Manchester - mapping the city book cover


Manchester : Mapping the City

This innovative new book uses historic maps and unpublished original plans to chart the dramatic growth and transformation of Manchester as it grew rich on its cotton trade from the late 18th century, experienced periods of boom and bust through the Victorian period, and began its post-industrial transformation in the 20th century. Manchester: Mapping the City is the first history of the city seen through the eyes of its cartographers and their maps.

  • Published by Birlinn, October 2018
  • ISBN 9781780275307 
  • Hardback format and full colour illustrations, 272pp
  • RRP £30

Take a look through the book on this short video..


Acknowledgements and map sources

1728    Eighteenth­ century panoramic views
1746    The town’s first authentic street map
1753    Shudehill and the Hulme Charity
1780    The first modern canal
1788    The development of estate land in the growing town
1793    Laurent and Green: copy or complement?
1809    Town directories and Pigot’s Manchester plans
1819    ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ 
1824a   The mixed legacy of grand houses 
1824b   The coming of railways
1831    Spinning mills and the making of Cottonopolis
1832a   Lines on maps: Dawson and parliamentary boundaries
1832b   Moving the starting line: ‘Manchester’ race courses
1837    Victoria Park: a gated enclave
1849    The scourge of cholera
1851a   Adshead’s map: a flawed masterpiece
1851b   Municipal parks: health and civic pride
1857    The Art Treasures Exhibition and illustrated town guides
1866    A municipal palace: Alfred Waterhouse’s Town Hall
1868    Paying the cabbie
1881    Delivering plentiful clean water to the city
1889a   ‘The demon drink’
1889b   A bird’s­eye view 
1889c   The fear of fire: Goad’s insurance plans
1892     Salford at the end of Victorian industrialisation
1894    Manchester Ship Canal: ‘The Big Ditch’
1896    Trafford Park: the first industrial estate
1904    Mapping Manchester’s slums
1906    Victoria Station’s railway wall map
1908    Garden suburbs: Burnage and Chorltonville
1912    The Royal Exchange: ‘parliament of the cotton lords’
1916    The handy penny tram
1923    Moving the goalposts: Old Trafford and Maine Road
1926    Civic Week: a cartoon cartography of the city
1928    Wythenshawe: satellite town or garden city?
1937    Entertainments: stage, screen and the music scene
1945    Post­war visionary planning
1956    Fantasy transport: unrealised plans above and below ground
1958    Belle Vue: bread and circuses 
1960    Introducing parking meters
1967    Master­planning an educational precinct
1972a   Soviet mapping: a view from the East 
1972b   Hulme Crescents and after
1975    Air pollution and smoke control areas
1976    Mapping the most famous street in Manchester
1978    The Arndale: shopping behemoth
1982a   Taking to the skies: Manchester Airport
1982b   Defining the green belt
1985    Inventing Salford Quays and MediaCity
1986    Castlefield: urban heritage
1996a   Reconfiguring the city centre after the IRA bomb
1996b   One man maps the city centre
2001    Regenerating east Manchester
2016    Recognising the wider city region
Further reading


These samples are taken from the uncorrected page proofs.

  • looks the history of Manchester using a rich array of more than 100 street maps, land surveys,  engineering plans and promotional birds-eye view.
  • features original maps from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, drawing on local archives and libraries. Illustrates and discusses the significant events and places that have featured in Manchester’s history, such as Peterloo, the Ship Canal and the docks in Salford, Town Hall, Belle Vue, Victoria Station, and the two football grounds.
  • Tells the story of some of the influential map-makers who have surveyed Manchester.
  • Large format and lavish full colour illustrations throughout.


  • Brian Robson is Emeritus Professor of Geography at Manchester University where he worked on urban policy. Since retiring he has pursued his long-held fascination with historic urban maps.He has recently published a paper on Pigot's directory maps for Manchester in the Cartographic Journal.
  • Martin Dodge is Senior Lecturer in Geography at Manchester University. Much of his current research focuses on Manchester and he has co-curated several high-profile public exhibitions about the city, including Infra_MANC and Making Post-war Manchester. Email:

Civic Week map
Excerpt of Civic Week cartoon map, 1926

(Browse the full map online from University of Manchester Library)

Charles Laurent map, 1894
Excerpt from Charles Laurent's street map, 1793

(Browse the full map online from University of Manchester Library)


  • The book is based on many years of research and disparate collecting of maps, plans and cartographic ephemera by the authors. We have been greatly helped by many people.
  • Local librarians and archivists in a range of Manchester's key institutions have been especially generous in giving us their time and support.
  • Expert help and guidance with the illustrations was provided by Graham Bowden and Nick Scarle in the Cartographic Unit, University of Manchester.
  • Talks:


  • Reviews of the book:
    • Review in the Society of Cartographers Bulletin (Dec. 2018) by A.H. Schulenburg
    • Review in the International Map Collectors' Society Journal (No. 156, March 2019) by Donna Sherman
    • Review in North West Geography (vol. 19, no.1, 2019) by Paul Hindle
    • Review in the LivingMaps Review (spring 2019) by Jeremy Crump
    • Review in GoodReads (8 May 2019) by Ali Davenport
    • Review in WAML Information Bulletin (vol. 50. no. 2, March 2019) by Paige G. Andrew
    • Review in Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society (vol. 111, 2019) by Morris Garratt
    • Review in Sheetlines, Journal of the Charles Close Society (vol. 114, April 2019) by John Davies
    • Review in The Local Historian (vol. 49, no. 3, July 2019) by Katrina Navickas
  • Window display of the book in Waterstones flagship Manchester store on Deansgate (October 2018)
Waterstones window display