Maps have been in the news again recently with the opening of a new musical about the life and work of Phyllis Pearsall, the originator of the popular A-Z street plans. The tale of how the remarkable Mrs Pearsall walked 3000 miles to map the streets of 1930s London has achieved the status of legend. Indeed, much of it is thought to be just that: a legend, or at least an exaggeration of the truth. 1
Today’s blog post tells another story about women and maps in 1930s London. Although less iconic, and perhaps less satisfying than the story of Mrs P, it is definitely authentic.
The scene of our story is the Land Registry, a government body that was – and still is – responsible for recording property ownership in England and Wales. 2 The tale’s source is three files of correspondence and other papers about the employment of women as junior staff. 3
- 1. See, for instance: Simon Garfield, On the Map (London, 2012), chapter 15. ^
- 2. For more information about the early history of the Land Registry and its sometimes difficult relationship with Ordnance Survey and the Treasury, see: Geraldine Beech, Cartography and the state: the British Land Registry experience, Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol 9, no 4 (1988), 190-196. ^
- 3. LAR 1/154, LAR 1/155, LAR 1/156. ^