It’s been all over the news lately: Liverpool is one of the first British cities to be rendered in three full dimensions on Google Earth. There was, as a crazy extra, a rumour going around that it was in preparation for a new Google office which was opening in the city.
All born-and-bred Liverpudlians (and many more people) will be aware that the city is made up of a collection of villages. The villages used to sit comfortably in their landscape, surrounded by fields, lanes, streams and hills. Over time, they were swallowed up by the emerging behemoth of Liverpool itself.
This map has popped up twice for me recently, as someone asked me for a scanned copy, an a second person posted this image on one of the many great Liverpool history pages on Facebook. It’s a moment of Liverpool’s very early days captured on parchment.
My favourite thing about this map is its ‘obviousness’ and clarity. To a landscape archaeologist, this map of Liverpool is such an easy model to read. For a start, the Pool itself – “Ye Se Lake.” – is there, centre stage. We know straight away where the small town gets its name. Read more
Here’s a lovely neat little map of Liverpool’s earliest history, from Ramsay Muir’s classic 1907 book A History of Liverpool. Read more
Happy New Year all! This year I’ll be concentrating on more maps of Liverpool and the surrounding area, with only a smattering of news when it suits. First up: a lovely little book from 1902, detailing one man’s niche interest…
Today’s map is from the end of the 19th century, part of the Royal Atlas of England and Wales, published in 1898. It’s one of my favourite views of Liverpool at the height of its global power, for several reasons.
Those of you trying to drive past Sainsbury’s on East Prescot Road in West Derby may have found themselves diverted around a police bomb squad. A suspected hand grenade was discovered in Springfield Park as work began on the new Alder Hey hospital.
There are conflicting reports as to whether this was a modern grenade or one from the First World War. Hopefully someone will clear this up at some point, but it gives me a good excuse to look at a brief period in Alder Hey’s history: when the grounds of the hospital and park were used as an American army camp. Read more
Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden is a community project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, looking at the history of local food in Liverpool. The three local groups involved, Friends of Everton Park, Friends of Sudley Estate and Transition Liverpool, are all interested in finding out whether knowing more about the past might inspire new ways of thinking about the future of local food in our city. For example, while it might seem strange now to say you were heading out to Aigburth to pick some fresh veg from the farms there, this was exactly what people were able to do only fifty or sixty years ago. With all the interest in developing more local food systems, including long allotment waiting lists and new ‘Growers’ groups, we wanted to gather together a picture of how people used to grow food locally. Read more
North Liverpool is an area that I’ve become much more interested in since I started Liverpool Landscapes and Historic Liverpool. It’s seen such changes in its time, and been home to every part of Liverpool society. Stanley Park’s a great subject for closer inspection, especially as it’s become something of a metaphor for one of the passionate divides in the city! Read more
Today’s map is taken from a detailed one that I picked up recently, from the Illustrated Globe Encyclopedia printed in 1878.
The point of interest I’m drawing your attention to is Bootle. In 1878, and also visible on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, the village of Bootle sits alone to the north of Liverpool. The docks to the west have stretched this far north, but Bootle’s strong links with the port were still a little way in the future. Read more
This week’s research has been all about transport: roads, rail and that in-between technology, trams.
Like a lot of Liverpool’s landscape, the trams were both pioneering and behind the times. The first Act of Parliament was granted in 1868, and Liverpool was the first city to be granted such an Act, and yet Liverpool stuck with trams when other cities were moving to buses, the last tram entering the depot in 1957. Read more
I’ve been obsessed with Liverpool’s docklands this week. I’ve been reading a lot about them while writing the 19th century chapter of my book. Although the book’s focus will be on the changing historic landscape of Liverpool and its docks, you can’t help but be drawn into the technological advances. These too helped create the dock landscape we see today. Read more
Following a request from one of our Facebook ‘Likers’ (particularly appropriate word for Scousers, perhaps), I posted an old map of Brook House Farm in Halewood. Here I want to post a slightly larger version, taking in more of the surrounding area which was, at this time, on the cusp of great changes.
On August 23rd Liverpool celebrated 804 years as a town! OK, so it’s no ‘2007’, but it’s a good time to have a look back the best part of a millennium. There are quite a few things which were laid down in 1207, the evidence of which is still visible today.
