Time Travel Explorer Blog

London's Lost Map

by Matt Brown 8. March 2011 19:54

The very first detailed map of London is also the most mysterious. The so-called 'Copperplate map' dates back to the 1550s, and the time of Queen 'Bloody' Mary. It's a work of beauty, showing buildings, field partitions, and miniature characters going about their Tudory business. Some shoot arrows in Moorfields, others hang clothes to dry on tenter hooks.

Sadly, only three panels from the map are known, and 12 are missing. You can view two of the panels at the Museum of London, while the third (only discovered around a decade ago) is held by the Dessau Art Gallery. However, a slightly later woodcut map survives, and is thought to derive from the copper plate map.

An excellent documentary about the map is available on BBC iPlayer (for UK licence payers only), and I urge you to listen before it goes away. Towards the end, the programme speculates about the existence of the remaining panels. If you happen to have an old painting of the Tower of Babel laying around, you might want to take it out of its frame and inspect the back.