Although two guides to
Plymouth appeared together in 1812 the first guide book to any of the Three
is generally regarded as being The
Picture of Plymouth, first issued by Rees and Curtis and which contained
only one map, The Town of Plymouth Dock
1811, and this was signed by John Cooke as engraver. The text of this
particular guide is credited to Henry Woollcombe, a local
Stoke Church from The Tourist's Companion
Thomas Tyrwhitt was a colourful figure. He was born in Essex, went to Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford but had a long relationship with Dartmoor. He became private secretary to the Prince of Wales where he probably came into contact with Dartmoor as part of the lands of the Duchy of Cornwall. He became MP for Okehampton in 1796 (until 1802) and bought a farm, which he named Tor Royal, and grew high quality flax. He had several roads built across Dartmoor at this time as well as the hamlet of Prince´s Town, named in honour of his previous employer. He laid the foundation stone of the prisoner-of-war prison buildings on March 20th 1806 and first French and later, American, prisoners-of-war were housed there. That year he became MP for Plymouth. Knighted in 1812 he was forced to amend his plans when the prison emptied. In order to encourage the continued use of the buildings as well as provide better connections to his personal village he invested much energy in proposing the construction of a railway from Plymouth to Princetown. The plan drawn for the proposals showed the Line of intended rail road as laid from prison of war to Plymouth Harbour and lime rocks at Catwater
This connection with Dartmoor is interesting at another level: We seem to have a lack of work over a five year period. Assuming the first map mentioned above was, in fact, copy-work, then the only plan executed during this period was the two-sheet railway plan. The railway as designed consisted of an inclined plane, nine feet broad, bounded throughout its whole length, on each side, by grooved slips of iron, which are fitted to receive the car or wagon passing over them (item 22, page 6). Tyrwhitt´s report is in fact an advertisement for parliamentary permission and summarises all the advantages such a rail road could bring to the area. One passage refers specifically to the plan: The accompanying plan of the line of road is by one of the gentlemen employed on that magnificent work, the Plymouth Breakwater, who has taken the levels with all possible accuracy, and, on the execution of the measure, will be permitted to dedicate his leisure hours to the superintendence of the undertaking (p.27). Reference is made to the plan again under the heading Benefits: The plan, annexed to this pamphlet, is founded on actual surveys, taken by a gentleman, whose skill has been manifested in various important works, and whose capability of performing whatever he undertakes is guaranteed by his long experience. These two comments are probably not about John Cooke, but possibly refer to Mr William Stuart who was superintendent of the Plymouth breakwater project at that time. But it does provide a tantalising link to the breakwater.
A detailed map of the Borough of
Plymouth was issued in 1820. There is a signature: Engraved By John Cooke and
the imprint is: Pubd April 15. 1820. by Mrs E Nile,
These last two maps indicate that Cooke may have been active for Mrs Nile up to three years earlier. The Borough plan has a line below the imprint: Engraving & Copper-Plate Printing Office and the premises are marked with an asterisk on Union Street (the map has even been extended into the border to include it). The Plan has a key for Dock (Plymouth Dock) and the Copper Plate Print. Off. is shown as reference h, again in Union Street. A further chart is known, Chart of the Harbour of Plymouth - Taken 1817; although not signed it does have the imprint: The Copper Plate Engraving and Printing Office, New Road, Stonehouse, Plymo(uth). Although a better executed plan of the Sound it does resemble the map of the area included with the Interesting Particulars in 1821. This chart has been ascribed to Cooke in the listing (22).
Shortly after, Cooke´s first plan of the Plymouth Breakwater appeared.
This engineering project attracted a lot of attention around this time and many
works relating to it were published. The Interesting
Particulars, relative to that Great National Undertaking, the Breakwater
was printed for, and sold by J Johns at Plymouth Dock and John Cooke of Union
Street, Stonehouse in 1821.
