Category Archives: Britain

Mapping the recent past – electronic Legal Deposit

If you want to see what your town looked like 50 years ago, or even 150, the Map Room can find you a detailed Ordnance Survey map to answer the question. And if you want a really large scale plan showing the same site in the present day, you can buy one via an agent for OS Mastermap. But what about the period in between?

The OS map extract above shows Stratford-upon-Avon in 1889 at a scale of 1:2500. Maps at the same or larger scales continued to be published, updated at intervals, until the late twentieth century. In the 1990s, the OS stopped producing printed maps at the largest scales of 1:10,000, 1:2500 and 1:1250. Present day large scale mapping continued to be produced in digital format, and could still be purchased, but each time the data was updated the previous version was lost. There was a danger that recent history would disappear into a black hole. If a researcher in 2022 wanted, for example, an OS Mastermap of Kendal from 2012, what would they do?

The Legal Deposit Libraries – of which the Bodleian is one* – sprang forward to fill the breach. Working with partner organisation thinkWhere, they negotiated a scheme for the OS to deposit an annual digital “snapshot” of large scale mapping across the whole of Great Britain from 1998 onwards. Northern Ireland, which has its own mapping agency, soon followed suit. The dataset is updated annually. It was an early example of electronic Legal Deposit, preceding the official eLD which began in 2013.

What is electronic Legal Deposit? Under Legal Deposit legislation the Bodleian Libraries, and the other LDLs,  are entitled to a copy of every item published in the UK. Legal Deposit of printed materials has existed in some form since 1662, and thousands of the books, maps, serials, and printed music items in the library are here as a result. Electronic Legal Deposit was based on this; it came into force in 2013 and since then many published items have been deposited in electronic rather than print format. You can read more about it here on the Electronic Legal Deposit Libguide. In most cases, electronic Legal Deposit items are listed on SOLO and can be read on any Bodleian Library reading room computer.  Maps deposited on electronic Legal Deposit usually require specialist viewing software, and can be seen on a dedicated terminal in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room of the Weston Library. You can log in using your Bodleian Libraries username and password. Extracts can be printed using your PCAS account.

This has recently been updated with a much wider range of maps; as well as the large scale OS maps described above you can see a whole array of different maps of the UK here. There are detailed town plans by XYZ Maps and The Clever Little Mapping Company, large scale coastal charts by Antares, and a wealth of cultural information. There is information from Historic England showing locations of all the listed buildings geographically plotted with links to the website, descriptions and images; Historic Environment Scotland and Welsh preservation organisation CADW show similar information for Scotland and Wales. Also included are World Heritage sites, protected monuments, battlefields and shipwrecks.  The map below shows the locations of listed buildings in Portsmouth.

The maps so far are almost exclusively for areas within the British Isles, but the system is set up to give access to maps from anywhere in the world via a map interface. As an increasing amount of publication is now digital rather than printed, this can only grow.


*The other LDLs are the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin, in case you were wondering.

As if we were never there

The different levels of mapping produced by the Ordnance Survey is astonishing. The Landranger and Explorer maps we buy in the shops are the tip of an iceberg that currently includes maps on Roman, Prehistoric and Civil War Britain, maps designed for children as well as a complete online digital service,  while in the past the OS has published military, geological and administrative mapping as well as commercial maps for travellers and tourists. Amongst all these variations of themes and scales there is one set of maps that are contrary to what we imagine the purpose of map is. We expect a map to show the means to plan a journey, or a holiday or walk. In the 1930s a series of maps appeared that defied these expectations, maps that showed a land devoid of any human interference. Free of buildings, towns, cities and any transport infrastructure these maps show a landscape not seen for thousands of years.

22 sheets of the 5th (relief) edition map of England and Wales were published between 1931 and 1936, and were available not only in a range of themes; coloured, physical features only, black outline and special district sheets, but also in a range of formats; paper flat, paper folded and mounted on linen. This sheet, number 146, was priced at 2 shillings and covers the Penwith Peninsula at the tip of Cornwall, a land of ancient field boundaries, roads that hug the coast and signs of early industry. It is also a land rich in prehistoric remains, though there is no indication of any of this on the map, instead you have physical features alone, contours, rivers, coastline and shading to give an idea of hills and valleys. It is a beautiful example of cartographic art. Here’s the normal edition for comparison, both maps date from 1934.

And then side-by-side extracts covering St. Ives Bay (click on maps to zoom in).









