Notes from the Library (No. 8 December 2016)

While working through the map collection of the Society some years ago, we came across a previously unrecorded small plan labelled ‘A Plan of Leeds 1792’ (dimensions: 319 x 192mm). It has no surveyor’s or publisher’s name and it is not mentioned in Bonser and Nichols, Printed Maps and Plans of Leeds or in Maurice Beresford’s East End, West End, and its origins and relation to other maps and plans seemed worth investigating..

There are two well-known plans of Leeds from the eighteenth century: John Cossins ‘A New & Exact Plan of the Town of Leedes’ from 1726, too early to be relevant here, and the inset plan on plate XVII of Thomas Jefferys, ‘A Survey of the County of Yorkshire’. The publication of Jefferys’s Survey was not straightforward. Jefferys was declared bankrupt in 1766, even before the surveying for the map was complete, and he died in 1771, when only two sheets of the map had been published. The whole map was printed under Jefferys’s imprint between 1772 and 1775 by Andrew Dury, and then again in 1775 by Robert Sayer and John Bennett, prestigious London printsellers and mapmakers who had acquired the copper-plates of the map, presumably from Dury. The Society possesses a copy of the earlier printing of the complete Survey.

Sayer and Bennett also produced in 1775, separately on a single sheet, ‘A Plan of Leeds in 1770’ (dimensions: 249 x 193/5 mm). This plan is not just based on the Jefferys plan but adapted from one of the plates, with a new rectangular border placed around the central part of it. ‘Meadow Lane’ in Jefferys’s plan, for example, appears simply as ‘Lane’ in Sayer’s and Bennett’s, the section bearing the word ‘Meadow’ having been cut off. The caption to the 1770 plan, without mentioning Jefferys’s name, makes it clear that it is based on the Jefferys survey, in that it states that it is a ‘Plan of Leeds on Survey of the County of York made 1767-1770 . . .’, the dates that the Jefferys survey was made. The Society possesses a copy of this single sheet.

The newly discovered plan of 1792 is clearly based on the single sheet 1770 plan by Sayer and Bennett, and covers the same area except that it has been extended to the west. Its interest lies in the fact that it shows some of the expansion of the town that had taken place since 1770, indicating housing developments and adding a number of names of streets, but it is also interesting because of the questions it raises: ‘Who produced it?’, ‘Who for?’ and ‘Why?’

To take the housing developments first, the plan shows new streets both to the east and west of the town. To the east, there are two recent changes: St Peter’s Square, where the housing development is shown as complete or at least well-advanced, and High Street, which is shown simply by parallel lines as a street with no indication of houses. Both these resulted from the work of two newly-formed building societies: St Peter’s Square by the Boggart Close, Greater Building Society, houses being built c.1787-90, and High Street by the Boggart Close, Lesser Building Society, where house-building was slightly behind the St Peter’s Square development. Both of these developments have been named on the plan, as also has the nearby Duke Street. To the south of Lady Lane, George Street (a private development) is named and shown (though only by parallel lines). To the north of Lower Head Row, beyond Towns End, Templar Street (another private enterprise) is named, and shown virtually complete – in fact more complete than it is on the Giles map of 1815.

To the west the plan has been considerably extended to include the area of the Park. Here are the beginnings of Park Square, the completed Park Place, and considerable building in East and South Parades, all of which are named. There is also a vacant plot marked ‘Site for New Church’ where, later, St Paul’s Church, Park Square would be built. It is worth comparing this section of the plan with that drawn up by Jonathan Teal in 1793 (East End, West End, p.131). At the foot of the plan, the opening stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is shown.

In the centre of the plan there are a number of streets added, as well as some buildings. Reading from west to east, the roads running south from the Head Row are named as ‘Park Row’ (shown but not named on the 1770 plan), ‘Butts Lane’, ‘Butts Court’, ‘Albion Street’, and ‘Lands Lane’ (the only one shown and named on the earlier plan).

Besides the new streets there are also additional names provided for sections of old streets. ‘Merry Boys Hill’ appears at the western end of Head Row, next to ‘Burley Bar’. ‘Woodhouse Bar’ and ‘Wade Lane’ are also named. ‘Lydgate’ is rather oddly placed across the street, looking more like an area than a street name. At the eastern end, where Lower Head Row originally swung round into Lady Lane, ‘High Causey’ is named, and ‘Mabgate’ is added to the north of Quarry Hill. The number of inns has been increased by the addition of the ‘George Inn’, and the ‘Prison’ has been added at the top of Kirkgate.