This booklet contains two cartographic works: Cooke’s Guide to Plymouth Sound and Breakwater, a small map
covering the area from Ram Head and Mew Stone and the course of the river as
far as Tor Point with an extra plan below the bottom border - Transverse section of the Breakwater –
with a note on the first stone being laid in 1812 and two further lines of
text. There is an imprint: Pubd for & sold by Mrs
E Nile, 48, Union Street, Stonehouse, Aug 12, 1819 as well as the
engraver´s signature: Engd by
John Cooke. The second work is another fairly detailed engraving of two
plans of the proposed breakwater at Plymouth. The upper plan:
Apart from his maps and charts, not many other engraving
works by Cooke have been discovered. Somers Cocks
lists a J Cooke only for a print of the
Royal Hotel and Plymouth Theatre (designed by John Foulston and completed
1818). This was published and sold separately, has Cooke´s address as 48 Union
Street and is tentatively dated to 1820. The only other entry - Cooke, - (lith) - refers to one
In 1825 a curious broadside was published. This was a page of text, illustrated with an engraving showing a balloon landing in the sea between Stokehead and Yealm Point, near Plymouth, Devon. George and Margaret Graham attempted a balloon ascent from Stonehouse market in Plymouth on Monday 14th November 1825. A series of pilot balloons released prior to the ascent were all carried out to sea by a strong southerly wind, but despite the risks, the couple set off at in front of a crowd of 50,000. Sure enough, the balloon was dragged seaward by the wind and came down in the sea only 14 minutes later. After 25 minutes the couple were rescued by a Royal Marine boat and returned to shore, but the balloon was lost, last seen rising from the waters and sailing out to France never to be seen again. The single sheet (see illustration on next page) was published by John Cooke of 48 Union Street, Stonehouse in December 1825, ie the address of Mrs Nile.
George and Margaret Graham´s balloon landing in the sea between Stokehead and Yealm Point, near Plymouth, Devon on Monday 14th November 1825.
If few engravings are extant, a number of other maps are known. The Panorama of Plymouth written by Samuel Rowe contained a Map Of The Country Twelve Miles Round Plymouth (1821). In October 1824 Cooke’s Chart of Plymouth Sound, and General Guide to Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse appeared and Cooke is once again late engraver to the Admiralty. This map bears a dedication: Under the Patronage of the Chamber of Commerce, Plymouth. When one compares this to the Chart ... Taken 1817 one is again struck by the similarities. Perhaps John Cooke’s most successful map was The Environs Of Plymouth Devonport And Stone House. The map was actually completed on 4 plates but could be (and later was) assembled to form one map and the map appeared with the sub-title A Companion to the Different Guides of the Neighbourhood (on 4 sheets) published in Stonehouse by John Cooke circa 1828, it was also published on one sheet, circa 1830, and was even reissued by William Wood of Devonport from circa 1860 in various publications including issues of the Three Towns Almanack.
Apparently Cooke attempted to receive patronage for this map in the same way he had obtained it in 1824. A letter from Cooke to the Mayor of Plymouth, Pridham, September 1828 has been preserved and in it Cooke appeals for support: To the Chief Magistrate I take the liberty to send you one of my Proposals, at the same time beg to ask the favor of your name, and patronage of the commonalty to be printed on the upper part of it being the wish of several gentlemen of the corporation, in consequence of which I have drawn up the enclosed proposal for your inspection and will be happy of the Honor of your acquesience (sic) to the same, as the price of my subscription must be considered moderate, depending on the greater number to pay the expence, will be happy of the Name of any Gentlemen who may honor me in addition to those highly respected Gentlemen who have placed their names on my list. Signed by Cooke, it accompanied a sheet of proposals for a map that will be engraved on four Plates, to adjoin each other, either to be fitted up as one, or formed into pages for the Pocket or otherwise. It is not clear whether Cooke received the desired effect; the only copy known in four sheets has no dedication but the proposals are Under the Patronage of the Mayor and Commonalty.