As expected the 5th edition is the fifth edition of a series of 1 inch to a mile maps first published in 1801. Weaving around these previous editions are a number of revisions, large and small sheet versions and, as mentioned already in this blog, variations on each to include outline, coloured or not and physical features mapping.  When all of these are taken into consideration there as many as nine previous editions, depending on how you count all published versions (and you could make an argument for more if you include military and geological maps as well). The covers were also beginning to be part of the whole package, with trained artists employed to capture the post-war spirit of the outdoors as a leisure activity, be it cycling or walking. With the 5th edition each cover had a similar design, with sheet number and name and a small portrait of a hiker. Soon covers would become more individual, reflecting the area mapped, and were miniature works of art in themselves (more on OS cover art can be found here) 

Fifth (Relief) Edition England & Wales, sheet 146  1934. C17 (30c) and C17 (30b).

The things you find when you tidy up

Over a decade ago, the Bodleian Map Room moved its collections out of what was then the New Bodleian Library, for the building to be completely redeveloped into the shiny new Weston Library. Anything uncatalogued was given a barcode and brief record to locate it in the new storage facility in Swindon. It was while tidying up the last few of these that we stumbled across this beautiful panorama of the Grampian Mountains. Everyone loves a panorama, so here it is, showing a view across the Scottish landscape.  The hills grow increasingly faint into the distance.  Settlements can be located by the wisps of smoke rising from them, presumably from peat fires.

In the foreground a picturesque rocky outcrop is surrounded by colourful heather; this is captioned beneath “The summit of Benclach, 2359 feet above the sea.”

It’s described as “A view of the Grampian Mountains, taken from the Summit of Benclach the highest of the Ochill Hills, a station in the Trigonometrical Survey of Great Britain, situated 28 miles north west from Edinburgh.” There’s a lot of cartographic history packed into that title. The Ordnance Survey has origins going back centuries, but the Roy Map of Scotland from the 1740s and ’50s is often seen as the immediate forerunner to the systematic survey of the whole of Great Britain begun at the very end of the eighteenth century. The survey started at the south coast, mapping the country at 1 inch to a mile, and worked northwards. It took decades to cover England and Wales, and the first published maps OS maps of Scotland were later still. However, the initial Trigonometrical Survey which worked its way up Britain, plotting exact locations by a process of triangulation, had reached southern Scotland by the 1810s. The panorama was both drawn and published by James Gardner, previously “employed on the Trigonometrical Survey”.

From 1823 Gardner was established in London as a publisher and seller of maps, and sole agent for the sale of Ordnance Survey maps; he retired in 1840 and the business passed to his son. The mention of his earlier role as a surveyor probably indicates that the view was made to be accurate rather than simply an artwork, and certainly seems to show a pride in being involved in this great scientific endeavour. There is an outline diagram underneath which names the mountains, settlements and other features, making the panorama informative as well as beautiful.

The point of origin is probably Ben Cleuch in the Ochil Hills. There is a note stating that it covers “about 85 degrees of the horizon” – nearly a quarter of a circle, stretched out to a view almost two metres long. The view was engraved by Daniel Havell in London, and printed in colour, a quite early example of a colour lithograph.


A view of the Grampian Mountains, from the Summit of Benclach the highest of the Ochill Hills / delineated and published by J. Gardner … 1820. C18:5 (93)

Making a point

What connects contraband, the Magna Carta, one-upmanship and the sin of earthly desire? The answer is Emanuel Bowen’s map from 1733, A New and Accurate Map of England and Wales’. 

In this map Bowen shows the roads throughout the country, with additional information on either the map or on the accompanying sheets giving distances from London and whether the roads are post, cross or ‘roads not to be found on Mr. Ogilby’s survey’ . If this was all the map did it would be a very good example of a common road map of the time (Bowen had produced earlier road maps that again had a dig at John Ogilby, with his ‘Britannia depicta or Ogilby improv’d’ set of road maps’ atlas). What sets this map apart from all others is the championing of the Members of Parliament that had recently voted against an Excise Bill. Introduced by Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the country’s first official Prime Minister, the Bill was intended to raise taxes on contraband goods while reducing the taxes of the rich landowners, appeasing those who had the power to vote. The idea that tax officers could go into people’s houses looking for such goods proved so unpopular – William Pitt, MP, led the rallying cry with ‘an Englishman’s house is his castle’ – that the Bill was quickly dropped. Bowen dedicates his map to the ‘the 205 members endear’d to their country by so seasonable an interposition in defence of it’s liberties’.  Bowen further emphasises this sense of liberty by evoking an earlier time when the Crown and right of rule was challenged. The arms of the Members of Parliament that voted against the BIll feature on two accompanying sheets, the coats of arms that appear underneath the map are for those Barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, protecting rights and restricting the power of the Crown. To make the point further Bowen uses symbolism around the cartouche to reinforce this connection between the 1215 and 1733 opposition to the State and Crown

