The Glory of Goad Maps

In the blog this week, Librarian Helen Skilbeck looks at some beautiful but underused maps in our collection – Goad maps. This piece forms part of our series of articles exploring resources relevant to family history research. 

In the Local and Family History Library there are hundreds of maps – maps of Leeds, maps of Yorkshire, Ordnance Survey maps, hand drawn maps, old maps and new maps but one of the most  underused types of maps are Goad maps. These are named after their creator, Charles E. Goad, who was born in Surrey but began his cartography career in Montreal, Canada, in 1875. By 1885 he had returned to the UK and began creating a series of detailed city maps that were intended to be used by fire insurance companies to determine insurance premiums. His maps showed the use of each individual building, the construction materials that were used, any potential fire hazards as well as the proximity of water supplies.

The library holds a good collection of 19th century Goad maps of Leeds city centre, attractively coloured and bound into huge volumes.

Image shows a large volume of Goad maps open.
Full size volume of Goad maps

Each volume contains an extremely detailed key that shows the symbols used to illustrate the different building materials as well as the main building features including doorways, windows, roofs, boilers, lifts and hoists. Each building material is additionally colour coded with pink representing buildings made of brick, stone or concrete; yellow representing wooden buildings and blue representing skylights.

Image shows part of the key to the Goad maps
Image shows only part of the Goad map key

Here we can see the Goad map for the Grand Theatre. Notice the sprinklers, the iron and asbestos curtain and the materials used for the stairs and galleries. Notice also how close the sunken petrol tank is to the theatre. All these factors would be taken into account when deciding on fire insurance premiums.

Goad map showing the Grand Theatre
View of the Goad map for Grand Theatre, Leeds (date unknown)

This is the Goad map for Leeds Central Library and the City Art Gallery. Notice the blue glass skylights in both buildings and the space where the original library yard was located.

Goad map showing Leeds Central and the City Art Gallery.
View of Goad map showing Leeds Central Library and the City Art Gallery

Some volumes were continually updated until the 1950s to reflect changes to the city centre with alterations pasted onto the relevant pages.

By the 1970s these were no longer used as fire insurance plans and instead became shopping centre maps. Various maps were produced of built up commercial areas of Leeds such as Headingley, Otley, Cross Gates and Armley as well as the city centre. These maps continue to be updated every year or two and the Local and Family History Library has a large selection of these maps available to view in Leeds Central Library.

Both the older series, and the newer, are of immense value and interest to family historians, allowing researchers to see in more detail the location of places of work through the 19th and 20th-centuries. Some buildings and street names may only be visible on these Goad maps, given the scale – you may not find those places on, for instance, Ordnance Survey maps from the same period. Using Goad Maps alongside trade directories, to identify specific locations, is another possible approach.

Contact us on 0113 37 86982 or via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk to learn more about accessing our Goad Map collection

We also have a quiz on our map collection here on the Secret Library blog – click to try! 

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