches the next bend – before flowing around the Isle of Dogs – there are hardly any houses to be seen near the shoreline. The name ‘Isle of Dogs’ is shown across the ‘island’ while on the south side of the Thames are the densely packed streets around Deptford before reaching the unmistakable Greenwich Palace and the ornate gardens which have now become Greenwich Park.

The east side of the Isle of Dogs has the hamlet of Blackwall clearly marked. East and NE of Greenwich are just open country fields with the occasional footpath. To the east of the River Lea is Inner London ends and ‘Plaistow Levels’ is shown – in the County of Essex at the time of the map. That land is now part of the Outer London Borough of Newham. Just before reaching the edge of the map, on the south side of the Thames, we see part of what was then the village of Woolwich. Its dockyard had been established in Tudor times and Woolwich was to grow considerably over the next century.

Seen on the river are a large number of vessels. Sea-going sailing ships are clustered to the east of London Bridge, at Deptford and Greenwich and then along the banks of the Thames around Woolwich. The riverside east of London Bridge was still in use as the Port of London. No docks – like the London Docks or the West India Docks – were constructed until the beginning of the 1800s. The ships at Deptford were there because of the Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford.

Upriver of London Bridge, a few craft are shown but they are smaller, like early versions of  Thames sailing barges and wherries. Larger vessels could not pass through London Bridge.

The part of the map shown at the top of this article gives us an insight into the problems of using the banks of the River Thames as a port. From Roman times onwards the north bank of the Thames immediately east of London Bridge was used as the port. For the Romans, there were probably few ships needing to moor alongside and the quays which were used to store goods from various parts of Europe. Six hundred years later, the Normans were doing the same, with goods then being imported and exported to places including most of the ports of Europe. Another six hundred years after that brings us to the time of Rocque and those same quays were still in use but trade in London on the sea had grown enormously and hundreds of ships were struggling to sail up the Thames to deliver goods to quays, particularly those to the east of London Bridge on both sides of the river. The Thames was teeming with sailing ships moored beside its banks with still more moored in the middle, awaiting their turn to come alongside and unload their cargoes. By the time of Rocque’s map, ships were taking weeks just to travel from Woolwich and Greenwich up to quays near London Bridge because the Thames was literally choking with large sailing ships – rather like a gridlock for ships in the way that roads today clog up with motor cars.

The section of the map is far too orderly when it comes to showing the ships. They are in near formations on both sides of the Thames. For every sailing ship shown there were probably in excess of 30-50, each one needing considerable space on the river due to their enormous shape and ever-increasing amounts of sail. Another 50 years later, wealthy merchants owning those sailing ships were having large docks cut out of the banks of the Thames – like the London Docks and the West India Docks. The docks were, in effect, a means of increasing the available space for mooring a ship, in order to unload its goods.

Between London Bridge and the Tower of London is shown ‘The Keys’. These were the ‘Legal Quays which had been defined in the 16th century and were now considerably overworked due to ships trying to dock. On the southern bank was more mooring space, with warehouses between the river and Tooley Street. This space extended eastwards (note that there was no Tower Bridge) as far as St Saviour’s Dock. All this land was in the Parish of Bermondsey. Further east (at the eastern edge of the map section) was the Parish of Rotherhithe. The map continues with ships being moored much further east, Between the Tower of London and the eastern edge of this section of the map was Wapping, which was a small part of the huge parish of Stepney. As the map shows, there was no let-up in the clamour for space to moor alongside the land.

Even this map section has been reduced in size for the purpose of this article. The size and detail of the map are remarkable in that everything shown had to be observed and measured by men who were surveying such a vast amount of what we call Greater London for the very first time. There are some errors but they are few and far between. In the main, the map is a splendid record of the ever-growing metropolis of London in the middle of the 18th century.


Posted in /Maps of London (c4), /Thames (c0) | Leave a comment

Rocque’s Small Scale Map of London

Above: Small scale map of London (Click image to enlarge to 1280×900).

