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Plymouth maps

Extract from an antiquarian map entitled “Environs of Plymouth and Devonport”, 1850

For the Plymouth History Festival this month we're taking a look at just a few of the local history resources you can access through your local library. We've already covered books and newspapers

This week we're exploring our map collections. 

Our collection includes Ordnance Survey maps alongside specialist maps such as geological, navigational charts, Goad plans and various antique maps of the Plymouth area from the 19th Century and earlier. 

Most are held in the Central Library (some on microfiche) and can be viewed at any time. 

Town Plans 

Between 1855 and 1892 the Ordnance Survey published large scale town plans (scale of 1:500) for many towns in Devon, including: Brixham, Dartmouth, Dawlish, Exeter, Exmouth, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Torquay and Totnes.

This series of maps presents an excellent opportunity to become familiar with the street layout of Plymouth during the mid-19th Century. The excellent quality and detail from this map enables a user to accurately locate houses, coal sheds, garden paths and even trees in the garden to a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Plymouth Bomb Map 

The Bomb Map was produced shortly after WW2 and is based upon an Ordnance Survey map. Each of the black dots on the Bomb Map signifies the location where a high explosive bomb was dropped during the War (not just the Blitz). As this map does not record the location of Incendiary bombs being dropped the map only completes part of the picture for wartime bombing raids over Plymouth. The information for the Map was taken from the “Bomb Book” which is housed at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and works like a diary which records where and when bombs were dropped over Plymouth from 1940-1944.

National Grid Maps from 1945 

Alongside the maps for Plymouth we also hold the National Grid maps series for the whole of Devon and Cornwall. The maps are at a scale of six inches to 1 mile (1:10.560) for the whole of Devon and date from the 1960s-1990s. The map references for this series begin with SS, ST, SX or SY.

Locating maps for streets or areas in the modern City of Plymouth is made much easier from 1945 onwards by the use of a street index which enables you to search for a street by name and locate the index reference number for the map.

GOAD Plans 

Goad plans are recognised by property professionals as the definitive source of information for the retail and commercial property industry, a Goad plan gives a bird’s eye view of a retail centre, showing the fascia name, retail category, floor space and exact location of all retail outlets and vacant premises. Key location factors such as pedestrian zones, road crossings, bus stops and car parks are also featured, allowing you to instantly assess the site quality of existing or prospective store locations.

We hold a comprehensive range of Goad plans – from 1960s to current. Our holdings cover the whole of Plymouth City Centre (1968-2013); Plymouth Barbican (2003-2012); Mutley Plain (2003-2012); Plympton Ridgeway (1997-2011); Plymstock Broadway (1997-2011) alongside others for Tavistock, Torquay, and Truro.

Antiquarian maps 

Our antiquarian map collection contains copies of maps such as Spry’s Plymouth Leat map from 1591, the Plymouth Civil War ‘Siege Map’ of 1643, and various early street maps and plans of Plymouth from circa1765 to the mid-20th century

Navigational/admiralty charts 

We have a wide range of navigational and admiralty charts for Plymouth Sound and the coastline around Devon and Cornwall. Alongside the antiquarian charts our coverage for this collection ranges from the 17th to 20th centuries.
Our coverage of charts for Plymouth Sound is largely comprehensive from about 1693 to 1970s.

How maps can be used

It's always interesting to find out how our map collections are used.  At a recent family history session in the Central Library, we were using street directories alongside maps of the city centre pre-war and post war and people were fascinated.  Mostly people want to look at them from a historical point of view either to remember how things were or find out where relatives lived. 

One visitor was looking at Lipson Hill and had been walking around the area with her sister and they couldn’t find it. She had a school friend who she was still in touch with who had lived there. We were able to show them where it was (it is now just all Lipson Road) and showed her some directories for the time her friend lived there. She was absolutely thrilled and was going to look at the houses now she knew where they were. She was also excited to be able to tell friend that her house was still here. 

Thanks to the Central Library staff for their input. 



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