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Maps: Maps of Reading and Berkshire

A guide to finding and using printed and digital maps.

Reading has a particularly strong collection of maps of the local area, including the old (pre-1974) county of Berkshire as well as the more recent administrative divisions.

Old Berkshire map

Old Berkshire (pre-1974)

The earliest map of Berkshire that we have is John Rocque’s ‘A topographical map of the county of Berkshire’ , published in 1761. It was produced in 18 sheets, and later bound into a single volume. Our copy is hand-coloured, and Reading and Oxford are shown as enlargements.  We have also a modern (black and white) reproduction of this volume produced in 1973.

Slightly later is Thomas Pride’s ‘A topographical-map of the town of Reading and the country adjacent to an extent of ten miles’, published in 1790.

We have some reproductions of town plans of Reading from the 19th Century, including:

  • [Plan of Reading] / surveyed, drawn and engraved by Charles Tomkins. 1802
  • A new plan of the Borough of Reading, 1840 / drawn and engraved by Edw.d Weller.
  • Plan of the town of Reading / compiled by T.H. Simmons. 1861

OS maps

By the late 19th Century, the Ordnance Survey was mapping towns at detailed scales, including Reading at 1:500 (127 inches to one mile).  We have only a single sheet of this series, showing Forbury Gardens and the Abbey, but all the other sheets are available through Historic Digimap.

We do have complete paper coverage of Reading and Berkshire by the O.S. at 1:2500 (25 inches to one mile) and 1:10 560 (6 inches to one mile). [image]  This was completed in several phases (Oliver, 2005);

County series

Initial survey

1866-83

 

1st revision

1897-99

 

2nd revision

1909-12

 

3rd revision

1919-23, 1930-33, 1936-42

National Grid survey

 

1964-82

 

Urban areas were mapped at 1:1250 (50 inches to one mile), as part of the National Grid survey and these are also held.  Scans of these maps are all available through Historic Digimap.

After 1992, paper maps at these detailed scales were discontinued by the O.S. Modern digital mapping can be obtained through Digimap Ordnance Survey, including the very detailed MasterMap dataset.

Non-OS maps

Another useful type of mapping are Goad plans.  The Chas E. Goad company produced fire insurance plans of town centres from the mid-19th Century.  In the later 20th century they become town/shopping centre plans.  We hold both types of Reading. The fire insurance plans show great detail, including the layout of  shops and industrial sites in Reading town centre (including Huntley & Palmers and Sutton’s Seeds) as well as the material used to construct the buildings, location of fire hydrants and so on. They may be useful to indicate social history as they name police stations, theatres, churches, chapels and other buildings.  They date from 1895 to 1958.

The shopping centre plans are centred on Broad Street and Friar Street at various dates, with the different businesses named.  Insets show the Butts Centre (Broad Street Mall) and the Oracle.  Our holdings cover 1967, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1992 and 2008.

Commercial street plans can be used in a similar way, although they are usually less detailed.  Examples include:

  • Map of Reading (Kelly’s Directories), 1933
  • Barnett's official street plan of Reading with index to streets, 1950
  • Geographia plan of  Reading and District, 1968
  • Street atlas of Reading and district, 1998
  • GEOprojects Reading, 2000
  • AZ street plan of Reading, 2002

 If you want to see these maps please speak to the Map Librarian – many are not on the Enterprise system, or have only a basic record.

References:

Oliver, Richard (2005) Ordnance Survey maps: a concise guide for historians. 2nd ed. London, Charles Close Society.  256p.

MasterMap data. Edina Digimap

Reading Mastermap extract

Current Ordnance Survey mapping can be obtained through Digimap.  The extract shows the Cemetery Junction area of Reading, using the most detailed dataset, OS MasterMap. The data is comprehensive, showing building outlines, paths, road layouts and fences/walls as well as vegetation and house numbers/names.

Map of Berkshire John Rocque

Reading 1761 map extract

This extract from John Rocque's 1761 map of Berkshire shows an enlargement of Reading town centre.  North is to the right hand side of the map.

Reading 1:500 1879

Reading 1:500 1879 map extract

This extract is from the 1:500 town plan of Reading. This sheet, showing Forbury Gardens and the Abbey site is available in the map collection, or see Digimap Historic for other areas.  Detail includes garden features and archaeological notes.

Berkshire 1:10 560 sheet XV NE 1913

Didcot 1:10 560 1913 map extract

This Ordnance Survey extract shows Didcot (now in Oxfordshire) in 1913 at a scale of six inches to one mile.  it shows buildings, roads, tracks, railways, rivers and streams, field boundaries, wooded areas and orchards.  Relief information is given by spot heights.

Reading Goad plan 1929

Reading Goad plan 1929 extract

This extract shows the Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory in 1929.  Goad plans were created for fire insurance purposes, so they show construction materials (pink = brick; yellow = wood; grey = metal; blue = glass), as well as information that might be important for fire fighting eg location of ovens in the factory, fire hydrants, concrete floors, raised walkways.  Huntley & Palmer's was an important industry and had its own branch railway as well as a jetty on the River Kennet.