English County Maps
County Maps East Midlands Region of England
County Maps East of England Region
County Maps North West Region of England
County Maps South East Region of England
In this section we will be building a comprehensive collection of County Maps, for each of the counties of England that are today a combination of historic shires and counties and have been subject to many boundary changes over the course of history.
English County Maps
In medieval times, a county was the realm of a lord. A county palatine was a county in which the lord held particular rights in lieu of the monarch, for example the right to pardon those guilty of treason or murder. Shires were formed in Anglo-Saxon times for the purpose of raising taxes. These had fortified strongholds at their centres which became the shire or county towns of today.
Many well known and not so well known cartographers will be represented, from the early pioneering fathers of cartography and down through the centuries to the last of the beautifully illustrated county maps of the 19th century. The idea of making a survey of the kingdom and its parts in a consistent format developed in the mid Sixteenth Century. Although the first English map of Britain by Matthew Paris had appeared in about 1250, it was not until the mid Fifteenth Century that the principles of mapping were fully understood. The craft of cartography was boosted by the Italian invention of printing maps from copper plates in 1473, while advances in scientific learning helped the Dutch and Flemish to become the masters of map making by the late 1500s.
Prior to 1579, Britainís cartographic representation had been limited to general maps of not very great detail or accuracy and just a handful of town plans. Recognising the lack of adequate maps for home defence and for local use, Sir Thomas Seckford, a master of Requests in Queen Elizabethís Court, commissioned Christopher Saxton, a Cheshire man, to survey and have published a series of maps of England and Wales. Saxton is credited with much of the mapping himself and the maps were finely engraved by a group of English and Flemish artisans, and were published in London. The maps were first published in a finished atlas form in 1579; twenty-four of the maps depict individual counties while ten show groups. The groups usually portray two counties, although some show more, as in this map of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Middlesex. The copperplates remained usable and used to re-publish the maps over the next 150 years.
William Camden's great historical description of the British Isles, "Britannia", first appeared in 1586. Originally lacking any maps it was decided that, for the edition of 1607, maps, copied mainly from Christopher Saxton's and John Norden's recent work, would be re-engraved by William Kip and William Hole. The maps for "Britannia" are well engraved, clearly detailed, and, with elegant flourishes to the typography, constitute the first series to show each county of England and Wales separately.
John Speed (1552-1629) is arguably the most famous English cartographer of this, or any other period as a result of his atlas "The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine" published in 1612. This was going to prove to be a very useful atlas containing 67 maps that included all of the counties of England and Wales. Because they are so informative and decorative, the individual maps are the best known and among the most sought-after of all county maps. The maps themselves were derived from the best and most up-to-date sources available. However, Speed also made innovations of his own such as introducing town plans on most of the maps.
The finest Dutch map publishers were the Blaeu family, Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) was the founder of the Blaeu publishing house. In 1634 he commenced publication of the "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum" or "Novus Atlas" and on his death he was succeeded by his son Johan (1596-1673). Johannes continuously enlarged and updated the "Theatrum" up to 1658, including the addition of a separate volume devoted to England and Wales and their counties. Blaeu maps are renowned for the consummate care and attention apparent in every stage of production. The county maps have decorative title cartouches and often depict the coats of arms of those families with important county links.
The main geographical features on these examples of early county maps comprise relief, including water, vegetation, settlements and notable buildings. All of the early county maps of England mentioned above, with the exception of 12 anonymous County maps described in the paragraph below, lack roads or highways. Variants of a small building with a spire represents a village, while more important towns are indicated by a building containing more than one spire. Hills and mountains are also pictorially defined. According to Evans and Lawrence, the 'aim was to convey an impression of topography rather than to provide precise information on the location and altitude of individual summits'. Rivers, streams, parks and woodlands are also depicted carefully. Woods are shown by small tree-symbols, with clusters representing forests. Parklands, meanwhile, are enclosed with ring fences. Despite some discrepancies, these early county maps are impressively accurate and detailed.
An example of one of the 12 anonymous county maps can be seen in the Warwickshire collection of county maps, reproduced with kind permission of Birmingham Archives Services and Heritage, dated 1602 or 1603. These county maps were the first to show roads and the boundaries of the hundreds. The hundreds were administrative sub divisions of counties in Anglo-Saxon England, and had existed since the tenth century. The names of the hundreds originated from the hundred meeting place where many of the judicial activities were carried out, in many cases remote from any settlement. The Warwickshire map was attributed to William Smith, antiquary and herald. The earliest version of the Warwickshire map carried no publisherís name, but another map in the series bears the imprint of Hans Woutneel, a Dutch bookseller resident in London between around 1584 and 1604; at least some of the maps may have been produced in Amsterdam.
From the first English county atlas in 1579 until the middle of the eighteenth century, few county maps were printed that attempted to show, on a large-scale, more than the basic details of towns, villages, roads and prominent physical features. Maps of just a handful of counties, or their parts, were available at scales of one-inch-to-the-mile or greater, but even the most detailed county atlas of the period could not provide the information required by an expanding and increasingly sophisticated market-place.
The result of this failing was that in 1759 the body that is now the Royal Society of Arts announced a prize of £1000 to be awarded for an original survey at a scale of one-inch-to-the-mile. The first recipient of the award was Benjamin Donn whose map of Devon, completed in 1765, that had taken five and a half years to produce. Maps of many counties followed with twelve further publications benefiting from the award. Coinciding with these privately produced surveys, the Board of Ordnance had begun surveying the country and in 1801 its first map, albeit of an individual county - Kent, was published. By 1840 maps of nearly all England had been published at a scale of one-inch-to-the-mile. However, the advent of the national survey did not entirely negate the work of the independent map publisher and one of the most prominent firms of the period was that of Christopher and John Greenwood.
One of the most well known series of 19th century county maps were by Thomas Moule (1784-1851), like many other map-makers and map-sellers before him, he was a man of many talents. As an author his output included books and papers on topography, history, genealogy, heraldry and architecture. His county maps show elements of all his studies and interests. Maps by Moule are some of the best known English county maps. Issued from 1830 onwards the maps combine a clear cartographic style with immense detail - vignette views, scenes and portraits relating to the county are often included on the map, frequently set within gothic architectural or floral surround into which armorial devices and so on are worked. As editions of the maps continued to be published, first in "The English Counties Delineated" and later in "Barclay's English Dictionary", the development of railway network throughout England could be observed. The maps were also used in a volume entitled "The History of England from The Invasion of Julius Caesar..." by Hume, Smollet and Farr, from which this particular example comes. Frequently entitled "the last series of decorative county maps", Moule's maps are good, informative maps, as popular now as they were in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign.
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