Location in the London Map Trade

Rocque Lettered

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A talk given to members of the International Map Collectors’ Society (IMCoS) – 3rd June 2000. A transcript was published in the IMCoS Journal: Issue 82 (Autumn 2000). 

We are all used to looking at maps: that is what brings us together.  One small part of the complex web of information a map may offer will sometimes be the name, and  and perhaps the address, of the mapmaker or mapseller. What I should like to do this evening is to turn the tables on the mapsellers, or at least one particular group of them: the principal London mapsellers from the late seventeenth through to the early nineteenth century, and to look, for once, not at their maps, but at a map, as it were, of themselves.

There are different ways of doing this: the first and most obvious way, is simply to plot their addresses on a map of London. This is partly what the maps you have been given are about. But there are other factors too: the map trade was never static, things change over time, and another way of plotting the map trade, making a portrait of it, would be to devise a chronological table, showing which mapsellers were active at which point in time, who succeeded whom, and so on. A third way of charting the mapsellers would be to plot their relationships with each other – their trading relationships and personal relationships. Although I have provided you with only one map, it is easy to see that this could have been a whole sheaf of papers showing different portraits of the trade.

But let us see how far, in some of these directions at least, we can go with just one map. Let me say, first of all, that I am not going to include everyone. But there will be a good many names. If some are unfamiliar, it does not matter: for the purposes of this evening, it is where they were, not who they were that counts.  I intend to concentrate on the principal retail map-selling establishments – the main locations at which a Londoner, or visitor to London, would have found an extensive selection of maps. The existence of such establishments obviously indicates the parallel existence of a range of other locations: the workshops of engravers, the manufactories of copper plates, paper warehouses, the workshops of rolling-press printers, and even the dwelling-places of those who coloured the maps. A complete map of the trade would include these secondary locations as well, but there are limits to what we can be done in a preliminary survey. 

Having said that I intended to look at the mapsellers rather than their maps, I am of course going to begin by contradicting myself.  Let us look at the map: Rocque’s map of London, or part of it. We tend to think in historic terms of trades gathering together in specific areas: this is where the jewellers were, this is where the bankers were, this is where the booksellers were – but this, as I see it, was never, in London at least, how the map trade worked. There was a pattern and, as I will suggest, a very well defined pattern, but it was not a localised cluster: it was a linear pattern across the whole of the built up area.

The geography of London itself has a part to play in this.  It is a city that works, almost exclusively, on an east-west axis. The river, of course, runs east-west, but let me draw your attention, in particular, to the major roadway that crosses London parallel to the Thames: the route from Charing Cross (marked A on the map), along the Strand (B), up Fleet Street (C), up Ludgate Hill and Ludgate Street (D), to St Paul’s (F) and from there, running north of the Cathedral, via Cheapside and the Poultry (G), to the Royal Exchange at (H). This was, and in some ways, still is, the principal highway linking together the oldest parts of London and Westminster. Although it changes its name as it runs across town, it is essentially a single road and runs almost in a straight line. It is still the shortest (and most interesting) route across town. You will see that it links together in a simple and even economical way the principal seats of power and influence. At (A) we are on the doorstep of the political heart of the nation at Westminster and Whitehall, at (F) the power and patronage of the Church at St Paul’s, and at (H) the financial and commercial heart of the eighteenth-century empire at the Royal Exchange. We see, in passing, the majesty of the law at the Temple and Inns of Court either side of Fleet Street (C) and we do not forget that Fleet Street itself became synonymous with another power in the land, the power of the press.

There are other ways, too, of looking at this road. Extending to the west, it links to the high road to Bristol, a city that was, at least at the start of our period, still the second city of the kingdom and the principal port for the Americas. To the east, if we continue along Leadenhall Street (I) to Aldgate and out into Whitechapel, it is the road to the east coast ports. And if, from Aldgate, we swing south into the Minories (J), it is also the road to two further bastions of power: the Tower of London (K), the military heart of the nation, and from there to the London Docks (L), assuredly the practical base of the maritime power that underpinned the whole edifice.

It is a highway that encompasses all the varied history this country has to offer. Who would you not meet strolling that highway in the eighteenth century? Now mapsellers may not know much, but they can, by and large, read a map. And the implicit commercial message of this map is plain: if you wish to reach the widest, best-educated, wealthiest and most influential clientele, then to be on or close to this highway was probably a good idea.  This is where we would expect to find the map trade.  That is the theory.  How well does it translate into practice?  Let us look at where the mapsellers actually were.

