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Maps for Local History Research (part 2: Old Maps)

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Extract from the Greenwood map of Lancashire, 1818

I know, I know, you’ve been waiting and waiting for this! So without much further ado, I present a selection of old maps of interest to the avid and casual Liverpool historian.

In this, the second of two posts on maps of Liverpool, I want to point you in the direction of a load of maps from before the Ordnance Survey was established. Although the OS maps chart the most significant changed in Liverpool’s history, in terms of the amount of change to the city, 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. Modern maps are often much more ‘objective’ in comparison. But for this reason the old maps are of use to the local historian, and at the same time can be quite beautiful objects too.

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 once. Soon it had 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, but most of them were drawn later. Here are a few of the easiest plans of Liverpool to get hold of:

William Ashton included a simple sketch of Liverpool in its early history in his book ‘Evolution of a Coastline’ in 1920. The sketch map of Liverpool in the 17th century is reproduced on the Mapsorama web site. Ashton’s top-down plan of Liverpool is also on Mapsorama.

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, 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 Catographer and Notes
Liverpool Early 18th century Cartographer 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
Lancashire 1809 John Cary
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 Cartographer 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 what I consider to be the best collection of old maps for any student of Liverpool history (or of course, any Lancashire history). It runs from a reproduction of Gough’s 1320 map, through all the major mapmakers: Speed, Yates, Greenwood, Hennet.

Greenwood, 1818, is undoubtedly the best! Click on the exact point you’re interested in, as these maps have been cut up into sections when added to the site.

Old Maps of Liverpool

It will take a fuller post to go into the kind of detail you can glean from these maps, but suffice to say that these objects can be both beautiful as well as useful. As has been mentioned, they often show what was important to the people who drew (or commissioned) the maps.

For us today they can 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!), which 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.

Finally, I want to mention a map I only saw for the first time recently, in the modern edition of The Calderstones by Ron Cowell.

It’s a map made in 1568 to help solve a boundary dispute between Allerton and Wavertree. It’s a very beautiful map, but not only does it show the Calderstones, but also the mysterious Rodgerstone (a prehistoric standing stone) and the Pikeloo Hill (possibly a burial mound).

Not only do we have possibly the oldest map of the Liverpool area (do correct me if I’m wrong!) but a tantalising glimpse of a prehistoric complex now long lost.

I can’t find a copy of this map online, so if anyone has a high resolution scan, do get in touch. I can’t get to the Record Office personally, and if there’s a way of ordering copies to be sent to you, the details are less than forthcoming.

Well, that rounds off this brief excursion into Liverpool maps. There are certainly some I’ve missed, but do air your own views on these 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.

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