Eastern half of ‘A Plan of Leeds in 1770’

Eastern half of ‘A Plan of Leeds in 1770’

Eastern half of ‘A Plan of Leeds 1792’

Eastern half of 'A Plan of Leeds 1792'

Western half of ‘A Plan of Leeds in 1770’

Western half of ‘A Plan of Leeds in 1770’


Western half of ‘A Plan of Leeds 1792’

Western half of ‘A Plan of Leeds 1792’

The lettering used to some extent shows signs of its origin in the 1770 plan. All the names existing there are reproduced in the same form. Interestingly the bold upper case is restricted to what the 1770 plan seems to regard as the major streets: Brig Gate, Kirk Gate, Swine Gate, Calls, Market Place, with the curious exception of ‘West Bar’ and ‘Quebec’ on Mill Hill, which have been added using the same upper case bold lettering. The italic upper case used for lesser but important streets on the 1770 plan (Lady Lane, Vicar Lane, Boar Lane, Lands Lane, Towns End), has been extended to some but not all of the additional streets for no obvious reason, e.g. George Street, East Parade, Park Row, High Street, Duke Street; while some other additional streets have a larger, but not bold, lower case, e.g. Bradford Road, Park Lane, Park Place. One addition appears in a completely new form: ‘Site of New Church’ in Park Square.

One other addition is a series of numbers. They are scattered over the plan: ‘1 & 5’ and ‘6’ at the foot of Briggate; ‘4’ and ‘7’ just south of Boar Lane; ‘9’ just west of Call Lane and ‘8’ by the Parish church; ‘10’ west of the Market Place, ‘11’ near Park Square, and ‘3’ on the Upper Headrow. I have not been able to find ‘2’. There is no key to explain the significance of the numbers.

Who made the plan remains a mystery, but it is clearly a development of the Sayer and Bennett 1770 one, and perhaps that firm is the most likely source. Judging by the variety of forms used for the names, it is not a carefully thought-out piece of mapping; but then in their 1770 plan they were not worried about lopping off the ‘Meadow’ of Meadow Lane. The presence of the new housing developments argues for considerable local knowledge, as does the inclusion of local names like ‘Merry Boys Hill’ and ‘High Causey’. The inclusion of ‘New Music Hall’ is interesting in a different way, as it was not opened until 1794, though the cloth hall on the ground floor was there by 1793.

Why would such a plan have been made? The appearance of the 1770 plan suggests that Sayer and Bennett saw a possible market for a plan extracted from the Jeffreys Survey and were quick to seize the opportunity offered by possession of the copper-plates. The folds at the back of the Thoresby Society copy of the 1770 plan suggest that it was bound into a book. The most likely book to contain such a town plan would be a town guide; but I am not aware of one of this date. The same would be true of the 1792 plan were it not for the numbers. They suggest a more specific reason for the making of the plan, though they could be additional to the general purpose of showing the state of the town at that date. Since there is no attempt to show any industrial development (except for the mills which are marked both on the 1770 and 1792 plans, and originated in Jeffreys’s Survey) it seems that the purpose of the map is social rather than business information. On the other hand, the beginning of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is shown. Leeds was developing in a variety of ways at this time: the third White Cloth Hall had been opened in 1775, the section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from Leeds to Skipton had been opened by 1777, Leeds Library opened in 1768, the Theatre Royal in Hunslet opened in 1771, the Assembly Rooms were flourishing and Leeds had for most of the eighteenth century produced two local newspapers, the Mercury and the Intelligencer. Was the 1792 Plan a further sign of the town’s growing prosperity and social self-confidence? Of others’ interest, or its own aspirations?

I hope that bringing a reproduction of this plan to members’ attention will be a way of gathering a few answers.

Peter Meredith

© Peter Meredith and the Thoresby Society


Maurice Beresford, East End, West End: the Face of Leeds during Urbanisation, 1684-1842, Publications of the Thoresby Society 60/61, 1985 & 1986.

Kenneth J. Bonser and Harold Nichols, Printed Maps and Plans of Leeds, PThS 47, 1960

J. B. Harley and J. C. Harvey, Introduction to Harry Margary, A Facsimile of A Survey of the County of Yorkshire by Thomas Jefferys, 1775 (the Sayer and Bennett edition in the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds), 1973 (TSL Maps, R1771/5)

David Thornton, Leeds: A Historical Dictionary of People, Places and Events, 2013

Edmund Wilson, ‘Two Old Plans of Leeds’, PThS 9, pp.197-204 (202-204)


Maps and Plans:

A Survey of the County of Yorkshire, Thomas Jefferys, 1771-5 (TSL Maps, F1771)

A Plan of Leeds in 1770, Robert Sayer and John Bennett (TSL Maps, B1775)

A Plan of Leeds 1792 (TSL Maps, B1792a)

A Plan of the town of Leeds and its environs, Netlam and Francis Giles, 1815 (TSL Maps, 1815)