Cooke's Stranger's Guide and Pocket Plan of the Three Towns of Plymouth,
Devonport and Stonehouse was published in The Traveller’s Directory, and Stranger's Guide to the Three Towns.
The map is embellished with coats of arms of the towns and is dated 1827. This
work also includes an updated version of the breakwater plan, Cookes Plymouth Breakwater (Cooke´s
address amended to 82, Union Street). Both
maps are priced individually, so were presumably on sale as single sheets but
the title page of the Directory,
however, specifically states that two engravings are included. The timing of
this edition was not arbitrary. We know there was a royal visit to
Subsequent to 1827 only three more works are known: Cooke's New Plan Of The Three Towns Of Plymouth, Devonport, And
Stonehouse; a map of Dartmoor; and another breakwater plan. While the New Plan, an up-to-date map of the city,
is dated 1834, the second map although very detailed is undated: A Map Of The Whole Of The Dartmoor Forest
Devon. The engraver´s signature is extremely pertinent: By John Cooke, Engraver and Geographer
Extraordinary to his late Majesty in the 75th year of Age. This
both testifies to John Cooke´s longevity and reveals that he was still capable
of engraving. The late plan of the breakwater is the most detailed of Cooke’s
plans and is interesting for a number of reasons. At 255 x 300 mm it is larger
than any other plan and, as before, the engraving is actually two plans of the
proposed breakwater at
Why there was a need for a new map of the breakwater in 1847 is uncertain. The lighthouse had been completed three years earlier (on 1st May, 1844 and it is clearly shown in the plan) and to celebrate a postal coach had been shipped out and spent the afternoon of July 23rd transporting passengers up and down the breakwater. Certainly the table of stone laid shows signs of alteration and the date may also have been re-engraved, i.e. the plan could indeed have been drawn up in 1844 to exploit the opening of the lighthouse (with statistics up to 1842) but altered in 1846 and 1847 to include the latest tonnages.
Print of the Royal Hotel and Plymouth Theatre
Nevertheless, Laurence Worms has determined from
entries in the 1841 census report that John Cooke was resident in Union Lane
(sic), East Stonehouse and still registered as engraver in that year. His age
is given as 70 (but rounding up and down for census reports is known) and his
family comprised of Eliza Cooke, 50, also an engraver and John (20) and Charles
Cooke (12), both chair-makers. The records show that while John junior and
Charles were born in
 The Three Towns were
 Cooke´s Guide to Plymouth Sound and Breakwater (27) has a transverse section plan which also notes that: the first rail was laid to the Plymouth & Dartmoor Rail Road by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, August 12th, 1819.
 Note too, that Stuart´s name crops up on Cooke´s final breakwater plan.
 Some libraries catalogue this under Rennie and Whidbey as the text of their report is reprinted together with extracts from a government report of 1812. The two maps were completed 1819 and 1820, but there is an Advertisement dated January 1821. The NLS and BL copies both have the Borough map of Plymouth bound in.
 Somers Cocks:
 Somers Cocks lists the 1830 edition published by
Colman; however it was also published in 1828 by J Johns in Devonport and
Baldwin & Cradock in
 Illustration courtesy of Cabinet UK Ltd, official retailers of images in the British Science Museum collection.
 Each plate has a piano key border on two sides and a plain two line border on the ‘joining’ sides. The maps are well detailed and owe much to the Ordnance Survey while omitting all hachuring. Plate 1 - Portwrinkle to the Mew Stone and north to St Budeaux. Plate 2 - continues north to Tavistock. Plate 3 - continues east to Avon Mouth. Plate 4 - completes the rectangle to Dartmeet.
 My thanks to the West Devon Record Office for making the letter and proposal available – see page 90 of original monograph deposited at BL and at DHS.
 The breakwater now has more detail (e.g. lighthouses) but certain characteristics are retained (e.g. first stone laid, or tide markings). The plan also has a list of tonnages of stone added to the breakwater during certain years from 1830 to 1847 bringing the total to 3,645,210 tons.