Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mapping Manchester-Saxton's lost map and 1650

If you haven't been following it,Manchester Archives have been tweeting a map a day to celebrate this year's history festival which is being held at the end of February.

The first published map comes from sometime in the 1600's and is reproduced here by kind permission of Chetham's Library.

You can see a better version of it HERE on their flickr site.

The date is put at 1650,although as J Lee writes in his maps of plans of Manchester,it has a somewhat confused history but there is much speculation that an earlier map of the town was produced.

According to John Dee who was as the time,master of Collegiate chapel,now better known as Manchester Cathedral,the famous English map maker,Christopher Saxton had turned his attention to what was then the small town of Manchester at the end of the 1500's.

Writing in his diary dated July 10th 1596,he says "Manchester Town described and measured by Mr Christopher Saxton.

Saxton was born in Yorkshire in the early 1540s and during his early life gained an enthusiasm for and understanding of map-making under the direction of a local vicar John Rudd.

During the reign of Elizabeth 1,he was commissioned to survey the whole of England and Wales. A huge undertaking given the times and the means available to him and he probably used a team of surveyors who may or may not have come to Manchester.

The survey was completed in 1577 and Saxton produced an atlas which comprised a general map of England and Wales and 34 others of either individual or grouped counties.

The county of Lancashire was one of the plates produced which was engraved by a
Remigius Hogenberg .It may have been this that Dee was referring to but if an individual map of Manchester was ever produced and published, it has so far alluded historians who hope that maybe it will turn up in a dark corner of Chethams.

But to the 1650 map of which no original exists but has been reproduced on many occasions.According to Lee,there is evidence that the map was produced at least two decades later than 1650 with evidence that in 1669,the Court Leets in Manchester ordered that a survey "of the land and tenemants of the said town of Manchester so that everyman should bear an equal proportion in the said taxes."

The map offers a unique perspective of a bird's eye view of the town.Centred on Collegiate,some of the roads that survive today can clearly be seen,including Deansgate,Market Street and across the Irwell Sacred Trinity Church is shown.
The course of the Irk entering the Irwell under where the MEN arena now stands can also be seen and the river which is bearly visible today can be seen meandering north through open fields.

The medieval part of the town,centred on what is now the Shambles and Exchange square is also clearly defined and somewhere where Marks and Spencer now stands was the Sessions House where the Court Leets sat.Past there to where St Ann's square now stands was Acres Field and fields also ran from Deansgate down to the banks of the Irwell

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