Map of Bristol in 1480 published

A map of Bristol in 1480 was published before just before Christmas 2020.  It's been a year-long project to produce a map of the city described by William Worcestre on a visit to his sister, and to his native town, in 1480.  He carefully recorded the dimensions of the buildings and their functions, allowing us to re-create what the city looked like.  Added to his description, we have archaeological and documentary evidence of buildings and - remarkably - there is still a layer of medieval Bristol to be discovered today.

The map has been compiled by a team of historians and archaeologists, including the former and current Bristol City Archaeologists.  The map carries a very comprehensive gazetteer of the sites shown on it, giving a short history of each of them. It also has a fascinating section detailing and explaining the different types of townhouses that Bristol had in its early years.

More details can be found here.  The map can be ordered from your favourite book retailer.


Maps of Coventry and of Canterbury near completion

February or March 2021 will see the publication of two more maps in the Trust's Town and City Historical maps series: Coventry and Canterbury.  Coventry is UK City of Culture 2021 and, as part of the celebration, we have been working hard to produce a map of a city which most people associate largely with post-war architecture and the car industry.  And yet Coventry was a medieval boom town, for four years the de facto capital of England, and granted the status of a 'city county' in its right.

The background map of the city shows Coventry in 1913 when its medieval layout was still absolutely evident. It would not be long before the city fathers planned its redevelopment, and the destruction of the second World War led to the wholesale re-ordering of much of the city centre  But the map shows the many small (and large) industrial premises that could be found right in the heart of the city, many of them becoming household names: Triumph, Rover, Starley Bicycles, Humber, Maudslay. Superimposed on the medieval city, they make for a fascinating juxtaposition.

Canterbury is quite a contrast to Coventry.  The background map in its case is of 1907 when industry was only a small part of the city, and largely confined to brewing and tanning, but the military had a huge presence there.  Our map shows a complex and overlaid city history, from Iron Age ditches onwards.  The late-Roman walls became the town's medieval walls, cutting off early suburbs from the historic core.  The cathedral dominated the medieval city, but St Augustine's Abbey outside of the walls would have been almost as impressive a building. The city also had a number of other religious foundations, destined to be lost at the Reformation when the substantial income to the city from pilgrimage to the tomb of St Thomas Becket suddenly ceased. 

Both maps are due to be published in February or early March 2021.


Welcome to a new Trustee

We are delighted to welcome John Moore as a trustee of the Historic Towns Trust.  John has an impressive experience of maps and mapping. He worked at the University of Glasgow Library for nearly forty years before recently retiring. He is an active researcher in the history of cartography and has published extensively on the history of the mapping of Scotland and, in particular, produced a bibliographical guide to the history of Scottish cartography.  More recently, he is the author of two successful books entitled Glasgow: mapping the city (2015) and The Clyde: mapping the river (2017). At present, he is in the final stages of preparing a book on the mapping of Scottish towns. We very much look forward to working with John and to expanding the Trust's presence in Scotland.

Map of Tudor London revised and reprinted

The Map of Tudor London has been reprinted and has been available again since early March 2020.  We've taken the opportunity to review and revise it and undertaken some minor corrections.  There are additional names to streets in Southwark, and the Tower of London has been revised to better reflect the layout and names (for example of towers on the curtain wall) which were there in 1520. We have added street markets as well.  The directory of streets and buildings on the reverse has also been updated to reflect the additional information we have included.

The map is available from all good bookshops and on-line retailers with a RRP of £9.99.


Map of Medieval London launched

In the wake of the success of the 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 Thomas Becket 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

Events planned for  2020 postponed

In 2019, the Historic Towns Trust celebrated fifty years since the publication of the first atlas in the series, volume 1, in 1969.  The trust was planning more public events to explain and advertise the work of the HTT and the publications that it produces.

Unfortunately, because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the plans for events at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, and in Scotland have had to be put on hold for the time being.  As soon as we have more news about when we might be able to reschedule events, we'll let you know. 

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'!