John Rocque (c1709–62), surveyor, cartographer, engraver and map-seller. He was born no later than 1709 because in that year he came to England with his parents who were French Huguenot émigrés. He became a godfather in 1728, which suggests he was at least twenty-one years old by that year. He would have been born with the name Jean Rocque and changed his first name when he came to England. He became a prolific cartographer but is today best known for his masterful maps of London.

John Rocque produced a ‘Large Scale Map of London’ which was essentially the City of London surrounded by parts of Westminster, Lambeth, Southwark and Rotherhithe and Stepney. He also produced what is generally called the ‘Small Scale Map of London’ which shows all of what is now known as Inner London. By being called ‘Small Scale’ it might give the impression that it is too small to be useful. It is only called ‘Small Scale’ to differentiate it from the ‘Large Scale’ map which is of enormous proportions.

The ‘Small Scale’ map was published in 1746. It was the first time that any map had shown a continuous representation of the whole of Inner London and large parts of Greater London as well. As such, it is very important for those who study the Inner London Boroughs because it shows nearly all of them. The map was printed onto 16 sheets and extends to 10 miles around the City of London. Each is quite large – 19 inches (483 mm) horizontally by 25 inches (648 mm). If you pasted the map onto a wall in your house, it would cover all of it. The whole map extends (west to east) from Hampton Court Palace to Woolwich. Had the map extended about a mile further east (a matter of a few inches on the actual map), it would have shown Plumstead and the coverage would have included all of today’s Inner London Boroughs. In the north, the map covers Hampstead and Highgate which means that all of today’s Inner London Boroughs north of the Thames are included. At the southern extremity, the map extends to the village of Bromley. Almost all of the land of today’s Inner London Boroughs south of the Thames is included. It is a remarkable map. It is, in a way, the first ‘A-Z map of London’.

The map shows most of Inner London as the countryside – with farms, country lanes and woodland that have sadly become streets and dense housing today. One thing that was unique at the time was that the map also showed the contours of the land – not contour lines as we know them today but indications of the hills and what they were called. This map also repeats (in a smaller scale) the information that is on the ‘Large Scale’ map so Rocque’s two maps form a perfect graphical description of how London and its environs looked in the middle of the 18th century.

There are various representations of the ‘Small Scale’ map on a few Websites. If you really want to see the map in all its glory – as well as its vast size – there is no substitute to seeing a copy in a reference library or, better still purchasing a printed copy for yourself. There is no intention to reproduce anything other than the outline map here. The object of this article is to bring the map to the attention of the reader so that they can enjoy it for themselves.


Posted in /Maps of London (c4) | Leave a comment

Rocque’s Large Scale Map – River Procession

Above: The long river procession passing Somerset House (Click image to enlarge to 1280×800).

John Rocque must have been a very interesting man. We don’t know a great deal about him – apart from the obvious fact that he was an accomplished engraver and also a surveyor. Just looking at his amazing map with all the detail in it conveys how passionate he must have been about showing every possible detail of London. However, there is more to the map even than that.

If we go back to one of the earliest maps of London – the so-called Agas woodcut, produced about 1561 – the map shows people walking the footpaths, animals in the fields and ships on the River Thames. Rocque’s large scale map does not go quite that far but, when it comes to drawing the outline of the river, the engraver added some remarkable details. Who completed the engraving of the Thames we do not know. It might have been Rocque himself or one of his colleagues. Whoever it was, they could not resist the urge to depict the types of craft to be seen on the river.

Obviously, ever mindful of unusual events that took place on the Thames, the grand sight of a river procession was also added to the map. It is shown passing Somerset House in the Strand. Before describing the scene, we had better explain the nature of such an event. It is not a pleasant topic to talk about but, in the main, the streets of London was narrow, very busy and dirty to the point of being full of rotting food and also excrement. Householders were required to clean their piece of the street themselves by sweeping all the rubbish (we’ll call it rubbish but we know what was also mixed in with it) further along the street. On days of celebration – like the election of a new Lord Mayor of London, the coronation of a new king or queen, the annual opening of the Law Courts or the celebrations of a City company – there would be a procession. Sometimes the procession went from a company hall to a church or even St Paul’s Cathedral.

