Thursday, 12 July 2018

When Mr Bacon mapped Chorlton & Didsbury and a lot more

I am looking at a copy of Bacon’s Waistcoat-Pocket Map of Manchester and District.

There is no date but it must be after 1880 and no later than 1900.

Now I can be fairly sure of this because the map shows the railway line through Chorlton and also Oak Bank a fine big house which stood on the site of Needham Avenue which puts it in that twenty year frame.

The railway line out of Manchester to Didsbury and beyond was opened in 1880 and Oak Bank was demolished sometime just before or after the beginning of the last century.

All of which makes it a nice addition to the maps of the area, but also offers up a fascinating bit of history.

It was printed on cloth, and was designed to fit in to a waistcoat pocket making it a pretty handy map and I guess would have been the Google app of its day.

According to one source Mr Bacon was the first to produce maps as small as this for popular use and seems to have carved a niche for himself.

He was an American who was born in 1830 and died in 1922 and according to another authority, “amongst his other enterprises he wrote medical booklets and sold sewing machines and portable gymnasiums. 

He went bankrupt in 1867 but opened again in 1870 at 127 Strand and soon prospered.

From 1883 until at least 1918, maybe later, he published a series of thick Library Atlases for [London which]  contain either or both 4 inch and 9 inch scale maps, a street index and various and varying supplemental maps, often with a "copious letterpress". 

Bacon never produced 'the best map’; he always sold 'the cheapest'. I have recently seen several early editions of these atlases overprinted with postal district numbering. Therefore, they must have been printed after 1917, when numbering was introduced.”*

And he produced many more covering our major cities and towns as well as the Lake District and the Isle of Wight, along with a series of “Cyclist Road Maps of England.”

But it is this little map of Chorlton, Didsbury and Manchester which has caught my interest and as ever I am indebted to David Harrop who lent it to me, along with a large amount of material from the Great War, some of which has come out of his excellent exhibition at the Remembrance Lodge in southern Cemetery.

So a thank you to him, a reminder that the collection is a must to see and a promise that over the next few weeks more of his collection will appear here on the blog.

Pictures, Bacon’s Waistcoat-Pocket Map of Manchester and District, circa 1880-1900 from the collection of David Harrop

* A list and brief history of London Atlases,

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