On the left is Liberty, here shown with a staff topped by a Liberty Cap (which dates back to Ancient Rome, and were worn by freed slaves) while on the right is Britannia, holding a copy of the Magna C[h]arta. The chained figure represents man enslaved by earthly desires. Bowen’s opposition to the Bill didn’t do him any harm in the long-run as he eventually became Royal Geographer to George II, despite the King supporting Walpole after the defeat of the Bill and the opposition in both Parliament and on the streets .

The Bodleian has four copies of the Magna Carta, the earliest from 1217, which can be viewed here

The ‘Mr Ogilby’ derided at every opportunity by Bowen is John Ogilby, who in 1675 published the first set of road maps done as a set of strips. Ogilby’s work was revolutionary, but due to reasons possibly nefarious left out some routes, more on his story can be found in an earlier blog here

A New and Accurate Map of England and Wales… Where unto are added… a list of Members… who voted for & against bringing in ye late Excise Scheme. 1733. (E) C17 (540)

Counting people

March 2021 is a census month, the 22nd since the first in 1801 (the 1941 census was cancelled due to the war*). United Kingdom censuses initially set out to count the number of people and their employment, it wasn’t until 1841, the date of our map, that names were taken. From the 1851 census onwards information such as disabilities and religion was gathered as well. Here is a map showing information from the 1841 census, the rather wonderfully titled ‘Map of the British Isles, elucidating the distribution of the population, based on the census of 1841. Compiled & drawn by Augustus Petermann’.

Map of the British Isles, elucidating the distribution of the population, based on the census of 1841. Compiled & drawn by Augustus Petermann’. c1847. (E) C15 (157)

The map works by way of shading and spots. The shading indicates the varying degrees of population over the country, with the darker shading showing an area of denser population, while the coloured dots show towns according to population size (red for towns of 100,000 or more and so-on down to a clear dot for towns of under 10,000). It’s not an ideal way to show a large amount of information but gives an immediate idea of where populations are; London, the Midlands, the Manchester-Liverpool and Glasgow-Edinburgh regions, and of how under populated the country-side was, partly by this point as a result of Enclosure Acts forcing people off the land and into the cities and towns. Here’s an extract showing London in more detail

The numbers shown (204 for Sussex for example) shows the average number of people per square mile, or as the map nicely puts it ‘the number of souls to 1 English (statute) mile’. There is also a table listing population per county.

Text on the map explains how geography has played a part in population. ‘Mountains and valleys determine the main features in the distribution of the population, the latter exhibiting naturally the greater masses’. Petermann gives as an example Scotland, and how with a wide range of Mountainous areas most of the population live in-between the Firths of Clyde and Forth, with a 3rd of the total population occupying a 30th of the land mass. Ireland, by comparison generally has smaller mountain groups, and less of them, so there is a more even spread of population.

The 1801 census asked 6 questions. Broadly speaking these were; how many inhabited houses in each Parish, Township or place, and how many families live in each one, how many people in each parish etc, distinguishing between male and female, how many are employed in agriculture, trade, manufacturing and handicrafts, how many baptisms and burials in the years 1700, 1710, 1720 and so-on until 1800, how many marriages between 1754 and 1800 (1754 chosen as the year when a Marriage Act made the year before came into force), and then finally if there were any questions or notes about any of the previous questions.

Augustus Petermann was a celebrated German cartographer, learning his trade in Germany, then Scotland before moving to London to work in 1847. He became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and, which accounts for the dedication in the title, ‘Physical-Geographer Royal’ to Queen Victoria.  Unfortunately professional success wasn’t matched in his private life. His first marriage ended in divorce, his second in suicide in 1878.