I will start in the years leading up to 1700.  To the left of the map – (A) – this, as with all the letters, I use in a general way. These are not precise locations, they are rough positions indicating various although neighbouring addresses. Roughly here then, at (A), from 1676 on, we find the map-maker William Berry at the sign of the Globe in Craggs Court between Charing Cross and Whitehall. We infer from his location that his market was probably the dignitaries attached to the seat of government. What is interesting is that for many years he routinely worked in tandem with his contemporary, Robert Morden. They often advertised jointly, both were members of the Weavers’ Company, and they were probably both apprentices of the map and globe-maker, Joseph Moxon. Berry certainly was – Morden almost certainly.  Now where was Morden?  Roughly two miles away to the east at (H), at the Atlas on Cornhill, close by the Royal Exchange: as close to the financial centre as Berry was to the political one.  One situated at more or less at each end of the most heavily travelled section of the highway.  Why at each end?  The answer is almost certainly Moxon himself.  In the 1670s and 1680s Moxon was to be found at the sign of the Atlas at the foot of Ludgate Hill (D) exactly bisecting his two juniors and giving these related businesses a perfect spread across town.  This balance continued even after Moxon’s death in 1691, with his son, James Moxon, having premises (still at the sign of the Atlas) in Warwick Lane just a little to the north of the original location.

Let us add in a new member of the Weavers’ Company: Philip Lea, apprenticed to Morden in 1675, and thus representing a third generation of this group.  He began his independent career in 1683 in the Poultry (G) neatly midway between Morden and Moxon, later moving along Cheapside slightly closer to St Paul’s (but still at G), at about the time the elder Moxon retired.  So there we have them – at circles A, D, G and H – neatly lined up. What room did that leave for anyone else?  Who else was there at this period?  There was activity further to the east: the chart-maker John Thornton in the Minories (J); another chart-maker, William Fisher, on Tower Hill (K), and John Seller (also principally known for sea-charts) on the river at (L).  The emphasis at this end of town is clearly on charts rather than maps.  The ships on the river at this point tell us why.  Who else can we see before 1700?  St Paul’s (F), right at the centre of the map, had long been a centre of the publishing trade and there was obviously scope for activity here.  Robert Walton was here, until his death in 1688, when he was succeeded by his apprentice, Christopher Browne.  The first Thomas Bowles was here, almost certainly from the 1680s, although perhaps not especially involved in maps at this time.

To the west, the long stretch of the Strand and Fleet Street (B-C) seems a little under-populated, although in the 1680s Richard Blome could be found, on two afternoons a week, at an address behind the Green Dragon Tavern on Fleet Street.  The bookseller, Thomas Bassett, co-owner with Richard Chiswell of the valuable Speed maps, was in Fleet Street certainly into the 1690s (Chiswell was at St Paul’s). And the Dutch bookseller and map-seller, David Mortier, may well have been at premises in the Strand before 1700.

So there, unless I have forgotten someone (and I am sure I will be corrected if I have), we have all the major retail mapsellers in the years before 1700. And they are all, every one of them, on the highway  – and not only on it, but organised in what appears to be a systematic way along it.  There is one exception, one other plausible location for a mapseller, on another major highway offering the possibility of selling maps in viable numbers.  It is easy enough to see.  Coming in from the west, High Holborn and Holborn Hill running across to (E). The road into town from Oxford and the Midlands and the road that also acted as a terminus to the major roads to the north. And here, at (E) the White Horse without Newgate, from the 1660s onwards, we find John Overton.

And so by 1700 it seems, even though I am collapsing the chronology slightly to fit all these names in at one point, there is a sense of balance: a trade, by accident or by design, strategically and logically dispersed, and sufficiently well and thoughtfully placed to function to maximum efficiency.

What happens as we move into the eighteenth century?  Well, there is a slightly unusual clearing of the decks.  To run across the map again: Berry (A), although he lived until 1718, seems not to have been active after 1708 – there is a suggestion that he married an heiress of some sort.  Mortier (B) returned to the Netherlands (although his shop may have continued under a manager).  Blome died in 1705.  James Moxon (D) in 1708.  John Overton (E) in 1713.  Richard Chiswell (F) in 1711.  Christopher Browne (also F) retired in about 1712.  Philip Lea (G) died in 1700.  Robert Morden (H) in 1703.  John Thornton (J) in 1708 (and his son and successor, Samuel, in 1715),  while William Fisher (K) had died in 1692, and John Seller (L) in 1697.  His elder son, John junior, died the following year.