Each year the Lord Mayor was required to ceremonially visit the Law Courts – officially called the Royal Courts of Justice – to swear allegiance to the monarch. The procession would start somewhere in the City, often at the Guildhall. The Law Courts were (before 1882) held in Westminster Hall which stands beside today’s Houses of Parliament. Forming an elegant procession and walking through ‘you know what’ was not pleasant for those dressed to impress and a compromise was found. In the case of the Lord Mayor’s Procession, after the Great Fire of London (1666) King Street and Queen Street were laid out to form a direct route from Guildhall to the river bank. The Lord Mayor and his procession travelled the short distance from Guildhall and boarded ornate ceremonial barges at a point on the Thames near the Vintners’ Hall. From there they were rowed upriver, finally disembarking at Westminster. The final ‘leg’ of the journey was to travel the short distance from the landing stage to Westminster Hall. After the short ceremony was completed, the whole procession returned along the same route. In passing, it should be mentioned that the reason why today’s Lord Mayor’s Show has ‘floats’ is from the days when the procession was conducted on water.

Whether it is the Lord Mayor’s Show being depicted on the map is probably not known but there is certainly an impressive array of vessels. There are well over a dozen ceremonial barges, each bedecked with large flags which are seen waving in a strong east wind. The procession is accompanied by further sailing skiffs and even wherries. It is a grand sight and one can only wish that the map was in colour because the ceremonial barges were often gilded, those on the vessels wore a splendid costume – often coloured scarlet – and the large flags would also have been very colourful.

On a practical note, the time was almost certainly chosen to coincide with an incoming tide (flowing in the favour of the rowers). It would have been impossible to row such large vessels on the Thames against the tide. It is more than likely that the timing was arranged to have a favourable tide on the first part of the journey and on the return journey as well. The splendid sight does not contribute to the geographical information on the map but it certainly adds to our knowledge of ceremonial life in London in the 18th century.

As a footnote, it should be pointed out that Canaletto painted a similar scene from the banks of the Thames showing the Lord Mayor’s Procession on water. Canaletto came to London in 1746 – the year that John Rocque’s map was published. Canaletto’s painting of Westminster Bridge was made in 1747, which was one of five views he made of the water procession. This coincides neatly with the drawing on Rocque’s large scale map.


Posted in /Maps of London (c4), /Thames (c0), /Wes-Strand | 1 Comment

Rocque’s Large Scale Map – River Thames

Above: Rocque’s Large Scale Map of London (Click image to enlarge to 1710×900).

When John Rocque was surveying his Large Scale Map of Central London – before it was published in 1746 – it was still possible to see open fields beside the banks of the Thames. Some of them lay within walking distance of the City of London. Large open fields can be seen on the north bank of the Thames (bottom left). Much of the land opposite, in Lambeth, was either open fields of market gardens as those working the land made the best use of the low-lying land that was subject to occasional flooding. Most of the land along the bottom of the map is shown as fields which extend east to where the Thames dips down (bottom right) once again.

If you are not familiar with the layout of London, you might need to have a modern-day street map handy to follow this description. Most of the features of the map are not hard to see but the names of places mentioned can be found on a large scale modern map.

On the north side of the Thames, the land to the south of Westminster Abbey had only recently been developed when the map was published. We know it today as Smith Square and all the elegant Georgian terraces that line the adjacent streets nearby. South of that – down to the lower edge of the map – we can see large open fields and large gardens.

