1800 Thomas Milne

Thomas Milne’s Land Use Plan of London & Environs, 1800

Milne’s Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster, circumjacent Towns and Parishes &c, laid down from a Trigonometrical Survey taken in the Years 1795–9. Printed for and Published by Thomas Milne, No.7 New-street, Knightsbridge as the Act directs; 11th March 1800.

This is a very rare map,* engraved with watercolour washes, of which only one complete copy of all six sheets survives. Each sheet bears Milne’s signature and a serial number. It represents “the first true land utilization map.”**

Thomas Milne was an experienced surveyor and a member of the Society of Civil Engineers. A contemporary called him “one of the most able and expert surveyors of the present day” with a special aptitude in the use of a light theodolite, a special instrument for measuring out maps. He is an important map-maker, anticipating by more than a century and a half the use of key letters and colours. He was also, according to historians, “of an accuracy hitherto unknown in small-scale maps of extensive areas.”

Milne prepared for publication a hand-coloured, engraved map on a scale of two inches to one mile. It covered about 260 square miles, extending from Harrow Weald to Woodford and from Hampton-on-Thames to Sundridge Park. He used a special key with a letter and an over-painted colour to record the use of each field, dividing the crops into twelve different types of land use, with further sub-divisions making seventeen categories of crops.

Acknowledgements: With thanks to Chiswick Public Library, Val Bott, the British Library and the London Topographical Society.

* Much of this information is taken from G.B.G. Bull, “Thomas Milne’s Land Utilization Map of the London Area in 1800”, The Geographical Journal, Vol 122, No 1 (Mar 1956), pp.25–30.
** James Howgego, Printed Maps of London circa 1553-1850, 2nd ed, Dawson, 1978

Artwork and maps