An atlas which has taken 43 years to compile has created a view of how York might have looked more than 1,800 years ago
In 1972, the York Archaeological Trust began to create a historic atlas of the area. Their meticulous work was partly in response to an international post-war scheme creating scale historical maps of all of Europe’s historic towns.
But thanks to an extremely detailed, much earlier plan of the city, produced in 1852 and plotting York at the vast scale of five feet to every statute mile, the team and a group of cartographers have been able to redraw precise areas of the city – portraying how it would have looked from AD 200 to the time of the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
“Each of these maps poses immediate questions and challenges for historians and archaeologists,” says Dr Peter Addyman, the key middle man between the York Archaeological Trust, the Historic Towns Trust and a long list of contributors to the layouts.
“Forty-three years of archaeological research have greatly increased the amount of ground-tested data about York in the past that could be incorporated in a York atlas. Similar strides have been made in the study and understanding of the documentary and cartographic sources in which York is so rich.
“Methods of map production and design have been revolutionised over the four-and-a-half decades. In 1972 computers, for example, were rarely used in any of the work, but now digital mapping is the norm.”
The 1852 map was vectorised, simplifying its data and replacing pavement edges, seating plans of public buildings and other finer but ultimately superfluous details with new information gleaned from centuries of archaeology.
Dr Addyman says the research has taken an “inordinately long” amount of time, but believes it could lead to a “golden age” of future maps, resulting in enhanced, interactive and 3-D illustrations.
Town planners and developers are also expected to benefit from surveys originally used by geographers and urban historians.
- British Historic Towns Atlas Volume V: York is available to buy from most York booksellers.
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Three museums to see great maps in
National Museum Cardiff
When the industrial revolution was in full swing, the demand for coal, iron and limestone was huge. William Smith, a blacksmith’s son from Oxfordshire, realised that a map showing where different rock layers (strata) came to the surface would be of great value. See his work in the currrent exhibition, Reading the Rocks. Until February 28 2016.
American Museum in Britain, Bath
In 1988 Dr. Dallas Pratt, co-founder of the American Museum in Britain, gave the Museum over 200 Renaissance maps of the New World – a collection acclaimed by scholars as one of the finest holdings of rare printed world maps in existence. The permanent exhibition, New World, Old Maps, features a rotating display of historic maps in the American Museum’s collection.
Graves Gallery, Sheffield
The Sheffield Cutlery Map celebrates some of the leading cutlery manufacturers that were established in the city from the 1800s to the present day. The new display, Sheffield Cutlery on the Map, showcases a selection of objects featured in the map, made by firms that were based near the Millennium Gallery. Until April 4 2016.