The Bodleian has a large number of maps and atlases which makes use census information. Census information also began to appear in gazetteers from the 1830s onwards, when, with the availability to compare current to previous figures accurately, population figures for towns could be given. This population map of the Saxony region of Germany is a recent addition to the map collection. Volksdichte-Schichtenkarte des Königreiches Sachsen nach der Zählung vom 1. Dezember 1900 (Population density layers map of the Kingdom of Saxony after the census of December 1, 1900) shows density of population by colour with two insets for the areas around Dresden and Leipzig from an earlier 1846 census. The map uses a technique called isopleth to show the density of population. Isopleth uses lines to show areas of equal value, the lines are similar to contours on a physical map and work on the same principle. The main advantage is that you can see at a glance the heavily populated areas by the colour ranges shown on the graph. That Saxony was, in 1900, a mainly rural area can be seen be the amount of green and brown cover shown.

Volksdichte-Schichtenkarte des Königreiches Sachsen nach der Zählung vom 1. Dezember 1900, C22:25 (74)

*There was a census count in 1966, the first and only time a mid-decade count was made.


Measuring distances, a wheel or a chain?

John Ogilby has to be one of the most interesting of all the cartographers. Before turning to making maps aged 66 he had at various times been a dancer and dance instructor, theatre manager and publisher, with career changes usually the result of misfortune of some kind. His dance career ended after suffering serious injury during one performance, his career in the theatre in Dublin came to an abrupt end due to Irish rebellion against the English in 1644 and then finally he lost most of his publishing stock in the Great Fire of London.

It was the fire that set Ogilby on a new path as a cartographer. After mapping the devastated city to aid in redevelopment Ogilby embarked on the project that would not only give him lasting fame but introduced a new way of mapping  roads. In 1675 Ogilby published the Britannia, an atlas of 73 routes at a scale, for the first time, of one inch to the mile (1:63,360). As can be seen from this example Ogilby revolutionized the way maps were shown by only focusing on the relevant information for the road user and by making the best use of space while creating maps full of useful information and easy to understand.

Miles are marked on the road maps with furlongs in between the miles shown by dots (a furlong being the length of a furrow in a common field, by Ogilby’s day there were 8 to a mile). Compass roses show north and hills are drawn in a way to show if you are travelling up hill or down. The cartouche includes figures surveying and using tools that would have been used to map out the route and recorded the miles.

The wheel on the end of the stick was called a way-wiser that recorded each turn of the wheel on a dial,  while underneath that a winged figure called a Putto is using a Gunter’s chain, invented in 1620, which was laid along the ground to measure distances. The chain measured 66 feet divided into 100 links, ten chains length was a furlong, 80 a mile.  The figure on the horse is holding a compass.

Ogilby died the year after the publication of Britannia, but his work stayed in print, first through the efforts of his step-grandson William Morgan (who like Ogilby was appointed ‘His Majesty’s Cosmographer’), and then through, acknowledged or often not, the works of later cartographers, all making use of such a rich and inventive source of information.

There is one more intriguing chapter to the story. Ogilby was closely allied with Charles II, and there is a theory that Britannia was published to help with a proposed invasion from France to restore the Catholic faith in the country. For some the emphasis that Britannia places in routes to poorly populated ports and locations in Wales and the West Country and the publication date being so close to a signing of a secret treaty with France (so secret it didn’t come into public knowledge till 1820) shows that this was a road map with a hidden agenda, and it is only with this agenda in mind that some of the seemingly random things shown on the maps; a house in the middle of nowhere, mines in one location but not others for instance, begin to make sense.

In the corridor outside the Map Office here at the Bodleian nine portraits are hung. Two are of cartographers; John Speed, the famous Tudor map maker, and John Ogilby, both of whom originally were named in their picture. Ogilby’s name has at some point been painted out, this may be due to changing fashions as none of the other, later, seven portraits name the person in the picture. We can’t be sure though if his name has been erased deliberately, another layer of mystery attached to a man who had more than his fair share throughout his life.

Britannia, volume the first, or, an illustration of the Kingdom of England and Wales by a geographical and historical description of the principal roads thereof…1675. Vet A3 b.10



The Devil’s what?

Herman Moll (c1654-1732) was a cartographer  who moved to London from north-west Europe in 1678. At first Moll worked for other established mapmakers as an engraver before setting up his own workshop making and selling maps. These images come from one of his most celebrated works, ‘A set of fifty new and correct maps of England and Wales’* published in 1724. The Bodleian has a number of copies of this work, some of which were in black and white with others hand-painted, these images come from one of the black and white editions.

Oxfordshire has two illustrations for Blenheim Palace, completed two years earlier in 1722, and one for the Rolle-Rich Stones (Rollright Stones), built considerably earlier at some point  between 2670 to 1975 BC. For those familiar with the Rollrights this is an image before restoration in the late 1800s which replaced a lot of stones broken up from the original circle, increasing the amount of stones in place. Next to the Rollrights is a mosaic from a Roman villa north of Woodstock.

