Isaac Taylor 1765
Isaac Taylor (1730-1807) was the first map maker to produce a large scale map of the county of Dorset. Measuring 155 x 113 cm or nearly 6 x 4 feet, made of of panels of varying sizes, typically 9 x 6 ins (23 x 15 cms), it was published in 1765, and was the direct result of a Royal Society of Arts’ advertisement in 1759, which offered ‘to give a sum not exceeding £100 as a gratuity to any person . . . who shall make an accurate survey of any county upon the scale of one inch to one mile; the sea coasts of all maritime counties to be correctly laid down, together with their latitudes and longitudes.”

Some of his place names were inaccurate (e.g. Hill Halt near Stanbridge should be High Hall) and many of the panels do not match. It is very valuable in what it tells us about the road system, as Taylor marks not only the new turnpikes but also many pre-turnpike roads. Another aspect of great value is that there are at least 200 identifiable woods.

There are many detailed annotations, that make it more than just an ordinary map. For example, off Chesil Bank there is a reference to three shipwrecks on the notoriously dangerous beach. In 1748 The Squirrel, a tobacco ship, was stranded (‘most of the people drowned’). A year later a Spanish ship, The Hope, carrying a cargo of bullion was stranded (‘here 30,000 pounds was saved out of her’). The third, ‘A Logwood Ship, retaken by the Culloden, was stranded here [in] I758 86 the boat [was] thrown over the beach on the wall.’ If the wind and the sea were driving a ship towards the beach, a skipper’s only chance was to set full sail, ride the boat on to the beach and, keeping the sails full, allow the passengers to make their escape. The crew then had to make the best of it at the last minute, for if the sails slackened for a moment, the undertow dragged the boat beneath the waves and all was lost. There are also a series of detailed remarks about how the size of pebbles varies along the Bank from “about the size of an egg” at Chisle to “scarcely bigger than Pease” at Bechsington and “entirely a fine sand” at the end of the bank at Burton.

In the bottom right (south-east) corner a decorative cartouche contains the ‘Characters’, which we would refer to today as ‘conventional signs’. A recent innovation (found in Kitchin‘s 1762 Royal English Atlas) was the naming of the owners of the ‘Seats & Houses’ on the map itself and we are able to see the contemporary residents of the stately homes of Dorset. For those not familiar with surveyed elevations, a note is added: “the figures placed on the Hills express their Height in feet above the Level of the Sea.’ The shading of the hills gives an impression of gradient, as found on Cary’s maps and the earliest Ordnance Survey. This would lead ultimately to contour lines.

These details, plus the sketches at the top, make it more than a map and worth a careful study.

For a slightly higher resolution image of the Charmouth and Lyme area click here (opens new window).

Source: David Beaton, Dorset Maps, 2001, The Dovecote Press

Technical Notes

A composite of four digital photographs of an original.

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