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John Stow: A Mapp of the Parish of St. Anns

Map: LDN5414
Cartographer: John Stow
Title: A Mapp of the Parish of St. Anns
Date: 1720
Published: London
Width: 7 inches / 18 cm
Height: 12 inches / 31 cm
Map ref: LDN5414
Parish of St. Anns, from Tottenham Court Road and Soho Square south to Leicester Square. From Stow's seminal Survey of London, illustrated by John Strype. Coloured.

Much of what we know today of both medieval and Elizabethan London owes a great deal to the tireless efforts of John Stow (1525 - 1603), the city's self-appointed surveyor and chronicler. A tailor by profession, Stow devoted every spare hour and penny to researching the history of the nation in general, and its capital in particular. The fruits of his labours are found in his many chronicle histories of England and in the enduring Survey of London (1598; expanded edition 1603). The Survey traverses London and its suburbs methodically, street by street, describing churches and alehouses alike. The wards of the city of London greatly interested Stow and his history concentrated on these areas of ‘olde time broken into diverse partes’.

Since Norman times or perhaps earlier, the City of London has been divided into wards, or administrative areas, each with annually elected Common Councillors and a lifetime Aldermann. In the past they were responsible for the watch (policing), sanitation and upkeep of the ward although today the role is largely nominal but each ward can hold its own court (a wardmote).

There are twenty-five wards, each with curious boundaries and different shapes and sizes. The reason for this has been lost in time but it is likely that they were originally territories owned by city barons and hereditary proprietors.

When Strype produced his illustrated editions of Stow he wanted them mapped. These first appeared in 1720 and over time, artists embellished them with pictures of buildings, cartouches and other decorations. Among the most attractive were those drawn by Benjamin Cole, who updating them in 1755 for William Maitland’s History of London, and produced seventeen ward maps. [LDN5414]