Oldest map of capital will be on display in the City of London

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oldest map of capital
Civitas Londinium, London Metropolitan Archives

The oldest surviving map of the capital will be the centrepiece of a new free exhibition, Magnificent Maps of London, which opens at the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) on April 11.

Civitas Londinium, also known as the Woodcut or Agas map, was produced in the 1570s and gives a unique bird’s eye view of London, across the Thames from Southwark towards the hills of Hampstead and Highgate.

Only three prints of the map are known to survive, all dating from 1633. The creator of the map remains a mystery. Other exhibition highlights include a survey, the Ruins of London.

It was commissioned by the City of London Corporation in the week following the 1666 Great Fire of London to help rebuild the city, which then had a population of about 350,000.

The Great Fire started in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane and spread quickly because of strong winds. Over 13,000 houses, almost 90 churches, the Royal Exchange, Guildhall and St. Paul’s Cathedral were razed. The navy eventually brought the blaze under control by using gunpowder to create gaps between houses.

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The exhibition also includes maps created in the 19th century showing the spread of then fatal diseases like typhoid, cholera and smallpox, which inflicted terrible loss of life in Victorian London.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said: “This new exhibition gives a unique and compelling insight into how London was literally put on the map.

“It charts this extraordinary city’s development through some of the tumultuous events that defined it, like the Great Fire.

“We are bringing the history of London to life for our visitors, unlocking imagination, creativity, and innovation.”

The internationally-renowned London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is the largest civic archive in the UK. It has 100km of archives on its Clerkenwell site in east London. It documents 1,000 years of London’s history and works across the capital with community groups to support archive heritage at grassroots level. Its oldest document, the Charter of William I, dates back to 1067.

Featured image by London Metropolitan Archives

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