One of the stranger illustrations found on any of the county maps is from the the West Riding of Yorkshire page, of the Halifax gibbet, which promises ‘according to the Halifax Law whereby they beheaded any one instantly‘. A ruling (the ‘Halifax Law’) that allowed the Lord of the Manor to execute thieves by beheading had been in place since the 1200s, and the gibbet was Installed at some point in the sixteenth century. A large number were executed under this law but it isn’t known how many were executed using the gibbet, which was dismantled after the the last executions in 1650 under instruction from Oliver Cromwell.

Moll had an obvious love of anything old, his county maps are filled with portraits of antiquities around the margins, and on his title page a note promises ‘to render this work more acceptable to the curious, the margins of each map are adorn’d with great varieties of very remarkable antiquities’. Roman coins and fossils, given all sorts of weird and wonderful names, feature prominently. On this half page of Wiltshire two views of Stonehenge are given. Both are a relatively accurate portrayal, something that earlier cartographers such as John Speed, hadn’t done, setting the great circle in mountainous countryside and making the stones look tubular (extract from Wiltshire, John Speed, facsimile (E) C17:61 (49), original map 1610).


This last page is a map of the county of Derbyshire, parts of which have an underlying limestone bed, leading to numerous cave systems.

The Devil’s Arse is more commonly known now as Peak Cavern.

There is little in the maps in Moll’s book that make them any more special than similar atlases printed at the time. Few roads are shown, though those that do have distances between towns marked, and boundaries of the county hundreds are set out. What makes Moll special is the illustrations, historical portraits made to appeal to both the armchair traveller and any with an archaeological and scientific interest giving an idea of the unique features found in each of the counties.

*The full title is A set of fifty new and correct maps of the counties of England and Wales, &c. with the great roads and principal cross-roads, &c. Shewing the computed miles from town to town. A work long wanted, and very useful for all gentlemen that travel to any part of England. All, except two, composed and done by Herman Moll, geographer.

Allen 18

An anatomical geography?

This first map from John Andrews’ A geographical atlas of England, divided according to its natural, political, civil, ecclesiastical, ancient and modern divisions …  is at first glance hardly recognisable as a map of England and Wales. It shows only the mountain ranges, and the coastlines are missing.  The next map in the atlas is described as a “Map of the rivers, or anatomy of England”; it is coloured to show watersheds, and again divides the country in an unfamiliar way. It is almost as if the first map shows the country’s skeleton, and the second the circulatory system.

The (very long) title ends with the statement that the atlas is ‘for the improvement of youth‘. The  introduction, ‘on the utility of geography’ emphasises the subject’s long antecedents and practical use. The atlas was published in 1809 in the last year of Andrews’ life, when geography was beginning to grow in popularity as an academic subject in Britain.  Andrews had been publishing for over 30 years, producing many maps of English towns and counties, several of the latter in collaboration with others, as well some important maps of North America. Towards the end of his career he published more thematic works, including a historical atlas, and this, A geographical atlas of England. The atlas is a mixture of scientific, historical and general maps.

Most of the maps had been published before–  they have dates mainly from the late 1790s – and some are too large for the binding and had to be folded in; possibly the atlas was cobbled together from existing stock.  But for all that some of the maps are both beautiful and unusual and suggest different ways of looking at the country.  There are also several maps showing the supposed division of South Britain at different periods in history, such as under the Saxon kingdoms and the Roman occupation; these reflect the contemporary vogue for antiquities and early British history, although the sources used for this information were of dubious accuracy. The atlas ends with a map showing pride in Britain’s naval supremacy (above), giving the maritime counties and compass directions from London.

Although the atlas covers England and Wales, the map titles refer only to England or occasionally South Britain. Wales is unaccountably slighted.

A geographical atlas of England, divided according to its natural, political, civil, ecclesiastical, ancient and modern divisions, to which is added a political chart of Europe, to shew the positions of all the sea-ports, promontories and distances, in order to trace the naval and commercial intercourse between Great Britain, Ireland and the continent. In a series of maps, on a plan entirely new. Calculated to illustrate the history of this country, and for the improvement of youth, by John Andrews.  London : Printed for John Stockdale, 1809.  Allen 359.



Land ahoy!