On the opposite bank is the village of Lambeth, dominated then by the large, grand buildings that make up Lambeth Palace – the London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Most of the land is seen to be in use as market gardens. Being so flat and subject to flooding from time to time, there was little else that could be done with it. The market gardens extend down to the bottom of the map. Some of the large expanses of land between Lambeth and Borough High Street was a large open space called St George’s Fields. The fields are quite noticeable on the map. The densely packed Borough High Street becomes a ‘ribbon development’ as it continues south as Newington Causeway.

Working east from Borough High Street, was the village of Bermondsey, extending along Bermondsey Street which is seen a short distance inland from the river. It was to be almost another 150 years after the map was published before Tower Bridge was built. That changed the landscape south of the river due to the laying out of Tower Bridge Road. East of Bermondsey was a large inlet called St Saviour’s Dock, which is still there today. The next village to the east was Rotherhithe which lay beside the south bank of the Thames. The village lies where the river dips down before flowing NE. Beyond that is almost nothing. The long straggling Rotherhithe Street ran beside the river – as it still does today – with the river banks occupied by ship-builders, ship-repairers and a few people gaining a living from farming the marshland which was mainly pasture.

Just before the line of the Thames plunges into the bottom right-hand corner of the map, we can see a large dock. It was one the first ever built in the London area, then known the Howland Great Wet Dock, named after a man called Howland. Since that time, the dock has been renamed Greenland Dock and later extended.

Above: Detail from Rocque’s large scale map, showing large sailing ships moored on the Thames near the Custom House (Click image to enlarge to 1280×800).

Before we take a brief look at the northern bank of the Thames, notice the river craft. The street plan of the map is laid out as any map would be today. When the mapmaker came to showing the river, he could not resist the temptation to show what kind of vessels were there and so the map uses perspective to illustrate the ships. Notice that there are large sea-going ships drawn to the east of London Bridge. Their tall masts prevented the ships from sailing any further upstream. The bridge shown, by the way, is the medieval one which was not replaced with a new one on a new site until the 1830s. To the west of London Bridge are shown ferry boats that were rowed. They were called wherries. There were also forerunners of the Thames sailing barges that became so common a sight in the 19th century. Rocque’s map also shows Westminster Bridge. That crossing was not opened until 1750 which means that this map is among the first to show what was only the second bridge crossing the Thames in Central London.

One other feature of the Thames which is so obvious that you might not have noticed it is that no embankments are shown. They were mainly constructed during the 19th century. Notice how wide the Thames was beside the Strand before a large part of the north bank was taken from the river and converted into the Victoria Embankment. No prizes for working out when that was built!

Returning to Westminster Abbey – which is a very short distance SW of the western end of Westminster Bridge – we see that the street layout has changed little to the north. It is, of course, where Whitehall Palace once stood and the street is still called Whitehall – with No 10 Downing street alongside. Whitehall Palace was built beside the Thames and had landing stages so that river craft could easily access the edge of the precinct. The palace burned down in 1698 so, by the time of the map, the royal residence was at St James’s Palace and the land at Whitehall was being redeveloped with large houses lived in by noblemen. Very few of those houses remain to be seen today.

The land above the bulbous bend in the river is unmistakably the Strand and Covent Garden. As we move to the east, there is the line of the River Fleet, meeting the Thames where the later Blackfriars Bridge was to be constructed. East of the Fleet is the familiar landmark of St Paul’s Cathedral which indicates the position of the City of London.

A simple way to work out the approximate eastern boundary of the City is to look for the Tower of London. From the 1800s, the land to the east became St Katharine Docks and the London Docks but this is 1746 and the land is crammed with streets lined by small houses, lived in by sailors and their families and also by those who gained a living from all things to do with ships and shipping. There were many ships chandlers as well as those who manufactured brass fittings and ropes of all sizes and lengths.

Finally, the riverside on the north bank of the Thames – to the east of the City of London – became the villages and hamlets of Wapping, Shadwell, Ratcliffe and Limehouses. Once again those living beside the Thames earned their living from ship-building (in a small way) and ship- and barge-repair. At the time of the map, of course, all the vessels were built from wood. Iron vessels were not known at all!

