An exact survey of London ... in 1746

Monday 28 October 2019

Layers of London, an interactive map-based project at the Institute of Historical Research, a member of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, has collaborated with the British Library and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to rectify an 18th-century map of London. John Rocque’s ‘Ten miles round’ has been superimposed onto a modern map of London for the first time resulting in a detailed window onto Greater London’s past made freely accessible to the public.

‘The 1746 Rocque Map, a remarkable feat for its time, captures Greater London in impressive detail, in some cases even to the level of individual pubs and farms, and showing what were then villages like Balham (Ballam) and Dalston,’ explains Professor Matthew Davies, Layers of London director. ‘From west to east, the map spans Hounslow to Woolwich and from north to south, Tottenham to Morden.”

It provides a unique record of London’s then environs with a wonderful and convincing capturing of the topography – including hedge-lined roads, ploughed fields, and elegant laid-out gardens.

London was a surprisingly compact city in 1746. While Oxford Street was already bustling, St Pancras (Pancras) was just a church and four other buildings amid fields. Waterloo was Lambeth Marsh, and before the advent of modern technology, Telegraph Hill in New Cross was known as Plow’d Garlick Hill. Even Buckingham Palace was then just Buckingham House.

It took MOLA six months to go through a painstaking process of accurately superimposing Rocque’s Map on a modern map of the city.

Sarah Jones, head of geomatics at MOLA, who oversaw the work, says, 'The level of survey accuracy is generally remarkable, but certain areas seem to have flummoxed John Rocque. Beckenham in south London, for instance, seems to have proved particularly tricky, possible due to the hilly terrain. By adjusting 1140 points on the map, we were able to make it fit the modern London map.'

It took John Rocque several years to produce this magnificent map, his most ambitious. A success, it was reprinted numerous times, even after his death in 1762. Today, Londoners can use it online to discover their own London.

Gethin Rees, the British Library’s lead curator of digital map collections, said this Rocque map is one of the library's ‘greatest treasures, providing fascinating insights into the geography and life of eighteenth-century London. We are really excited that Layers of London have made the map available alongside the wealth of other interesting information on their site. Presentation in this innovative context can help a broader audience to take an interest in the map, learn and enjoy.'

Other maps on the Layers of London website

The Layers of London website comprises a growing number of significant maps. Currently, the earliest map is of the City of London in the 1270s. Others include Charles Booth’s Poverty Map (1886–1903), and London County Council’s Bomb Damage Map (1945).   

Online access to the Rocque Ten Mile Round Map

To get to the Rocque Ten Miles Round Map you need to visit the Layers of London website. Click on ‘Map’ at the top of the homepage, then click on ‘Layer Tools’ at the bottom left of the map and click on ‘Choose New Layers’. Select ‘John Rocque’s Ten Miles Round Map (1746)’, and then click ‘I’m Done’ at the bottom right of your screen. The general map of London will now show the Rocque Map, although you may have to zoom in to see it in detail.

Ends

For further information, please contact Seif El Rashidi, seif.elrashidi@sas.ac.uk/ +44 (0) 20 7862 8705

Notes for Editors 

  1. The Rocque ten miles round map, 1746, officially: An Exact Survey of the citys of London Westminster ye Borough of Southwark and the Country Near Ten Miles Round is available online at www.Layersoflondon.org. Courtesy of The British Library.
     
  2. Layers of London, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Institute of Historical Research Trust, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, comprises an ambitious website that makes key historic maps available online and a dynamic engagement programme to encourage schools, community groups, archives and individuals to share information about the people, places and communities they know. It is led by the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, in partnership with a number of institutions including London Metropolitan Archives, The Museum of London Archaeology, The British Library, Birkbeck, Historic England, The National Archives, and the National Library of Scotland. www.Layersoflondon.org
     
  3. The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website- www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.
     
  4. MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) provides independent archaeology and built heritage advice and professional services, with offices in London, Northampton, Basingstoke and Birmingham. MOLA’s 300 expert staff help its clients to fulfil planning conditions and they work in partnership to develop far-reaching research and community engagement programmes. Find out more at www.mola.org.uk, on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin