1790 Roadmap

Stonemuse has been shopping on Ebay and has kindly sent me a picture of his latest acquisition – a road map from 1790. I know very little about it, other than it appears to have been published by J. Cary, July 1, 1790.
I think what this says most to me is just how hit-and-miss travel was in those days. This is the main Dover Road – and yet the traveller is given information on a need-to-know basis only.

Interestingly, we are given the names of individual landowners – Mr Angerstein – Mr Page – Mr Todd – Mr Snodgrass – and the odd landmark – Sevendroog Tower, for example, which wouldn’t have been particularly old when the map was made. There’s also a list of respectable inns – in Essex – I’m not sure what their relevance is.
It certainly leads to some questions – Is The Sun Public House an early incarnation of that landmark of traffic-report misery, The Sun In The Sands? And where’s The Spread Eagle? I thought it was a bit of a must-stay on continental journeys…
It seems a bit odd to look at a map this way round – we’re used to looking at charts where North is at the top. Try turning it round like this to get a more recognisable image:

I don’t know about you but I have wonderful images of travellers dancing before my eyes. Cooped up in rickety coaches, wrapped in heavy cloaks, tight breeches, Spitalfields silk dresses and fur muffs, their trunks and cases and hatboxes piled high upon the roof, full of excitement of what they would discover on the Continent. The ancient wonders of Rome, perhaps, or the mighty learning of Paris. The lasciviousness and danger of Naples; the fabulous art works of Germany.

And all this mingled with a terrifying frisson at the thought of Highwaymen on Blackheath…


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