News

Map of Medieval London launched

In the wake of the success of the new Map of Tudor London, and the wide interest in mapping the city of London that exists, we have produced a Map of Medieval London, presenting a view of how the city looked between about 1270 and 1300.  This was still the city that Geoffrey Chaucer knew. It's religious foundations were still be shaped, and their presence in the city was much less noticeable than it was in 1520, but they were there nonetheless.  The map also includes Westminster around 1290; at that time London and Westminster were even more distinct settlements than they were in 1520, London the seat of commerce and a much larger population, Westminster the seat of the King at Westminster Palace, and the site of England's most significant religious foundation at (Benedictine) Westminster Abbey.  The map was published on October 21st 2019.

The map was launched at Skinners' Hall in the City of London on October 21st, by kind permission of the Master and Warden of the Worshipful Company of Skinners.  We were very pleased to have Sir Simon Jenkins as guest of honour.  Sir Simon, who has just published A Short History of London, gave a fascinating talk on how Londoners have three times avoided the complete reconstruction of their city - probably against their will!  The launch was attended by over a hundred people and sales of the new map were brisk.

Sir Simon Jenkins and HTT Chair Prof Keith Lilley at the map launch

The launch event at Skinners' Hall

New map projects

As part of the very diverse activities associated with Coventry's status as UK City of Culture in 2021, we are working with a local charity - Medieval Coventry - to publish an Historical Map of Coventry.  Since the Historic Towns Atlas of Coventry was published in 1975, a very great deal of work has been undertaken on the history of the city which was the fourth most important town in medieval England . The city has a rich medieval heritage, and although many buildings were destroyed in the bombing of the Second World War, there are many medieval  sites still findable in the city which bear testimony to Coventry's wealth and prosperity.  A team under the editorship and guidance of Mark Webb is working on the map, with a view to publication in autumn 2020.  A large grant towards the project has been secured from English Heritage.  The base map is being digitised and then we will be poised for full-scale map production.  The map will be published in 2020.

We're also  working with the Canterbury Christ Church University and Canterbury Archaeological Trust to publish an Historical Map of Canterbury in spring 2020.  The year 2020 marks the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of  Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. As well as its associations with the cathedral, Canterbury has a long and complex history as a settlement in its own right, and the map will summarise on a single sheet the city's history from its Roman foundation until the more recent past.  We aim to proceed to a full atlas after the publication of the map, and much of the work involved in the creation of a map will feed into the atlas publication.

We're also starting a project to map Bristol in 1480, and an enthusiastic team of historians and archaeologists has been assembled in that city to move the project forward.  We're at the fund-raising stage in the project, and are optimistic about getting funding for what will be a very exciting map.  Can you help us?

Events planned for  2020

In 2019, the Historic Towns Trust has been celebrating fifty years since the publication of the first atlas in the series, volume 1, published in 1969.  The trust is planning public events to explain and advertise the work of the HTT and the publications that it produces. In 2020 there will be events in  Aberystwyth and Perth.  The event in Aberystwyth will be held at the National Library of Wales/Llfrylgel Genedlaethol Cymru on Friday 22nd May, as part of the Carto Cymru event.  Details will be announced on this website and also the NLW's website.  The event in Perth will be later in the year, and we'll put details of it on the website here.

Ambitious plans for more atlases

The Trust has ambitious plans to produce atlases of a large number of towns and cities across Great Britain, and to address the relative lack of towns in Wales and Scotland that have been covered to date.  A long list of possible towns and cities has been drawn up, including not only Welsh and Scottish towns but industrial cities in the north of England.  We are now looking at which of those may be suitable for further research and which may lend themsleves to an atlas project.  For an atlas to be produced, a local team has to be assembled and money raised to pay for its production. Given that an atlas costs of the order of £80,000 to £100,000 to produce, each project that we embark on has to be accompanied by a substantial fund-raising campaign, and running such a campaign takes time and patience. We hope that the next atlas in the series will be of Canterbury, as noted above.

The trust is also set to embark on a substantial fundraising campaign to increase its core capital, to fund the administration and project management that accompanies its work and which has grown as its output has also increased. To that end, we are delighted that Dr Alice Prochaska has joined the trustees to help head development and fundraising.  Dr Prochaska was until recently Principal of Somerville College, Oxford and is also an historian of repute.  We are delighted that she has offered to lend her substantial experience and expertise to the trust.

Using atlas material

The Historic Towns Trust is always pleased when researchers use maps from the Historic Towns Atlas volumes for research and illustrative purposes.  Recently, we've given permission to use two maps of Cambridge from volume II to be adapted as illustrations for a collection of essays on Commemoration in Medieval Cambridge. We've also been asked if the map of London in 1520 can be used and enhanced with additional information on legal inns in the Holborn area.

Further details on how to ask permission for use of maps can be found here.  If it's for a legitimate purpose that complements the HTT's charitable aims, we usually say 'yes'!