 Although this is the time of year when the
lights are lengthening and electronic location devices are almost mandatory, shipping still benefits from the presence of lighthouses warning of hazards. The Chart exhibiting the light houses and light vessels on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland; and also those on the N.W. coasts of Europe between Ushant and Bergen was created by A. G. Findlay in 1863 and shows the location, extent of the beam of each lighthouse, and gives information about the type of beam and frequency of light pulses. This wealth of information is exquisitely engraved and coloured but as a specialist map it would not have had a large print run. However it is a handsome thing mounted on linen and folded into covers with brass decorative gothic clasps. The boards of the covers are covered in cloth with a blind stamped decoration and the title, motto and coat of arms of Trinity House in gilt.

The map was published ‘By order of the hon[oura]ble. the Corporation of Trinity House.’ which is the authority controlling lighthouses, lightvessels and buoys in England and Wales, Channel Islands and Gibraltar (Northern Lighthouse Board in Scotland). The board was established by a charter granted by Henry VIII in 1514. Prior to this there were privately run beacons or towers so it wasn’t until 1609 Trinity House established its first, Lowestoft Lighthouse, as a pair of wooden towers with candle illuminants. The risk of fire must have been very great but it wasn’t until 1777 the first mirrored reflectors were used.

The cartographer of this map, Alexander George Findlay was a leading compiler and publisher of geographical and hydrographical works and after the death of Richard Holland Laurie, took over the well-known and long established printing house of Laurie & Whittle. He researched meteorology, published nautical directories the whole world and received a Society of Arts medal for his dissertation The English Lighthouse. He also served the British Association for the Advancement of Science so he was uniquely qualified to produce this map.

Today lighthouses are still relevant but function more as a back up to electronic equipment. The last manned lighthouse, North Foreland in Kent, was automated in 1998 after the automation process started in in the early 1980s, bringing to an end the work of the lighthouse keepers or “wickies”. This lighthouse had seen the departures of forces defending our islands and the arrival of all manner of vessels – some in joyous homecoming, some limping back after difficult journeys and trade vessels from all over the world. Trinity house currently maintains 65 lighthouses but it has provided temporary lighting. For D-Day it laid 73 lighted buoys and 2 lightvessels to indicate a safe route for landing craft in the poor weather of the English Channel. Redundant lighthouses have been re-purposed as holiday lets or even conversion to domestic properties – albeit ones with fantastic views!

Chart exhibiting the light houses and light vessels on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland; and also those on the N.W. coasts of Europe between Ushant and Bergen. London, 1863. C15 d.197

“Mad Jack’s” map

On days like this it is a real privilege to do my job.  This rather lovely manuscript map from around 1795 has been recently purchased to enrich our holdings of large scale parish maps and estate plans but a happy time was spent cataloguing it.

The map is of part of the parishes of Berwick and Alciston north west of Eastbourne in East Sussex showing the lands belonging to “Jn. Fuller Esq.” This gentleman known at the time as “Mad Jack” Fuller (although he preferred “Honest John” Fuller) inherited his estate, Rose Hill, from his uncle in 1777. It is lands attached to this estate, which is now Brightling Park, which feature on the map.

Unfortunately the surveyor is not known nonetheless it is a pretty thing with beautiful penmanship and little vignettes of people and items likely to be found on the land.  The little details are charming: the field gates are drawn in as is a view of the church and the compass rose is embellished with gilt. The lands belonging to “Mad Jack” are numbered to a key giving field names and acreages with the remaining parcels of land having their owners names and areas scribed on them. The scale of approximately 1:10,000 (6” to 1 mile) is large enough to show the area in reasonable detail. It was obviously a working document as you can see many later corrections and additions in pencil, as well as the surveyor’s grid.  The fact that it has been produced on parchment also point to the fact it was heavily used, as paper wouldn’t be up to the task. 

John Fuller was born into a wealthy family of iron makers and politicians in Hampshire in 1757 and initially forged a career in a light infantry company in the Sussex Militia. He subsequently spent two spells in parliament as an MP, the first representing Southampton from 1780 to 1784 and then as member for Sussex from 1801 to 1812. A noted drunk, he was famous for his eccentricities and follies and even received permission to build a 20ft high pyramid as a tomb in the churchyard of St Thomas à Becket in Brightling. In later life he turned to philanthropy, supporting among others the young Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution. He died in April 1834 and was buried beneath his pyramid folly.

A survey of lands lying in ye parishes of Berwick and Alciston in the county of Sussex belonging to Jn. Fuller Esq. Rose Hill 

MS. C17:58 (114)