In 1738 John Rocque, a Frenchman, began his survey of London. His map (engraved by John Pine) covers an area from Marylebone and Chelsea in the west to Stepney and Deptford in the east. It was finally published in 1747. Pasted together, its 24 sheets measure 13 x 6 ½ feet - that is how it is shown in the exhibition London 1753 at the British Museum until 23 November. A contemporary catalogue suggested that it be put on a roller or made into a screen. (Today a more convenient version is available: The A to Z of Georgian London, published in 1982, reproduces the sheets, one to a spread, still perfectly legible, at a little over half-size.) To trace parts of London you know well in Pine's neat engraving is to learn which bits are resilient and which aren't. The position of the LRB office, for example, can be found: it is opposite the back of St George's Bloomsbury in Little Russell Street; the church was then, as now, surrounded by housing, but few if any of the original domestic buildings survive. You see why a church hemmed in like this put its burial ground out in the empty fields beyond what would become Russell Square. It survives as a tomb-laden garden tucked behind the Thomas Coram Foundation Museum.
LRB 25 September 2003 | PDF Download