Early Atlases of Britain: 1742-1818

A recent display outside the Information and Research department on the 2nd Floor of Central Library showcased some of the most interesting maps and atlases from our collections. Most dated from 1742 to 1818; these books are a valuable and fascinating part of our stock, which can be viewed on a reference basis. To consult the books please contact the department on 0113 37 87018 or via informationandresearch@leeds.gov.uk.

  • Chorographia Britannia; or a Set of Maps of all the Counties in  England and Wales [….] by Thomas Badeslade, surveyor. Printed in 1742 it was dedicated to his Royal Highness Frederick, the (then) Prince of Wales. Shelf mark: SR 912.42 BAD

  • Britannia Depicta; or Ogilby Improve’d [….]. This is a survey of all the direct and principal crossroads in England & Wales at that time. It was engraved by Eman Bowen in 1753. Shelf mark: SR 912.42 OGI

  • A Collection of Plans of the Principal Cities of the Great Britain and Ireland; [….]. The maps were drawn from ‘the most accurate surveys in particular, those taken by the late Mr Rocque, topographer to His Majesty. The monarch at the time would have been King George III. The maps were printed and sold by A Drury in 1764. Shelf mark: SR 912.42 DUR

  • Kitchen’s Post-chaise Companion through England and Wales; […..]. This Atlas claimed tocontain all the ancient and new additional roads, with every topographical detail relating thereto’. It was printed by Thomas Kitchin in 1767. A ‘post-chaise’ was a horse–drawn carriage used for transporting passengers or mail.
    Shelf mark: SR 912 ENG

  • Ellis’s English Atlas; or a Complete Chorography of England and Wales in Fifty Maps; […..]. Engraved by and under the direction of J. Ellis, it was printed for Robert Sayer in 1768.
    Shelf mark: SR 912.42 ELL

  • The British Atlas; Comprising a Complete set of County Maps of England and Wales […..]. All but two of the maps and plans were drawn by G. Cole and engraved by J. Roper under the directions of E. W. Brayley. The atlas was printed in 1810.
    Shelf mark: SR 912.42 B777

The atlases for this display revealed only a very small section of the huge collection of maps and atlases held at the Central Library. Previous articles are available, along with a research guide detailing the maps held at the Local and Family History department.

A Menagerie of Maps

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

While many people are probably already aware that the Central Library holds a great many maps relating to Leeds and Yorkshire (those who aren’t are advised to view this Research Guide for more details), a lesser-known part of our Map Collection relates to maps of England and Wales. Comprising around 200 maps in total, here is a brief look at some of the most interesting. To view any of these maps, visit the Information and Research department on the 2nd Floor of the Central Library, or call 0113 378 5005 for more details. Alternatively, click here to see a full list of this Map set.


One of forty German maps of England and Wales. From 1938, this image is of North London


Wyld’s 1849 chart of the Arctic region – as drawn for Lady Franklin in her search for her husband’s lost expedition. See also this article and Research Guide on our Arctic collections


Kitchin’s Enlarged Map of the Roads of England and Wales with the exact distances by the milestones between Town and Town (1786)


Saxton and Speede’s 1646 map of the ‘Kingdome of England’. For more on Saxton’s cartography, see this article on the rare copy of his Atlas held at the Central Library


19th-century map showing ‘England with all the Railways’


Facsimile, in two parts, of Agas’ 1560 map of London


1881 map of Western Palestine – with 30cm rule to give sense of scale


John Senex’s 1714 ‘A New Map of Great Britain’


1880 map of London drawn for the Post Office Directory

Map of Murder

One of the more unusual items amongst our large collection of historical maps at Leeds Central Library goes by the name of ‘Regina v. William Higgins and Others’. The title refers to a court case that took place in late 1850 and the map is a ‘Prosecutor’s Plan’ from the time, showing the part of Leeds where a series of violent street brawls resulted in the death of a local man.

The area of the affray

The area of the affray


The story begins on Saturday 16 November 1850, when a group of men led by William Higgins met at Marsh Lane on the east side of the city centre and were overheard to be planning “a bloody row”. Before long, a man had been assaulted in the nearby Forester’s Arms Inn; money stolen and glasses smashed at the Lewis Arms pub; two police officers struck down by a mob carrying bludgeons and pokers; and a man called James Rhodes hit in the head by a flying brick in front of his young son.

It was Mr Rhodes who died in hospital the following Thursday, having sustained severe skull fractures and concussion. The inquest report that appeared in the Leeds Mercury on 30 November presents a tangle of conflicting testimonies, with the newspaper commenting that “many of the witnesses examined before the Magistrates were examined by the Coroner, but their second statements did not by any means agree with what they had sworn before the Justices”.

The opening of the Leeds Mercury report, 30 November 1850

The opening of the Leeds Mercury report, 30 November 1850

If you’d like to investigate further, you can do so online using our subscription to the website 19th Century British Newspapers – which can be accessed from anywhere using your Leeds Library Card number and the link on our Online Resources page. The Prosecutor’s Plan itself, along with microfilm copies of the local newspapers, can be viewed in the Local and Family History department.