A good map is a thing of beauty

Anne here, confessing that I've always liked maps. I get frustrated when things don't include maps, when a map would make it all so much more accsssible and interesting. And since I was a kid I've loved the really old maps, where the countries look nothing like the shape of the countries we know now, and where sea monsters and mermaids cavort in the stretches of empty sea. Oldmap1872Here's one from 1872.

Here be dragons?
It's not strictly true, actually — that most of the old maps said that, I mean. As far as I know that phrase was only used on one map — a 16th century copper globe known as the The Lenox Globe and it didn't actually say "Here be Dragons," it was in Latin and said "HC SVNT DRACONES" (which means the same thing). But it's a good tale and a great image and I'd be delighted to have dragons lurking on the edge of any map of mine. There are still dragons lurking — they just look different.

Landscape is important to me, so I use maps all the time for my research.I would happily tramp the streets and country lanes where my heroes and heroines walk, but I can't. So I do the next best thing — I consult a map.

I love having the ability to see the actual arial view of the land through google maps. I remember when I was searching the Dorset coastline for a suitable place for my heroine in Stolen Princess to land. You can imagine my delight when I found not only the perfect cove, which has a smuggling history, but saw through the arial view the faint outline of a path from the beach up the cliff. Through all the writing of that book, I had a detailed map of the area pinned to my noticeboard and photos of the surrounding countryside. Some were part of my collage for the story. Princess2collagebig

Do I use all these details?
No, otherwise readers all over the place would be dropping like flies, zzzing out of my story, but it helps to build the landscape in my mind and when I'm writing I can "see" the landscape. 

In my current story, the heroine can see over the back wall of the house she's in, right into the neighboring house. It's a crucial part of the plot.
I know it's possible as I've done exactly that at a friend's house in inner London. But was it possible during the Regency in the area I want? So it's off the the Horwood Map for me.
The Horwood Map? you ask, scratching your head. It was a landmark map of its day, and a huge achievement. And for me, it's a source of fascination and delight.

The Horwood Map of London

By the late 18th century the growth and expansion of London had proceeded on such a scale that the last detailed city map, John Roque's Plan of 1740, had become hopelessly out of date. As well, much redeveloping was starting to take place, with old buildings and estates being demolished and new developments being constructed, particularly in the west and the north of the city. There was an urgent need for a good quality, detailed and accurate plan of the city to me made available to the developers, surveyors and gentlemen of property, for city planning was not controlled by government in those days. This is Roque's map, below.

Map-making in those days was a private activity also, not a subject of government departments as it so often is now. Richard Horwood decided to accept this challenge. He was not a famous map-maker and had only published one other map, of the city of Liverpool. But he was a man of determination and ambition.

Horwood raised the money for the survey by subscription — it was an investment in what he hoped would be a money making endeavor. By the mid-1790's he'd raised £4,000 in cash, and had secured a loan from the Phoenix Fire Company for the rest.

It was all done by hand — or rather, by foot. Horwood and his surveyors tramped the whole of the city, measuring and drawing and noting down everything in amazing detail. Not everything, because not all people were well-disposed toward the project and the surveyors and map-makers weren't always granted access to private estates, military sites such as the Tower of London and sometimes even to back alleys. 

The final map was a triumph of the mapmaker's art. Horwood had aimed to show every single property, every house, alleyway and street, every court and square and garden — and with a few exceptions, he succeeded. His map is detailed in a way that takes your breath away, even today, and was a landmark achievement. Here's a small part of it. Click on the image for a larger size map with clearer detail.

Marvelous, isn't it? Sadly, though his map of London made Richard Horwood's reputation, and made his name live on in history, the map didn't make him a fortune, as he'd hoped. But what a legacy.

With the continuing growth of the city it was inevitable that his map would soon fall out of date, and in 1827 Christopher and John Greenwood published a new map. It's a wonderful map, very detailed and excellent to show how the city had grown in the twenty-five years since Horwood, but to my mind it lacks Horwood's crisp detail and visual appeal. Here's part of the Greenwood map showing much the same area as the Horwood one.  North15a

To pore over these maps is to pore over Georgian London. One can almost see the city come to life. In these maps, I found a number of good possibilities for my current story. I can see the places that are in easy walking distance of her house, a market where she might shop, a park, a poor house she might pass and think, "there but for the grace of God…"

London was a fascinating mix of rich and poor in those days. Did you see the workhouse in Mount Street, in the heart of Mayfair on the Horwood Map? it wasn't all rich people. And you can see it, right there on the map.

My heroine lives in an area that contains grand houses, but which was rapidly falling out of fashion, so there's an interesting mix of people, as you get when an area is changing demographically. 


I do a search for images of some of the places marked on the map and I find several that have survived the centuries, and images of others.

Here's a drawing of the Hungerford market, long since demolished for late Regency era housing.

And as I look at the map I'm reminded that the Thames Embankment hadn't been built yet and maybe I can use the proximity of the river… Ah yes, I do love a good map.

What about you? Do you like maps? Only use them when you have to? Or do you prefer to use an electronic Global Positioning thingy-whatsits that tell you to turn right or left? Or do you (or the driver in your life) prefer to operate On Instinct.