Cary’s London Map of 1818

Recently, I came across a wonderful Regency resource in a most unexpected place. It is an online copy of John Cary’s 1818 map of the London metropolitan era. Remarkably, it is hosted on the web site of the UCLA School of Public Health, not a place most Regency aficionados would think to look. And yet, the reason it is there does have a tenuous Regency connection.

Why Cary’s map of London is hosted at a public health web site, and how to locate and navigate it …

This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of a baby boy in York, on the Ides of March 1813. This baby was the first child born to William and Frances Snow, who christened their firstborn, John. This son of a poor coal-heaver would become a surgeon and eventually a physician. Due to the diligent efforts of Dr. John Snow during the reign of Queen Victoria, in part by the removal of the handle of a public pump in London, thousands of lives were saved. After the deadly cholera outbreak in London, in 1854, Dr. Snow interviewed many of the survivors in the area where the cholera had been most prevalent. He plotted all the instances of cholera with dots on a map and was able to clearly demonstrate that nearly everyone who got cholera used the public pump in Broad Street. This evidence motivated local officials to remove the handle on the pump. But Dr. Snow went even further and was able to prove that the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company, which supplied the water to the pump, was taking that water from heavily polluted sections of the Thames River where raw sewage was regularly dumped. This intersection of medicine and geography is considered to be the founding event of the science of epidemiology.

In homage to Dr. Snow, the UCLA Department of Epidemiology maintains a John Snow web site which includes a series of maps of London and its environs over the course of the nineteenth century. One of those maps is John Cary’s New and Accurate Plan of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark and parts adjacent, viz. Kensington, Chelsea, Islington, Hackney, Wallworth, Newington &c., … which was published in January of 1818. In fact, John Cary first published this map of the greater London area in 1787. However, after that, every few years, he updated his map to show the changes in the city and republished his new map. Unlike most cartographers and map-makers of that era, Cary actually took the time to survey the metropolis in order to be able to accurately update each edition of his map, since he took the first part of his map’s title "New and Accurate …" very seriously.

John Cary is regarded as one of the leading English cartographers of the Georgian era. He began as an apprentice to a London engraver in the 1770s. He set up his own business in 1783, with premises in The Strand, where he and his brother, William, published maps, and later also globes, which quickly gained a reputation for high quality and accuracy. John Cary published the first edition of his atlas, The New and Correct English Atlas, in 1787, the same year in which he published his New and Accurate Plan of London and Westminster … for the first time. Though Cary had not employed the lavish and opulent decoration which had been popular with map-makers earlier in the century, his maps had their own elegance by way of their precision and the fine detail in their engraving. It is likely that Cary did his own engraving, based on his own surveys, which was not always the case with some map-makers. Cary’s English Atlas soon became the standard reference work and remained so through most of the nineteenth century. His New and Accurate Plan of London … was also considered to be the best and most reliable map of the metropolis, right through the Regency and long after his death. Two years after the initial publication of his London map, in 1789, Cary issued the first edition of his pocket atlas under the title Cary’s Travelling Companion, which was a huge success with travellers in England and went through several editions.

Probably due to his reputation as an accurate and meticulous cartographer and engraver, in 1794, John Cary was commissioned by the Postmaster General to undertake a survey of all of the main roads in both England and Wales. The information he acquired in this survey work was employed in his next publication, Cary’s New Itinerary; or, an Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads, Both Direct and Cross, throughout England and Wales; With many of the principal Roads in Scotland, first published in 1798. This volume was also very popular and was regularly updated and reissued. By the Regency, Cary’s New Itinerary … included large detailed maps of each region, as well as a full map of the country which folded out. The sections of the book include a list of all the direct roads leading to London, as well as the significant cross-roads. A list of all the coach and mail departures and arrivals, with mileage between the towns though which they traveled, as well as the names of the main coaching inns. Notes on the major sights in each area were noted, such as grand country houses and natural sights of notable beauty. A list of the packet boats and an index of the principal country seats are included as well as a list of the circuits of judges, details on postage rates and even a table by which to calculate postage for letters to various locations throughout the country.

