1768: John Eyes’ Plan of Liverpool

This old map captures Liverpool at a very interesting time in its history. The port is established, and there are four large docks, plus a handful of smaller basins (or ‘basons’). The natural coastline is already buried below reclaimed land. For Liverpool to have had this map made suggests a town on the up, an important place that needs to be documented. For Liverpool the map itself is a badge of honour.

The cartouche – the inscription – in the top left hand corner includes a history of the town. This is a town with History! And the surveyor, John Eyes, has presented it ‘most humbly’ to the leading people of the Corporation, including the mayor, John Tarleton.

But at the same time Liverpool is a compact town, barely stretching up the hill to Lime Street (‘Lime Kiln Lane‘). Clayton’s Square opens up nearly straight onto rural fields and St John’s Gardens – perhaps the epicentre of our city – is ‘The Great Heath’ soon to become the burial ground for St John’s Church. There’s a bowling green at the end of Hurst Street.

Small town port

It’s about 800 metres from the Old Dock to St George’s Hall – Liverpool in 1768 is about 200m shorter than Southport Pier! It probably had a population of little over 20,000, but would grow to 77,000 by 1801.

That’s why I find this period so interesting: Liverpool is already a smart town with a thriving maritime business – just look at all those roperies! – but it’s on the cusp of exploding into its heyday.

You can imagine wandering around this airy, neat settlement and taking in the air up the hill near the Fall Well. Perhaps you would promenade around Ranelagh Gardens on the site of the present Adelphi Hotel. Or wander the business district around the Town Hall, so lovingly depicted in the top right of the map.

Lost in the detail

But there are some things not depicted. This is one side of the story. Out of the 20,000 people who lived here, only a few were the audience for this map. As you can see, large areas of the map are almost blank. The streets between Pool Lane and Paradise Street have no detail to them, and nor do the areas of Old Hall street.

These would be the residences of the sailors, rope makers and countless other working people who made Liverpool as successful as it was. While their homes were nothing like as bad as the slums which were to sweep the town in the next 50 to 100 years, it’s much harder to find direct evidence of the sorts of houses they lived in.

Nevertheless, this is an incredibly detailed map, and one which gives us an essential insight into the layout of the town just before it ballooned in size. The romance of this map is just one element that makes it so interesting as a source.

5 Comments on “1768: John Eyes’ Plan of Liverpool”

  • John Howson



    I have written a paper for the ‘Folk Music Journal’ which is published annually by the ‘English Folk Dance and Song Society’.
    The title of the paper is ‘Radical Liverpool poet and ballad maker; Edward Rushton (1756-1814)’, and my subject matter is the use of his poems by 18th and 19th century broadside (song sheets) printers.

    I would like to use a portion of the John Eyes’ 1768 map of Liverpool to illustrate where Rushton was born (John Street), where he ran a tavern (Crooked Lane) and then a book shop (Paradise Street).

    I am therefore seeking permission for this use. Can you tell me who is the copyright holder.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes,

    John Howson


    • Hi John,

      I’ve been trying to work out where I got that image from, and at the moment I’m at a loss! I’m sure the Liverpool Record Office will have a copy that you can arrange to use on your book, in case I can’t find the answer to your question before you need to sort it out.

      Good luck with your book!

      Best wishes,


  • David Eyes


    Hi Martin. I am David Eyes. I’ve been tracing the family tree and was very interested to find your website and the details for the surveying work of one of my ancestors.
    I’m now living in Cumbria and will be making plans to come to Liverpool to wander some of the streets surveyed in this, and other maps. There’s a few, as listed in a tome by Stewart Brown detailing the Maps and Plans of Liverpool and District by the Eyes family of Surveyors (See http://www.hslc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/62-7-Stewart-Brown.pdf)

    I do need to get a print of one of these for the home office.




    • Hi David,

      Great to hear from you – I don’t think I ever expected to hear from someone related to the surveyors of these very old maps! Thanks for the link, I’m always looking for lists of maps to see if there are any that can fill gaps in the selection here. I’ll have a close read.

      Best wishes,


  • Mike Harris


    Hi Martin,

    David Eyes’ link to the Stewart Brown article has been a fascinating read and has helped me date my copy of John Eyes’ West Prospect of the Town about 1680 (1766 in fact).

    However one thing puzzles me on this part of your excellent website is the Title referring to the date ‘1768’, where the cartouche states June 1765. My copy of the Plan of September 1768 is stylistically similar, but omits the history of the town commentary and the drawing of The Exchange.

    Any thoughts?


    Mike Harris


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