[M]aps define an area in more than the most obvious of ways. They define the landscape and the people that live within it. They allow us to make sense of its complexities. None more so than in London, so here are CabbieBlog’s top three London maps:
Born Phyllis Isobella Gross in East Dulwich on 25 September 1906 her father was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant and her mother was an Irish Italian Roman Catholic suffragette. She was educated at Roedean School, a private boarding school near Brighton, which she had to leave when her father’s cartographic company collapsed.
She travelled all over Europe from an early age and then became an English tutor in a small school in Fécamp Brittany. Later, she studied at the Sorbonne, spending her first few months in Paris sleeping rough. At the age of 16 she married Richard Pearsall, an artist friend of her brother. They were together for eight years, travelling in Spain and living in Paris, but she left him in Venice while he was asleep, without telling him anything. She did not remarry.
By 1935, she had become a portrait painter, but while on her way to a party, she tried to follow the best available map of the time (a 1919 Ordnance Survey map). She discovered that this map was not up to the task, and ended up getting lost on her way. Following a conversation during this party, she conceived the idea of mapping London.
The next day, she started mapping London. This involved walking the 3,000 miles of the 23,000 streets of London, waking up at 5 am everyday, and not going to bed until after an 18-hour working day.
Throughout the walking, she was also drawing up the first A to Z map. Phyllis did all of the proof reading and design work herself, and drew up the map with the help of a single draughtsman. They founded the Geographer’s Map Company and in 1936, a year after the project begin, 10,000 copies of the first A to Z were printed. Initially, it proved hard to sell, but finally, WH Smith agreed to take 250 copies which she delivered in a wheelbarrow. It was a runaway success.
Prior to Harry Beck’s diagrammatic map, the various underground lines had been laid out geographically, often superimposed on a road map. This had the feature that centrally located stations were very close together, and the out of town stations were spaced apart. Harry had the idea of creating a full system map in colour. He believed that passengers riding the trains weren’t too bothered about the geographical accuracy, but were more interested in how to get from one station to another, and where to change. Thus he drew his famous diagram, looking more like an electrical schematic than a true map, on which all the stations were more or less equally spaced. This form of map has been copied around the world for various transit systems.
Because Harry’s map has no relevance to the geographical positions of the stations above, take a cousin from out of town to Bank station and tell them to make their way to Mansion House using Harry’s map. They will gamely take the Central Line 4 stations to Tottenham Court Road, the Northern Line 3 stops to Embankment and back on the District Line for 3 stations to reach Mansion House.
In the meantime walk the 100 yards down Queen Victoria Street, go into one of the fine cafes in Bow Lane, enjoy a leisurely coffee and then cross the road to meet your exhausted and perplexed cousin.
Pass GO and collect £200
The history of Monopoly can be traced back to the early 1900s. The version we see today was born in the early 1930s, and named Monopoly. Sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies, the first English version featured many of London streets and has come to symbolise the wealth and poverty within London. You can even go on ‘Monopoly’ Monopoly cab tours of London if your pockets are deep enough.