This ‘whistle-stop’ tour of the map points out some of the main features. It would be a good idea to find a larger version of the map and see for yourself how detailed and informative the map really is. Remember that it all had to be surveyed from scratch. There was no other map covering such a large area to take readings from. There were no photocopiers and there was no other technology other than a ruler and a sharp scriber to form all the intricate details that we can still enjoy today.


Comment – 800th Blog

Today sees the publication of the 800th blog. When the blogs started in September 2014 it seemed like a good idea but I was not certain that they would keep going. I also had no idea how many interesting people would contact me with such useful information over the years. Thank you all for your replies. It has been great to get such remarkable feedback.


Posted in /Maps of London (c4), /Thames (c0) | 2 Comments

Rocque’s Large Scale Map – Built Up Area

Above: Rocque’s Large Scale Map of London (Click image to enlarge to 1710×900).

John Rocque’s large scale map of London, published in 1746, provides a remarkable ‘snapshot’ of the relatively small area (when compared with the extent of London today) that was a built-up area of houses and streets. The growth had been going on particularly since the days of the Tudors. The map shows that the City of London had already expanded to meet the City of Westminster. To the west and the north – what we call Soho and Mayfair – there was further development. East of the City, growth was continuing into Stepney and Limehouse. Some of those areas were to see the construction of the docks about half a century later – like St Katharine Docks and London Docks.

City of London and land to the East

We will start by looking at the City of London which is easily recognisable once you have recognised the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral (surrounded by the cathedral precinct, known as St Paul’s Churchyard). From the NE corner of St Paul’s Churchyard, Cheapside runs almost due east. Its eastern end is seen to split into three streets – Threadneedle Street (most northerly), Cornhill and Lombard Street. They all end at various points on Bishopsgate which is the northerly continuation of Fish Street Hill and Gracechurch Street – leading from the north end of London Bridge.

While mentioning Cheapside, there is no large Bank of England at the eastern end. Although the Bank of England was established in 1694, the site in Threadneedle Street was not acquired until 1734. The large edifice we know today only dates from the 1920s. The nearby Mansion House opened in 1753 and that can be seen on the map – although at the time it had not been completed.

Notice that few ‘suburbs’ are shown north of the City. Moorfields (almost rectangular and divided into four rectangles) is clear to see. That open space was later redeveloped into an oval and called Finsbury Circus. While there are a few other open spaces – notably the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) and their large grounds – also the cemetery called Bunhill Fields – it is not until the top of the map that the land is shown as fields. One feature that can be recognised is the village of Shoreditch which lies near the top of the map, at the northern continuation of Bishopsgate (known as Shoreditch High Street).

Running roughly NE out of the City is seen the long road that was known as Aldgate High Street, Whitechapel Road and Mile End Road. The eastern end runs mainly past a ribbon development surrounded by several open fields. The land between Bishopsgate and Whitechapel Road is Spitalfields which was had been completely developed as streets and houses by the middle of the 18th century. To the south of Whitechapel Road lay the riverside villages and hamlets of Wapping, Ratcliffe, Shadwell and Limehouse. The little village of Limehouse is the furthest east, being shown on the eastern boundary of the map along with Limekiln Dock (a natural inlet that is still to be seen today).

Southwark and Land South of the Thames

Once you have located London Bridge, it is easy to see Borough High Street leading south, eventually becoming Newington Causeway near the southern edge of the map. Southwark lay on both sides of Borough High Street. A long road forks SE from Borough High Street which is Tabard Street. Today’s Great Dover Street was added at a much later date. On the map, Tabard Street becomes Old Kent Road which continues to the bottom edge of the map. That street is surrounded by market gardens, growing fruit and vegetable to be sold in markets like Borough Market, Covent Garden and Hungerford Market (off the Strand where Charing Cross Station is today). Due east of Borough High Street was the village of Bermondsey and east of that was Rotherhithe. There are some houses to be seen but, once again, much of the land was being cultivated as market gardens.

