This subject is to help you know where to look on a map for places, streets, residences, churches, school, railroads, rivers, etc.
Before the Railways and Hansom Cabs came to London, accurate street maps were not widely available and are therefore extremely rare. One of the earliest mass produced maps was compiled by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and published in 1843. It enabled Cab passengers to check that they were being taken by the most direct route. The map covers about 35 square miles and shows the first four termini, London Bridge (1836), Euston (1837), Shoreditch (1840) and Fenchurch Street (1841) at a scale of 3 ¼ inches to one mile.
The focus of many subsequent street maps was to help visitors avoid paying more than the standard, regulated fare. Victorian ingenuity produced the "tape-indicator map" with built-in measure, and circular maps, centred on Charing Cross. Maps with street indexes followed and styles and types proliferated.
The rapid growth of London, together with the wholesale street name changes wrought by the General Post Office (Royal Mail) sixteen years after the introduction of the "penny mail" in 1840 produced a continuous need for up to date maps. Many tried to meet this demand. G.W. Bacon, John Bartholomew, George Philip, Geographia Ltd. and W. H. Smith all published their own versions with their own style aimed at locals, tourists or visitors. Charles Booth's Descriptive Map of London Poverty from 1889 shows another perspective but unfortunately has no index.
By the early 20th century the engraving styles and indexing systems were beginning to resemble what we are used to today. The current standard is the A-Z, originally from the Geographers' Map Company, founded by Phyllis Pearsall in 1936 and used by residents and visitors alike. She incorporated the best features from each type of map and made one that worked for anyone who needs to find anywhere in London.
Reproductions of London maps are easy to find but some are more useful than others. Large sheet maps are unwieldy and generally have no index, but make it easy to compare distances between two places. A magnifying glass is a useful accessory. Electronic versions vary in their usability and clarity. Some are slow to load, difficult to navigate or cannot be searched. A very good example is Philips' Handy-Volume Atlas of the County of London c1922 on CD available from  http://www.maps.thehunthouse.net/ This covers the whole of London at a scale of three inches to the mile. The CD runs on any computer with a web browser, no additional software or viewer is required. It displays clearly and quickly, is easy to navigate, can be enlarged and has an index of 16,500 places that can be searched. Links in the index take you straight to the relevant page. Example pages and a list of street name changes that occurred after the map was originally produced are on the website.
- 'Introduction', London Inhabitants within the Walls 1695 (1966). URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=5276 Date accessed: 04 July 2011.