I’ve often written about researching local history, either through maps, books, or old photos. But what’s been highlighted for me recently is that eventually all this feeds back, and you can occasionally use your knowledge gained through research to apply to a particular problem.
Most maps have dates on them. I don’t know about you, but I find a map’s publishing date of absolute importance, to the same extent as it is on a photograph. As becomes clear when you try to trace the changes in an area over time, the best results come from having the smallest possible gap between two maps in terms of their date.
So when I recently bought a couple of A-Z style street maps off eBay, I was disappointed to find no evidence of a date on them. I could tell they were more than a few years old by the paper they were printed on, and the price (“3/-“). I could also tell that they were (only just) post-Second World War (the Customs House was gone, but South Castle Street still ran straight through where Liverpool Crown Court now stands). But as a landscapophile (there’s that word again) and a cartophile, I really needed to know.
The dates of these maps turned out to be c.1962. How did I know? The progress of the Otterspool Promenade happened to be something I’d been researching for my post on the history of Knott’s Hole. The promenade was already started, but incomplete, and the extent to which this was mapped pointed to the exact date. Cross-referencing this with a few other features (suburban development, dockland changes) confirmed the likelihood of this point in history.
So, you may use maps to increase your knowledge of local history, but you can also use your local history knowledge to feed back on the things you see in photographs and maps (and the photos and maps themselves).
Here are a few other key points in Liverpool’s history that may help you spot when your source was created:
- Otterspool Promenade opened: 1950
- Football stadia (both Goodison Park and Anfield): 1892
- Norris Green and other suburbs: 1920s – 1930s
- Filling in of St George’s Dock: 1899
- Seaforth Container Port built: 1960s – 1972
- Slum clearance in Toxteth: 1966 – 1972
- Catholic Cathedral completed: 1967
- Anglican Cathedral completed: 1978
- St John’s Market destroyed: blitz – 1941, demolished 1964
- St John’s Shopping Centre (and beacon) built: 1969
- Clayton Square redeveloped: 1986
- Garden Festival site built: 1984
- Queensway Tunnel opened: 1934
Are there any others you can think of? Remember, these are the things that remodelled acres of the cityscape – things that, quite literally, redraw the map!
Image: Clayton Square in 1986, just before demolition…, from the Chester Walls website.
Although the Ordnance Survey maps chart the most significant changed in Liverpool’s history, older maps often are unique. They show details or aspects which no other map does, and can often show what was important to the map-maker. You can’t beat old maps for laying bare the great changes of a city like Liverpool.
Modern maps are often much more ‘objective’ in comparison. But old maps are still of use to the local historian, at the same time as being beautiful objects.
If you know of any others I’ve missed out, or other places where these maps are available, let us know in the comments!
Early Liverpool Maps
Liverpool developed from seven streets, laid out at its founding in 1215. Soon there was a castle, a chapel and the Tower, a fortified house built by the Stanley family in 1404. Maps of this period (1205-1700) do exist, most of them drawn later. Here are a few of the easiest plans of Liverpool to get hold of.
William Ashton included a simple sketch of 17th century Liverpool in his book ‘Evolution of a Coastline’ in 1920 (above).
Ashton also drew a top-down plan of Liverpool:
The book itself has recently been reprinted, so if you want a higher resolution copy you can pick up ‘Evolution of a Coastline‘ at Amazon.
Genmaps is a map site hosted by Rootsweb (part of Ancestry.com), and has a page on Lancashire maps. There’s a huge range, so I’ve collected the Liverpool entries in the following table. If you’re reading this in the dim and distant future, I recommend going to the original page, hitting Ctrl+F on your keyboard and searching for ‘liverpool’ to catch newer uploads.