Having achieved a balance, the picture appears to disintegrate. This almost certainly accounts for what is generally perceived as the weakness of the London trade in the early eighteenth century. Nonetheless, the trade, in a sense starting from scratch, regenerates itself and, as we shall see, exactly the same pattern re-emerges. And if the whole of the map trade seems almost to have disappeared at a stroke, this did open up opportunities for others.

A few of the original businesses of course continued.  If we move back across the map, the Seller business (L) continued briefly (until 1705) under his younger son, Jeremiah, and his former apprentice, Charles Price. At that point Jeremiah Seller disappears from view.  That specific business was no more, although it did continue in a way through the activities of Price, as we shall see, and in fact became one of the major factors in the replenishment and further growth of the trade.  The William Fisher business (K) passed to his son-in-law, Richard Mount, and became “Mount & Page”, suppliers of sea-charts from this location throughout the eighteenth century. Philip Lea’s business continued for a number of years on Cheapside (G) and later in Fleet Street under his widow, Anne Lea.  The Overton business not only continued but diversified. The original premises (E) carried on under one son, Henry, while a younger son, Philip, opened new premises on Fleet Street (C): exactly the spot at which there was possibly a gap in the chain in 1700.  The Bowles family continued at St Paul’s under the younger Thomas Bowles and it is probably from this period of renewal that we see them taking a stronger interest in maps. The opportunity arose. There was opportunity for others as well. The related Morden, Moxon and Berry businesses, with which we began, all disappeared within the space of five years. Elizabeth Moxon continued very briefly but it is essentially the case that none of them survived very far into the eighteenth century. The opportunity fell at this juncture to Herman Moll. At the time of Morden’s death in 1703, Moll had been in London, working as an engraver, for at least twenty-five years but had not previously been a prominent figure. His work was mainly in engraving maps for others.  Significantly, he had been working very closely with Morden in the last few years of Morden’s life. And I think we can see in this relationship the impetus and wider expertise that turned Moll from simply an engraver to a prominent retailer.  I do not have a precise date, but certainly by 1710 (and probably earlier) Moll had opened his own retailing premises at what looks like a pretty good spot – the eastern end of the Strand (B), an area we have already identified as being under-populated.

Over towards the City of London, in the Poultry (G) where Philip Lea had once been, we see the emergence of the newcomer John King (who not infrequently collaborated with Moll). King was perhaps primarily a printseller, but his shop sign was the Globe, and he certainly stocked a good range of maps.  He lived until 1759 and was in a substantial way of business.  Morden’s death had left a gap at the Royal Exchange (H) – or a partial gap. John Garrett, the printseller, was there.  Christopher Browne took secondary premises there for a time and, as we might expect, if there were a vacuum, it was soon to be filled.  In or about 1705, a young bookseller called John Senex took a shop opposite the Exchange, in partnership with Charles Price, Seller’s former apprentice. Their occupation of these premises was relatively short, indeed their partnership only lasted a few years, but it lasted long enough for Senex to make himself a reputation in the map trade.  By 1710, he had his own premises, not in fact near the Exchange (for reasons I shall suggest), but at the top of Fleet Street (C), mid-way between Philip Overton’s new shop and the cluster of activity around St Paul’s. As for Price, he by now was in a new partnership with another newcomer, the entrepreneurial George Willdey, on Ludgate Street (D) – Willdey eventually taking over Christopher Browne’s old premises on the same street. Willdey’s earlier partner, Timothy Brandreth, now opened premises at the Royal Exchange (H).  This, I imagine, given the tangled history of these partnerships, is perhaps why Senex went to Fleet Street.

Brandreth, as it turned out, seems not to have persisted with maps for very long: but we have seen the Overton family expand under a younger brother. Now we see the same thing with the Bowles family. John Bowles, the younger son, was operating from close to the Exchange by the 1720s, and after a few years on Cheapside (G), he settled in Cornhill (H again) for a long and productive career.

