THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

11 July 2017

A turnpike tour of London

London’s most colourful characters take centre stage in this set of aquatints held in the King’s Topographical Collection. Against the backdrop of London’s main gateways, all sorts from the city’s streets populate the scenes. Ragamuffins, tinkers, traders, milkmaids, and beggars bustle at busy junctions along with soldiers and fat and jaunty well-to-dos. Added to the street traffic are horse-drawn carriages, carts, and riders hurtling down roads at alarming speeds, but the near misses and actual collisions only add to the spectacle.
 K.Top.22.6.e.
Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.5, Entrance from Mile End or Whitechapel Turnpike, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, June 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 390 x 535 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.e.
 

Maps K.Top.22.6.f.
Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.6, Entrance from Hackney or Cambridge Heath Turnpike, with a Distant View of St Paul’s, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, June 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 400 x 545 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.f.

Maps K.Top.22.6.c.
Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.3, Entrance of Tottenham Court Road Turnpike, with a View of St James’s Chapel, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, March 1, 1813, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 400 x 542 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.c.  

Maps K.Top.22.6.d.Heinrich Joseph Schütz (1760-1822) after Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Views of London No.4, Entrance of Oxford Street or Tyburn Turnpike, with a View of Park Lane, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, April 1, 1798, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 398 x 536 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.d.

While such figures provide a diverting illustration of London society, the landscape is also significant. Each scene is set in front of a turnpike road: major thoroughfares leading in and out of London. People could use them for a small fee collected by Turnpike Trust employees, who manned toll houses at either side of the barrier. The taxes were reinvested to build new roads and maintain existing ones. Turnpikes could be found across London at Hackney and Tottenham Court Road, at Tyburn (Oxford Street) and Whitechapel, and at Hyde Park Corner and St George’s Road.

Maps K.Top.22.6.a.[?Edouard] Dagaty (?1745-84) Views of London, No.1, Entrance of Piccadilly or Hyde Park Corner Turnpike, with a View of St George’s Hospital, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, August 1, 1797, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 375 x 520 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.a.  
 

Maps K.Top.22.6.b.
[?Edouard] Dagaty (?1745-84) Views of London, No.2, Entrance of St George’s Road or the Obelisk Turnpike, with a View of the Royal Circus, published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) from Ackermann’s Gallery, No.101 Strand, London, August 1, 1797, aquatint with etching and hand-colouring, 361 x 538 mm, Maps K.Top.22.6.b.  

Turnpike roads improved travel and trade across the country. They transformed the national outlook, but also caused traffic jams and attracted some of the city’s more marginal and unsavoury inhabitants. Perhaps for these reasons, then, turnpikes made for topical and diverting subject matter in prints.

Collaborating with artists Thomas Rowlandson and ?Edouard Dagaty, this series was published by Rudolph Ackermann: a savvy and successful print trader who set up a print shop and drawing school on London’s Strand. From his emporium he sold colour-plate books, decorative prints, periodicals, stationery and art materials to cater to a range of different customers.
 

Maps K.Top.27.16.1.Augustus Pugin (1762 – 1832) and Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), ACKERMANN'S REPOSITORY OF ARTS, 101 STRAND, published by Rudolph Ackermann, London, January, 1809, aquatint and etching with hand-colouring ; sheet 13.9 x 22.9 cm, Maps K.Top.27.16.1.

Ackermann was a major patron of British artists and designers. His association with Rowlandson was particularly fond and lasted over 30 years. He favoured Rowlandson’s comic and adaptable brand of social satire, exemplified here in the Views of London and also in other popular series such as The Tour of Doctor Syntax, the Miseries of London, and the English Dance of Death.

Over 500 views and maps from the King’s Topographical Collection and other British Library holdings are available to view in Picturing Places. Keep up to date on Twitter with what’s being discovered.

Alice Rylance-Watson