|Name||Date||Map-maker and Notes|
|Liverpool||Early 18th century||Map maker not known|
|Swire’s plan of Liverpool||1720 (1824)||William Wales – Wales & Co. Castle Street Liverpool|
|Liverpool, street plan||ca.1801||George Cole. engr.J.Roper in The British Atlas|
|Liverpool, Warrington, Leigh area||1809||John Cary (detail of map above)|
|Liverpool||1832||Lt. Robert Dawson in Plans of the Cities and Boroughs of England and Wales: shewing their boundaries as established by the Boundaries’ Act, passed 11th July 1832|
|Liverpool, street plan||ca.1833||(includes plan of Liverpool in 1729) Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge|
|Plan of the Liverpool Docks||1846||Jesse Hartley (Dock Surveyor) engr. C.B. Graham, Washington, D.C.|
|Environs of Liverpool||1850||Thomas Cowperthwait (inset detail from England)|
|Liverpool Docks||ca.1860||J.Bartholomew for R. Fullarton.|
|Liverpool||1863||John Dower, published in The Weekly Dispatch|
|South West Liverpool||1863||B.R.Davies (detail from Liverpool map in The Weekly Dispatch Atlas)|
|Liverpool-Birkenhead area||ca.1870||A.Fullarton (detail from The Environs of Liverpool and the Estuaries of the Mersey & Dee)|
|The Town and Borough of Liverpool||1880||J. Bartholomew. (detail)|
|Plan of Liverpool||1881||Charles Letts|
|Liverpool.-sewers,contourlines and municipal boundaries||1882||Map maker not known|
|Liverpool – city plan||1883||George W. Bacon in The New Ordnance Atlas of the British Isles|
|Liverpool (Eastern Section)||1885||Report of the Boundary Commissioners for England and Wales. There’s a link through to a higher resolution version.|
|Liverpool (Western Section)||1885||Report of the Boundary Commissioners for England and Wales.|
|Liverpool||1897||Century Atlas Company. (detail from map of England and Wales) Quite a tiny map!|
|Liverpool||1898||Meyer in German lexikon Brockhaus. Published by Leipzig Bibliographisches Institut.|
|Liverpool: town-plan (and detail)||1900||K.Baedeker|
|Environs of Liverpool & the estuaries of the Mersey and Dee||ca.1910||J.Bartholomew|
|Liverpool Docks||1920||George Phillip (detail from The New Mercantile Marine Atlas)|
|Liverpool||1922||G.Bartholomew (detail from The Towns of England in The Times Atlas)|
Some of them are high resolution, and some not. Others have links to higher resolution versions of extracts below them.
Lancashire County Council
Lancashire County Council has the best collection of old maps for any student of Liverpool history. It runs from a reproduction of Gough’s 1320 map, through all the major map makers: Speed, Yates, Greenwood, Hennet.
Greenwood’s map of Lancashire from 1818, is undoubtedly the best! Click on the exact point you’re interested in, as this map has been cut up into sections when added to the site.
Old Maps of Liverpool
It will take a fuller article to go into all details hidden in maps like these. For us today they provide an immediate visual visit on the past, easy to interpret. For this reason one of my favourites has to be this 1833 Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge map (if only for the name!). It shows quite a lot of detail, including Bootle Castle at the end of Regent Street, an unfamiliarly station-free Lime Street, and is detailed right out to Kensington (the edge of the city back then). Click on the map to zoom in.
Oldest of the old maps
Finally, I want to mention a map I only saw for the first time recently. It is included in the modern edition of The Calderstones by Ron Cowell. The map was made in 1568 to help solve a boundary dispute between Allerton and Wavertree. Not only does it show the Calderstones, but it also shows the mysterious Rodgerstone and the Pikeloo Hill. The Rodgerstone might have been a single standing stone, while the Pikeloo Hill could be a burial mound. The Pikeloo Hill could even have been as large as Silbury Hill, a prehistoric mound in Wiltshire.
Not only does this seem to be the oldest map of the Liverpool area. It’s also a tantalising glimpse of a prehistoric complex now long lost. The map isn’t online, so if anyone has a high resolution scan, do get in touch.
Well, that rounds off this brief excursion into Liverpool maps. There are certainly some I’ve missed, so please share your own sources in the comments!
Image: Extract from the Greenwood map of Lancashire, 1818, available in full on the Lancashire County Council Old Maps of Lancashire website.
This is the first in a series of posts which will hopefully help you research the local history of your area, whether it’s Liverpool or elsewhere. It’s about maps, as my own main site, Historic Liverpool, is based on maps. Part 1 will focus on late 19th and early 20th Century maps.
Beginning Map Research
Maps are an amazing way to research local history. Start with a recent map, and then look at increasingly older editions. Immediately you can see in reverse the changes which have happened over time. You start with something very familiar, and gradually work your way back. Sometimes, an unbelievable amount has changed in very little time.