The earlier line across the town is back in place.  There is one gap: no one appears to have replaced Berry at Charing Cross (A), although this may be illusory. You will remember that Berry did not actually die until 1718 and his lack of activity may be more apparent than real.  Not long after his death, we find the printseller and engraver Paul Fourdrinier (someone who certainly advertised that he stocked a range of maps) in Craggs Court, exactly where Berry had been.  Fourdrinier’s first recorded publication was 1719: this may not be wholly coincidence.  And, of course, at this end of the line, at the foot of Whitehall (south of A), we do have that long-established venue for occasional map-selling, Westminster Hall, an additional outlet for many members of the map trade – Lea, Moll, Moxon, Seller and others, at what was more or less the seventeenth and eighteenth-century equivalent of a regular book and map fair.

By the 1720s we have Moll in the Strand (B), Philip Overton and John Senex in Fleet Street (C), George Willdey (D), Henry Overton (E), Thomas Bowles (F), John King (G), John Bowles (H), and the Mount and Page partnership dominating the chart trade (and assimilating the market of their earlier rivals) at (K).  The line is back in place and clearly functioning as such.  Earlier on, there were partnerships along the line, as in the case of Morden, Berry and Lea operating together, but by now we have even ostensibly rival firms acting in concert.  To give one brief example: I have in stock at the moment a late issue of Moll’s two-sheet “A new and exact map of France” dating from, I think it must be 1732, that is the only date at which I can get the specific addresses to tie in.  The map is sold by Moll himself in the Strand (B), Philip Overton (C), Thomas Bowles (F), John King (G) and John Bowles (H) – a united and solid front.  And one that, perhaps, is already beginning to ossify.  There is little incentive here for competition or innovation.

What then was a new entrant to the trade to do: someone that did perhaps have something fresh to offer?  Let us consider Emanuel Bowen: Bowen emerges out of the Price-Senex partnership, having been apprenticed to Price in 1709, while the partnership was still intact.  He seems to have moved with Price to Willdey’s. Thereafter we only catch glimpses of his early independent career.  There is a brief appearance in 1720 at an address in St. Katherine’s, just to the east of the Tower (L). He appears to have been looking to resurrect the dockside end of the axis (this was where Seller had been, where Price had begun). We see a brief appearance in Fleet Street (C) in 1722, but this was an area by now becoming over-crowded (as well as Philip Overton and John Senex, we also have Thomas Taylor by this stage). It is almost as if Bowen is testing the water.  We even find him announcing that he will be selling his eclipse map out of town altogether at the Bristol Fair in 1724.  Whether it was a matter of finance or a matter of strategy is difficult to determine, but Bowen decides to do something different. Perhaps he was simply unable to compete, but equally, he may simply have decided on an alternative way of doing things.  In any event, he tries something I think new in the map trade: he retreats, at first to Aldersgate, then to Smithfield, and finally to Clerkenwell.  All locations to the north of the map, but all at the centre of it in the area north of letter (E) and thus not too far from almost any point on the central highway.  Here he works, not from prime retail premises, but in a specialist ancillary capacity producing maps for others to sell.  Of course there was nothing new in there being satellite workshops off the main highway – the subsidiary trades I mentioned earlier – but this is, I think, the first time that a specialist map-making concern makes no real attempt to join that line we have drawn across town.  It was perhaps the exception that proves the rule.

The other businesses in place by the 1720s, were solidly established and long-lived. Mount & Page (K) kept going generation by generation, selling charts as they had always done, on into the nineteenth century. John Bowles (H) lived until 1779, when the business was taken over by Robert Wilkinson, under whom it remained in Cornhill until 1816. John Bowles’ son, Carington, ran the original Bowles business at St. Paul’s (F) until his death in 1792 and was then succeeded by his son, Henry Carington, who was still there until he died in 1830.  The George Willdey business on Ludgate Street (D) survived until 1748, latterly under his brother, Thomas. The Willdeys are then succeeded in this area in turn by George Foster and Fenwick Bull at the White Horse on Ludgate Hill.  John Senex died in 1740, but his widow, Mary, remained in Fleet Street (C) on into the 1750s.  When Philip Overton died in 1745, his premises, also Fleet Street, passed to Robert Sayer – and after Sayer’s death in 1794, in turn to his apprentice, Robert Laurie (of Laurie and Whittle). We also see the emergence of Peter Griffin, an apprentice of Overton, who opens his own shop on Fleet Street selling “all sorts of maps both foreign and English”. Farther to the north, Henry Overton at (E), died in 1751. He left his stock and premises to a nephew, also Henry, but the nephew seems not to have continued the business. What we notice is that almost immediately a new name steps in.  Just a little to the west, on Holborn Hill, Thomas Kitchin is in residence by 1755. Once again, this would appear not to be a coincidence.

