Introducing Horwood’s Plan (1792-99)

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Richard Horwood’s ‘PLAN of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER the Borough of SOUTHWARK, and PARTS adjoining Shewing every HOUSE’ was produced between 1792 and 1799.  It consists of thirty-two printed sheets displaying an area stretching from the middle of Hyde Park in the west to Limehouse in the east and from the southern edge of Islington in the north to the southern fringes of Kennington and Walworth in the south, a zone six miles across and three miles and three furlongs from north to south.  Each individual sheet is 19 3/4 inches across and 21 5/8 of an inch high; when assembled, the full map is more than thirteen feet (or four metres) across and over seven feet (2.2 metres) high.  This site hosts the Plan in an accessible digital version designed to bring it into conversation with other works, allowing it to be explored in ways which are almost impossible when employing its rare, expensive and unwieldy physical form.

As Paul Laxton has ascertained, Horwood’s was the first map of London to attempt to show every individual property since John Ogilby and William Morgan’s ‘Large and Accurate Map of the City of London’ (printed in 1676, and focusing principally on the City) and a feat conducted on a scale not attempted again until the 1930s.1  This page provides some basic details regarding the production of the plan, the later history of Horwood’s plates and some alternative versions available in print and online.  Other pages on the site provide further information on using the online planan account of the means used to produce it and details of the scant surviving evidence concerning Horwood’s life.

The earliest evidence regarding the genesis of the Plan dates from October 1790, when Horwood published a plate covering an area of about twenty-two acres around Leicester Square and Haymarket as ‘a specimen of a Plan of LONDON’.  Precise responses to this specimen do not survive, but either they were encouraging enough to persuade him to go ahead with his scheme, or his ambitions were large enough (or his circumstances dire enough) to lead him to strike out in an endeavour which would consume him for much of the next ten years.

The first completed sheet which Horwood published, covering the fashionable West End and including Hanover, Cavendish and Berkeley Squares, is dated June 22d 1792; this was followed by the sheet immediately above on October 25th 1793 and by the four sheets in the leftmost column of the map, which are dated between January and April 1794.  The remaining two sheets of the leftmost eight appeared in January 1795.  These eight sheets comprise the western quarter of the complete map, covering most of Marylebone, Hyde Park, Chelsea, much of Soho and the heart of Westminster.

After this point, Horwood’s progress stalled.  At the end of 1795 he issued a new prospectus (dated December 1st) detailing his progress and the challenges he faced, seeking further subscribers to add to the 883 names which he listed.  The prospectus sought support for a map conducted ‘ON A PRINCIPLE NEVER BEFORE ATTEMPTED […] a Scale so extensive and accurate as to establish, not only every Street, Square, Court, Alley, and passage therein, but also each individual House, the Number by which it is distinguished, the Names of all the public Buildings, and other Remarks, so as to render it the most perfect Plan of the Metropolis, and the best Directory, ever published.’2  Horwood goes on to stress the uses to which his plan might be put by ‘Gentlemen in every Branch of the Law’, ‘the Commercial World’ and ‘those Gentlemen who reside in the Country and in Foreign Parts’.  As well as these more general claims, he suggests some specific and pragmatic uses to which the Plan might be put, noting that ‘as the Distance between any two Houses, will be readily ascertained by an Application to the Scale which will be annexed to the work, all Impositions in Hackney-Coach and Porters’ Fares, &c. may be easily detected; for Example–if a Coach is taken at No. 200, Piccadilly, and ordered to No. 40 Harley Street, the Distance (by the nearest Coachway) will be found to be 7 Furlongs and 154 Yards, which is considerably within a Shilling Fare’.  Horwood’s coach ride (displayed below) takes place entirely within the confines of the first sheet of his Plan; it might therefore be inferred that this example was a longstanding part of his sales pitch to potential subscribers.

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Horwood's Coach Ride

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No. 200 Piccadilly: 51.508808, -0.136910
No. 40 Harley Street: 51.520196, -0.147574
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No. 200 Piccadilly

No. 200 Piccadilly.

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No. 40 Harley Street

No. 40 Harley Street.

 

Horwood offers potential buyers two means of playing for his Plan – either a payment of five guineas (five pounds and five shillings), half on subscription, half on receipt, or a more expensive method by which each sheet was paid for on delivery, but the buyer agreed to subscribe ‘7s. 6d. for the first, and 5s. for each subsequent Plate, except the last, which will be 2s. 6d.’  This method would have ended up costing those employing it £8, £2 15s. more than providing an up-front payment, a potent reminder both of the advantages that accrued to those with ready capital in the late eighteenth century and of Horwood’s need for money to support his surveying when he sought out his initial subscribers.  Whichever payment method was used, Horwood’s Plan would have been an expensive proposition, costing the equivalent of several hundred pounds by today’s standards.

It might be inferred that the pay-by-the-sheet method found few takers, as after publishing his 1795 prospectus, Horwood issued no further sheets for three-and-a-half years, tiding himself over with a loan from the Trustees and Directors of the Phoenix Fire Office, to whom the finished Plan is dedicated.  The remaining twenty-four sheets all share the same issue date – May 24 1799.  While the completion of the map is a testament to Horwood’s continuing diligence, not all of his subscribers appear to have been wholly satisfied.  A note in a small hand under the ‘EXPLANATION’ Horwood printed on the Plan itself states that ‘The Proprietor thinks it his Duty to state to the Public, that he never pledged himself to shew the interior or extent of the back parts of Premises or in any way to distinguish property unless specially required, nor in an undertaking of such Magnitude and difficulty would it have been possible in any length of time.’  While the plan Horwood produced is scrupulously detailed in most respects, it does not wholly conform to the ambitions expressed in his publicity materials, omitting house numbers for a large number of streets.  Horwood was keen to address specific complaints, adding that ‘if any Gentleman wishes to have his Property or Premises more particularly shewn The Proprietor will make any addition required at the least possible expence.’  There are in fact a large number of minor variants in the states of sheets from the first edition of the Plan, so it is very possible that some gentlemen took him up on this offer.

After Horwood’s death in 1803, the plates for the Plan passed to William Faden, one of London’s leading map publishers.  Faden had come to prominence with maps produced during the American War of Independence and, in the words of Laurence Worms, ‘developed the most competent cartographic service of the period’.3  While Horwood produced a few wildly ambitious works working largely on his own, Faden was an industrious organiser and supplier of governments, operating by the early nineteenth century from respectable premises at 5 Charing Cross.  After he acquired Horwood’s plates, Faden revised them to produce new editions of the Plan in 1807, 1813 and 1819.  These editions add new features reflecting the changing face of the city and incorporate the details of locations which Horwood was unable to survey (including the Tower of London).  They also extend the map to the east by eight further sheets.  Faden’s 1813 edition forms the basis of the London Topographical Society’s 1985 publication The A-Z of Regency London, still available directly from the Society.

Another version of Horwood’s original Plan can be seen online as part of the MOTCO Image Database and can be purchased on a CD along with a helpful place name index including over 5500 entries.

 

Footnotes

  1. I am indebted for many of the details on this page to Laxton’s ‘Introduction’ to The A-Z of Regency London (London: London Topographical Society, 1985), pp. v-xiv.
  2. The most convenient way to access the text of the first page of the prospectus is in The A-Z of Regency London, which reprints it opposite the title page.
  3. Laurence Worms, ‘Faden, William (1749–1836)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37406>.