Cary continued his successful business in his shop at 181, The Strand, where his various publications were available for sale, throughout the Regency. And, in January 1818, one of those publications was his freshly updated New and Accurate Plan of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark and parts adjacent, viz. Kensington, Chelsea, Islington, Hackney, Wallworth, Newington &c., … . This map was available in several different formats. For those who could afford it, the map could be purchased mounted in a case, or on a pair of rollers for easy storage and ready access with no need for folding. When sold on rollers, the various sheets which comprised the map were pasted down to a strong even-weave linen cloth. The sheets of the map might also be pasted onto linen for those who wanted a folding pocket map, as the linen backing would reduce wear on the areas which were folded. Those who could not afford any of these versions of the map might buy the loose sheets, which was the least expensive version of the map. The loose sheets were sold for about fifteen shillings, while any of the other versions would cost well over a pound. For those who were willing to pay an extra three shillings, Cary offered the map of London with all of the parish boundaries delineated in full color.

If you would like to take a look at John Cary’s 1818 edition of his New and Accurate Plan of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark and parts adjacent, viz. Kensington, Chelsea, Islington, Hackney, Wallworth, Newington &c., … , you can find it at the Map of London 1818 page of the Dr. John Snow site. Navigation of this map is not particularly intuitive, but once you understand which icon to click, it is quite easy to explore the map. On the map home page, there are three icons just above the image of the map title page. Clicking the red square icon will launch a high resolution copy of the map, while clicking the black triangle will launch a version of the map in medium resolution. Unless you have an older computer and monitor, you should be able to take advantage of the high resolution version. The green square icon with the black H will appear on every page of the map and clicking it will take you back to the map home page.

Once you click the red square icon, you will be presented with a small version of the complete map. The individual sheets of the original map are visible on this small image. Click on any one of those very small sheets to launch the full size sheet. If you look closely around the edges of each sheet of the map, you will see a narrow border of the linen backing on which it was originally mounted. With the up and down and left and right scroll bars on your browser, you can navigate around each sheet of the map to view the extraordinary detail which John Cary incorporated into this map. Arrows above and below or to either side of each large sheet allow you to move seamlessly on to the next sheet of the map in that direction. At any point, you can click the small green square with the black H to get back to the map’s home page.

Do you want to follow the route of the hero in the Regency novel you are reading when he drives the heroine out to Richmond? Are you interested in the streets which intersect with Bond Street or Park Lane? Would you like to see how the various upscale residential squares are situated in relation to one another in Mayfair? Or, are you a Regency author trying to determine the side streets which surround the square in Mayfair where your hero or heroine lives? Are you looking for a small street with a distinctive name for the workplace or the residence of one of your characters? Maybe you need to know the exact location of Tattersall’s and the names of the streets which lead to it? You can learn all of this with this online copy of Cary’s New and Accurate Plan of London …, a map which was actually made during the Regency and used by many at that time. A map known for its accuracy, its detail and its visual charm. Do take a little time to treat yourself to this online version of John Cary’s 1818 edition of his New and Accurate Plan of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark and parts adjacent, viz. Kensington, Chelsea, Islington, Hackney, Wallworth, Newington &c., … . Though fair warning, there may be some difficulty in pulling yourself away from it, once you begin to explore Regency London.

About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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8 Responses to Cary’s London Map of 1818

  1. Such a fabulous resource.

  2. Now that’s what I call a useful resource – thank you very much for ferreting out its not immediately obvious location!

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      My pleasure! When I came upon it, I was delighted with the quality of the images. But I realized that it was not a place that most Regency devotees might go on their own, which would be a pity, especially since it is as much work of art as map.


  3. It’s a wonderful map. Thanks for all the information, Kathryn, a fascinating post. My interest is more in family history, but I strongly believe that names and dates are not enough; you need to understand the context, the social history.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      I am glad you enjoyed the article. I agree with you, just knowing the names and life dates of one’s ancestors is pretty dry stuff. Knowing more about the times in which they lived gives us a much more detailed picture of their life. I wish you much success with your family history research.



  4. Melanie says:

    This is amazing! I have been looking for so long for something like this to make my life easier. Thank you. I hope you don’t mind if I share the link to this site with everyone I know.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Please feel free to share the link with anyone you like. That map is very useful to anyone interested in Regency London.

      Thanks for stopping by.



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