Old maps of London

There’s an exhibition of a great collection of rare old maps of London at the Oxo Tower this weekend as part of the Thames Festival. Here are a few of the highlights


George Cruchley’s Plan of Early Victorian London (1843) – covering Highgate to Dulwich and Hammersmith to Greenwich.


Titled “The First Accurate and Detailed Map of London” by John Ogilby and William Morgan, “all the Streets, Lanes, Alleys, Courts, Yards, Churches, Halls, Houses” at a scale of 100 foot/inch from 1676.


Christopher and John Greenwood spent three years carrying out the survey for this six sheet map published in 1827


Sixteen sheet map by Rocque published in 1768.

More information about the maps from Daniel Crouch Rare books with prices for any visiting Oligarchs and deposed dictators

‘Patch Map’ of Wanstead Flats


Love this fantastic ‘patch map’ of Wanstead Flats from Wanstead Birder marked with ‘boggy bit’, ‘motorbike wood’, a red cross warning (or notifying) of cruising in Long Wood, ‘Police Scrape’ (I was showing this to someone this morning), ‘Pub Scrub’ etc. Have a look at the comments as well for a list of birds spotted on the Flats.

Common Ground


Sat in the armchair in my shed the other day enjoying the first spring sunshine pitching through the open door, I lazily picked up a copy of The Countryman from Winter 1986 sat on the old school desk and randomly flicked through the pages stopping on this passage:

“… tree preservation orders may well miss trees with important local associations – perhaps where village courting traditions took place, or the first chestnut burst into leaf in spring. Sites of special scientific interest can overlook the bluebell wood or primrose bank remembered since childhood. And what legislation would protect the brackenfield so important to a community within living memory as a source for bedding animals, reed-bed cut for thatching, or the quarry waste-tip symbolic of labour that gave character to the place we now enjoy?”Tom Greeves, The Countryman, 1986

Tom Greeves’ article goes on to describe the launch of The Common Ground Parish Maps Project – an initiative to get each parish to create maps representing the values, interests and heritage from the point of view of the people who live there.

In the cities, the primrose banks and bluebell woods can just as easily be bus-shelters where local ‘courting traditions’ took place, and nissen huts now used as garden sheds – we need to make sure they too are mapped and save them from being cruelly swept away like the brackenfields bricked over with Wimpy Homes.

Common Ground seem to still be going strong nearly 30 years later, mapping out the corners of communities often overlooked and neglected. Have a listen to this recent programme on Radio 4




Leyton under the waters of the River Lea

This is a sobering image, in light of the current floods, from W.H. Weston’s The Story of Leyton and Leytonstone (1921) showing the ‘probable’ scale of the east bank of the River Lea around the time of the Late Stone Age.
I keep looking at it as it appears to show my home under a watery finger that laps over Francis Road up to Fairlop Road.

This map on Wanstead Meteo shows the extent of the flooding in the area when the Lea broke its banks in 1809 – although I find this vision more encouraging as it would submerge Westfield.

The nearby Philly Brook which was famously prone to flooding until it was culverted seems to still be gurgling soundly beneath the streets although I’m going to pop round to check on Dennis’ corner shop in a minute as it sits right in a gulley beside the brook in Norlington Road which was so sodden that it was dubbed ‘the valley of Doom’.
You can’t hold mother nature back forever.

London development watch

london dev

I just found this interactive map created by the GLA that allows you to keep track of planning applications in your area (and beyond if you wish).

Clicking on the icons reveals details of everything from loft conversations to the building of mosques and temples, schools and office blocks. Within it are the contentious developments blighting the city – galleries evicted from Cork Street to make way for flats, residential tower blocks in Soho, huge schemes at Smithfield and Mount Pleasant … on and on it goes all over the city.


Sydney map mash-up

aus notebook collage 2-med

The publication of This Other London in Australia today made me think of these maps that I stuck in my journal when I was preparing to leave Sydney in 1997 after 2-and-a-half years. They show some of the streets that played a significant part in my life in Sydney, the places I’d lived, the various routes I took up to the library at Bondi Junction where I used the computers to write a screenplay set in a Hackney squat.

I haven’t been back to Sydney for over 10 years now but mentally I still take a wander along those lanes between Tamarama and Bronte then up to Charing Cross and back to the Waverley Oval.