Richard Horwood ( 1758 - 1803)

Horwood was a surveyor and cartographer and is famous for his very large thirty two sheet map of London and suburbs published between 1792 and 1799, titled; A Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster the Borough of Southwark and Parts adjoining Shewing every House.

At the time this was the largest map ever printed in Britain. After he decided to chart the entire city of London, down to each individual building, Horwood set about soliciting subscriptions to finance the project in 1790. His intention was to publish the complete map within two years, at a scale of 26 inches to the mile however, the scope of the project was so extensive and costly that rather than taking the estimated two years, the project took almost ten to complete. From the start the project suffered financial hardship, however he eventually published the entire map, which consisted of 32 sheets (four high and eight across).  He promised subscriber that they would receive complete copies by the end of 1792. By April 1794, however, only six sheets had been completed and, despite having built up a considerable body of subscribers, headed by George III, Horwood ran into serious financial difficulties. On 1 December 1795 he issued another prospectus, in an attempt to raise further funds. The work was not saved, however, until January 1798, when his offer to dedicate the map to the Phoenix Assurance Office in return for a loan of £500 was accepted by the Directors of the Company. This funding allowed him to complete the map by the end of May 1799. Covering an area extending north as far as Islington, east as far as Limehouse, south as far as Kensington and west as far as Brompton, Horwood’s Plan has been justly described as ‘the largest and most important London map of the 18th century‘ (Howgego p.31). It was the first to show not only individual houses, with courts and vacant spaces away from the street front, but to attempt to give the street number of every building as well.

Horwood continued to solicit subscribers during the 1792 to 1799 printing period and thus some sheets have slight changes in state through adding the names of business and showing their facilities in greater detail than appear in earlier versions of the sheets.

In 1800 he wrote of the map, in a letter to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce: The execution of it has cost me nine years severe labour and indefatigable perseverance; and these years formed the most valuable part of my life. I took every angle; measured almost every line; and after that, plotted and compared the whole work. The engraving, considering the immense mass of work, is, I flatter myself, well done.


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