But whether you are researching Liverpool, or another city or any rural area of Britain, you’ll need to know what maps have been made of your location, and when they were made. Luckily, in this day and age it’s not hard to find them.
For every local historian, the first port of call must be the Ordnance Survey maps. You can pick up the current version for around £8, or a recent second hand copy off eBay for a fiver. Get a 1:25,000 Explorer map – these show individual buildings but cover enough area (unless you’re really unlucky!) for your needs. Even Amazon sell the Ordnance Survey Liverpool sheet these days.
That’s the easy part!
Now you have your anchor, your reference point for all the other maps you’ll be looking at. This serves as the base for your next step, which is known by the professionals as ‘map regression‘. This just means that you collect as many maps as possible, and work your way back through them and noting the changes.
Getting a recent map of your area should be easy enough, but slightly older ones are going to be second hand. You need to be aware of where to get them.
Second-hand and online maps
Your first choice for buying paper maps has to be eBay. I’ve bought almost all of my OS maps from this site, each for about the price of a pint of beer. eBay seems to be strongest with the years between 1930 and 2000, particularly 1950 – 1980.
OS maps from across this period repeatedly appear for a couple of pounds. Keep an eye on this site so you’re ready when the right map appears. You’d also do well to keep an eye on what you’ve already bought. More than once I’ve nearly ended up with two maps from the same year!
The list I have for Liverpool includes: 1947, 1952 (last revision 1947-9); 1961 (last revision 1958), 1964, 1978 and 2000. (For an excellent overview and samples of all the OS map series, see http://www.charlesclosesociety.org/osseries).
Older OS maps are a bit harder to find (see below), although occasionally a great find pops up on eBay. Luckily, there are ways you can get a look at OS maps without leaving the comfort of your own home. There are a couple of web sites which let you view old OS maps, and some of these are very nifty mapping sites in their own right.
Old OS Maps
Old OS Maps is a simple name belying an amazing little tool. Unfortunately there’s a big black hole where Liverpool should be. I’d scan in one of my own maps to donate it if only I had a big enough scanner! However, the site’s well worth a look, as it overlays a small modern Google map extract over the centre of the screen. This overlays an Ordnance Survey map from around 1925 to 1945 (depending on location). Have a look if your area lies outside Merseyside.
Commercial map sellers
Getting maps off eBay, and viewing maps online are the cheapest ways to get the most common editions. The following sites will sell you brand new reproductions of old maps, including difficult-to-find early editions.
Alan Godfrey Maps
This site publishes a huge list of maps of Liverpool and elsewhere. They’re paperback maps about A3 size, and extremely detailed (though that means they cover a small area). There’s an odd lack of illustration on the site, probably due to its age and the huge number of products on there. However, the maps are an unparalleled resource, and are also sold all the time on eBay.
Cassini are a large commercial map company, slightly reminiscent of the National Archives web site. The company sells highly polished map products of all types. You can get downloadable or printed maps, and specify the area and period you want. There’s also a boxed set of maps of Liverpool, which comes in useful for the wide-ranging form of map exploring!
David Archer Maps
The David Archer site, like the Alan Godfrey one (above) is a site with little in the way of pictures.
Unfortunately, since this article was first written the shop has closed. However, they’re keeping the site up for information purposes. Update, Oct 2019: Though the business has closed, the site is still up and sales of remaining stock are ongoing.
You can see a huge list of map editions, and the years they were produced, on the Maps, books, information page.
Take a look at the informal blog “A nice cup of tea and a chat about maps” (now only available via the Wayback Machine on the Internet Archive). It’s quite a rambling but entertaining diversion into other map sites, Christmas cards and exhibitions. It also reveals that David’s a fan of free and open source software, which always gets the thumbs up from me!
Despite their closure, if you know what you want then you can contact them. They won’t carry out research, but their boundless knowledge might mean they can fire off an email to help you on your way.
This has been a fairly brief overview of map sources. There are many more online, but these are the few I keep going back to. When you’re ready for the next step, you can read my guide to Old Maps, which are often a lot harder to find.
Of course, if you know of better places to get hold of old maps, share it in the comments!