To the west of Borough High Street – near the river – was Bankside which is seen to be quite built up. Further south, St George Fields lie on the west side of Borough High Street. They were large open fields, named after the parish church is St George the Martyr which stands almost opposite today’s Borough Underground Station. To the north and west of the fields are extensive market gardens – most of them in Lambeth. That tiny village is seen lying to the south of Lambeth Palace

Westminster and Land Around

To get our bearings, we will start by locating St Paul’s Cathedral. Leading west is the short thoroughfare known as Ludgate Hill which at the time of the map, led down to a little bridge over the River Fleet. The river to the north of the bridge was open to the sky until finally being covered over in 1737. To the south of the bridge, the river was covered over in 1769. This work was, therefore, going on while the map was being surveyed.

West of Ludgate Bridge is Fleet Street which leads to the Strand. North of those two thoroughfares is shown Holborn which is seen to be completely developed with streets and houses. Immediately north of the Strand lay Covent Garden whose street plan – including Long Acre and St Martin’s Lane – is still very recognisable. There is no Trafalgar Square and National Gallery because the Battle of Trafalgar was October 1805 and this map is 1746. The site of Trafalgar Square is a large fork in the road with the Royal Mews shown just to the north.

Land north of that fork has no Charing Cross Road (a Victorian thoroughfare) but Leicester Square is in evidence – then called Leicester Fields. To the north lies Soho, all of which had been developed by the time of the map.

To the south of the fork lay the Palace of Whitehall which burned down in 1698. The land was then redeveloped with large houses lived in by noblemen. Today’s street retains the name, Whitehall, as a reminder of the old palace.

West of Whitehall, we see St James’s Park and St James’s Palace. Little has changed in the street plans there! North of the park is St James’s Square with its surrounding regimented street pattern, indicating that everything was laid out to a plan – unlike much of the City of London whose jumbled street plan indicates a continuous development. North of St James’s Square is the long street called Piccadilly and above that is the familiar street pattern that is today on the west side of Regent Street. Of course, Regent Street was still to be laid out – cut through the existing streets in 1819, at the time of the Prince Regent. The regimented street plan extends north to Oxford Street with just a few streets starting are shown, being laid out on its northern side – that would become Cavendish Square and Harley Street.

Along the western edge of the map, we see a small part of Hyde Park with a country footpath for its eastern boundary that has become a busy dual-carriageway called Park Lane. Those who know London well may have noticed many other details on the map but only the main features have been considered. You could spend days – possibly weeks – studying this amazing map and still not notice all its details.

See also: Rocque and his Large Scale Map of London – SHOW_THE_ARTICLE


Posted in /Maps of London (c4) | 1 Comment

Rocque and his Large Scale Map of London

Above: Rocque’s Large Scale Map of London (Click image to enlarge to 1710×900).

John Rocque (c1709–62), surveyor, cartographer, engraver and map-seller. He was born no later than 1709 because in that year he came to England with his parents who were French Huguenot émigrés. He became a godfather in 1728, which suggests he was at least twenty-one years old by that time. He would have been born with the name Jean Rocque and probably changed his first name when he came to England. He became a prolific cartographer but is today best known for his masterful maps of London.

One of the two maps – now usually referred to as ‘Rocque’s Large Scale Map of London’ – shows most of what has become Central London. Published in 1746, the map is on 24 large sheets of paper, each sheet measuring 27 inches (686 mm) horizontally by 19 inches (483 mm). They are large sheets. The whole map shows London in great detail – extending from Knightsbridge and part of Hyde Park in the west to Rotherhithe and the Howland Great Wet Dock (later to become the Greenland Dock) in the east. Most of Stepney is shown on the north of the Thames. All of the City of London is shown, along with Holborn, the Strand and the built-up parts of Westminster at the time of the map which by then extended as far north as Oxford Street. To the south is shown the village of Lambeth, the Borough High Street, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe with much of the land still in use as farms.

