Layers of London

London’s pubs are to be put on the map. Or rather, be mapped onto Layers of London, an interactive online resource which gathers historical maps and layers them for users to explore how areas have changed. Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, a team of volunteers have been set the challenge to gather images, historical information and present day stories from licensees and regulars, before creating a set of records for each pub, past and present. “There are quite a few excellent websites out there with some great content about pubs” says Layers of London’s Public Engagement Officer, Adam Corsini, “but what we’re hoping to do is to gather that content and allow online visitors to discover this information within the context of historical maps.”

Layers of London’s maps go back to the 13th century and include John Rocque’s detailed 10 miles round map from 1746, Charles Booth’s Poverty map (1886-1903) and the 1945 WWII Bomb Damage maps. With partner organisations including the National Archives, the British Library, the London Metropolitan Archives and Historic England, it is the first time that all these maps have been united as one resource. In addition to maps, the website encourages Londoners to upload their own content, whether that be aspects of history, personal memories or simply interests that help enrich the site. Adam explains, “Pubs are, and always have been important hubs of activity in many of London’s communities. If you look at maps from the Victorian period, there’s almost a public house on every street corner. We’re hoping that we can now map as many pubs from as many areas across Greater London as possible. In addition, we’d like these records to act as sign posts to the already existing sources of information on the web and in London’s archives.” CAMRA’s pubheritage.camra.org.uk and WhatPub.com are two resources that volunteers are hoping to tap into.

Layers of London is run by a small team based in the Institute of Historical Research, which is part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. The project’s main aim is that both the historical maps and the public contributions of histories and stories will help enable users

to discover London’s people and places. Seif El Rashidi, Layers of London’s Project Manager, adds, “The idea is for Layers of London to be an organically evolving website. The more people contribute, the better a resource it becomes. We consider history as anything from yesterday back and content sourced from someone’s family photo albums can hold as much interesting information as a document from a large public archive.” The Layers of London website is a free online resource, which anyone can browse or contribute to. As well as volunteer projects, such as this #MapLondonsPubs campaign, the team regular run school outreach sessions, talks and community group activities.

For more information and to explore the Layers of London site visit www.layersoflondon.org. Volunteers can sign up and be assigned a postcode worth of pubs to research and map by visiting www.layersoflondon.org/volunteering or emailing layersoflondon@london.ac.uk.

Adam Corsini