At the far left of the map (A), in or about 1750 (and this perhaps coincides with the final decline of Westminster Hall as a retail venue) John Rocque and Thomas Jefferys arrive almost simultaneously. Rocque had earlier been even further to the west, on what is now Piccadilly.   He came originally from overseas, but Jefferys emerges out of the London trade.  He, like Thomas Kitchin, was an apprentice of Emanuel Bowen. So although Bowen opted out of the conventional path, two of his apprentices opted back in as soon as they were able.

Rocque in fact lost his premises at Charing Cross in a fire, but he soon returned, not quite to Charing Cross, but just to the east in the Strand (B).  The chain was once again complete and, broadly speaking, so it remained throughout the century. At (A) Jefferys remained until his death in 1771 and was succeeded first by his son, also Thomas, and his son’s partner, William Faden, and ultimately, by now well into the nineteenth century, by James Wyld.  On the Strand (B) Rocque was succeeded by his widow, Mary Anne, and from there it was not too long until the young John Cary, made the Strand his base, again until well into the nineteenth century.

The appearance of Cary in the Strand, not only makes a point about how tenacious the trade was in reverting over and over again to an identical pattern of distribution, but also how cohesive it was. Most of his contemporaries represented long-established firms that continued generation by generation. Cary seems at first to be a new name, but he, no less than his neighbour, Faden, could trace his origins back to the seventeenth-century trade with which we began.  In fact, we can trace them both back to just one of the original firms.  Faden, born just off Fleet Street, is in a line that goes back through Jefferys and Bowen to Price and to John Seller.  Cary came from Wiltshire.  His father was a country maltster.  There is no readily apparent link, but on coming to London he trained with the map-engraver, William Palmer.  Palmer in turn had been an apprentice of Richard William Seale and Seale an apprentice of Samuel Parker.  And Parker had been an apprentice of John Senex, who spent his formative years with Charles Price, and we are once again back to John Seller.  So although that location at (L) disappeared quite early in our story, it was still informing the trade a century later. We not only have a line across the map but solid lines in time down the generations.

To return to the map: Cary was in the Strand (B). Also in the Strand from at least 1782 we have Samuel Neele, the engraver of a prodigious number of maps.  By 1800 they are joined by Charles Smith.  In Fleet Street (C) there was Robert Laurie and, moving on into the nineteenth century, George Frederick Crutchley – in Fleet Street for nearly fifty years.  Prior to that, he was on Ludgate Street (D), where, in the late eighteenth century one would have found John Wallis’s Map Warehouse.  Wallis, also had secondary premises on Cornhill (H). At Holborn, close to (E) and very close to where Kitchin had been, we later find one of the principal map-producing firms of the nineteenth century in John & Charles Walker. And of course the Bowles family were still at St. Paul’s (F) on into the nineteenth century.

On Cheapside (E) there was the map and printseller, John Smith, a former assistant of Sayer, with premises at the Hogarth’s Head, and throughout the second half of the eighteenth century and on into the nineteenth there was John Boydell, a famous printseller not especially known for maps (although he certainly produced some) – and who was an apprentice of William Henry Toms, whose small county maps many of you will know.  Also on Cheapside for a number of years either side of 1800, we have the map-engraver Harry Ashby, formerly with Jefferys.  At the Exchange (H) John Bowles is replaced by Robert Wilkinson and, in the 1790s, we actually find somewhere almost new on the highway: Leadenhall Street (I). Here stood the Navigation Warehouse of William Heather – it had always been sea-charts this far east.

And so to conclude, we find the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century map trade all spread out along exactly the same line as it had done in the late seventeenth century. By now, of course, London was expanding and new areas were opening up. It would no longer be true to say that all of the mapsellers were on this line.  We have someone like Aaron Arrowsmith in Soho – not even on this map.  But, unlike the printsellers and booksellers, the map trade had not been rapid in building up a presence in newer and more fashionable locations to the west – Bond Street, Piccadilly and Mayfair.  The original line was still the major axis for map-selling.  Let me close with the observation that as late as 1848, the younger James Wyld, who took over the Jefferys-Faden business, was still at Charing Cross, but, seeking a second outlet, he opened additional premises at the Royal Exchange. Wittingly or unwittingly, he had recreated the William Berry – Robert Morden axis, one at Charing Cross (A), the other at the Royal Exchange (H), with which we began.


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