Several earlier maps had covered roughly the same area and it was, therefore, a common theme to produce a map of nearly the same area. As London continued to expand, later maps showed a larger piece of land so as to include the whole of the expanding built-up area. Rocque’s ‘Large Scale’ map was not the first to show London in this way but it gives great insight into mid-18th century London.

With today’s technology – like aerial photography and satellite imagery – we expect maps to be accurate. It must be remembered that there were very few maps of London when John Rocque’s team set out to survey the roads, rivers and hills in the 18th century. If you needed to know the length and shape of a street, it was necessary to measure its length and walk along it to determine its shape. It was a huge task. All the information had to be drawn onto large metal plates before printing could take place. The process of engraving was drawing a map ‘in reverse’ which only added to the difficulty of completing the task.

There is no intention to reproduce the map in any detail here. There are several Websites which show the map in varying degrees of detail – some quite good and others notably poor. Of course, there is no substitute for obtaining a facsimile paper copy of the map where its true splendour can be seen. The object here is to bring the map to the attention of the reader because, for Central London, it is one of the most important maps of London in the 18th century.


Posted in /Maps of London (c4) | 1 Comment

Southwark and its Relationship with the City

When we say that the City of London lies on the north side of the Thames – meaning the northern end of London Bridge – and that Southwark is on the south side of the Thames – at the southern end of London Bridge – that is not entirely true. This information may come as rather a surprise but you only have to walk around at the southern end of London Bridge to see the evidence right in front of your eyes.

From very early times Southwark has been ‘joined’ to the City of London in the form of a bridge. The Romans built a wooden bridge between Londinium and a small settlement that was clustered around the southern end of the bridge. Borough High Street started as a Roman road constructed as a causeway across the marshy land to the south of that bridge. A more permanent stone bridge – old London Bridge – was constructed between 1176 and 1209 which lasted for nearly 600 years.

In 1328 Southwark came under the jurisdiction of the City of London to overcome the problem of criminals, fleeing from the City and escaping arrest in the Borough (meaning the Borough of Southwark). In 1550 the City was granted full control of Southwark. It became the twenty-sixth ward – called ‘Bridge Ward Without’ to distinguish it from ‘Bridge Ward’ (later ‘Bridge Ward Within’ at the foot of London Bridge inside the City). Even today, people who live or work in and around the Borough High Street describe it simply as ‘The Borough’. The locality is never called ‘The Borough of Southwark’.

The northern end of what is now part of the London Borough of Southwark is no longer part of the City of London in the sense of being one of the City wards. Bridge Ward Without marked the City’s area of control in Southwark – including the three manors of the Guildable Manor, King’s Manor and Great Liberty. The Court of Aldermen in the City appointing an alderman but there were never any members of the Court of Common Council elected there because the three Courts Leet of the Manors in Southwark fulfilled that representative role. The concept of Bridge Ward Without declined by Victorian times and the name has no meaning today.

The story does not end there because if you take a walk around the land at the southern end of today’s London Bridge, you will notice a street name with the City of London coat of arms inscribed on it. Nearby stands Colechurch House – a rather ugly concrete office block named after ‘Peter of Colechurch’, the architect for the first stone London Bridge. Peering through the glass doors, you will see a City of London coat of arms on the window. The street nameplate and the office block both indicate property related to the City of London. The building has long been mooted as a potential project by developers but has been entwined in a complex ownership structure that is only now beginning to unwind. Of recent times, the City of London Corporation has appointed JLL to advise on the sale of a 150-year long-leasehold interest in Colechurch House at 1 London Bridge Walk, SE1. Times are, indeed, changing around this area which is only a stone’s throw from London Bridge Station.


Posted in /Sou-Southwark | Leave a comment