II. Plymouth


Although two guides to Plymouth appeared together in 1812 the first guide book to any of the Three Towns[1] 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 Plymouth resident and Attorney at Law of Frankfort Street. There was no immediate reason to think John Cooke was local as the book was sold by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, a well-known London group of publishers and booksellers. Cooke’s map was reissued together with a second map in the Tourist's Companion, with much expanded and revised text, published by Granville & Son of Plymouth-Dock when it appeared in 1823 and issued again in subsequent editions of the Tourist's Companion from 1828 (see below). What is very interesting, however, is that for the second issue above, the date (1811) was deleted and an address was added to Cooke’s signature: New Road Stonehouse Plymo. This now linked this Cooke with Plymouth and New Road and clearly identified the engraver of the 1811 map with Plymouth. Even just a quick glance at this comparatively small map with the map of Plymouth done for Richards makes it obvious that the two maps are by the same hand (compare maps 19 and 20).

Fig. 4. Stoke Church from The Tourist's Companion

 Strangely, no further maps by any John Cooke have been discovered between 1812 and 1817. The next two works signed by a John Cooke both clearly link him with the west country: … this view of Falmouth Harbour taken from a chart drawn in ye reign of King Charles II in C S Gilbert´s An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall published at [Plymouth] Dock by J Congdon in 1817; and a plan appeared in Substance of a Statement ... concerning ... a Rail Road from the Forest of Dartmoor to the Plymouth Lime-Quarries published in London, by Harding in 1819 and presented by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt who was instrumental in the construction of the prisoner-of-war camp, popularly known as Dartmoor Prison. Both maps are signed Engraved by John Cooke, Stonehouse, Plymo(uth).

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[2]. 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[3] 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, No. 48 Union St, Stonehouse. There is a dedication on a tablet in a vignette to the Mayor, commonalty and inhabitants from John Cooke. Whether John Cooke received permission to do this, or whether it was a means to attract official consent, is not known but this is not the only map to have, or to seek, public support. In the same year the first edition of Cooke´s Plan of the Towns and Harbour of Plymouth, Stonehouse, Dock also appeared.

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.[4] 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: PLYMOUTH BREAKWATER. When finished has a signature: Engraved by John Cooke Stonehouse Plymo. The lower plan: Transverse section of the Breakwater as finish' has an imprint (under complete plan): Augt 12th 1820. Pubd by Mrs E Nile, 48 Union Street, Stonehouse, Plymo. Although the second plan has not been seen in any other works, the first map above was reissued in subsequent editions of the Tourist's Companion from 1828 (with title New Guide …). Cooke is now firmly established in the Stonehouse district near Plymouth. Apart from these three maps with her imprint, and all of them associated with John Cooke, no work by Mrs Nile is known. In 1823 another plan of the breakwater was published, Cookes Plymouth Breakwater showing view from above and transverse. This plan has a list of tonnages of stone added to the breakwater during certain years from 1820 to 1823 and Cooke´s address is given as 48 Union Street for the first time.

Apart from his maps and charts, not many other engraving works by Cooke have been discovered. Somers Cocks[5] 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 illustration in Sanford’s editions of The Tourist’s Companion already mentioned. This particular edition appeared in 1828 and 1830[6] and included a small engraving of Stoke Church, Devonport. The signatures are A. Rae delt and Cooke Stonehouse.

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 were already well-known and accomplished balloonists when they made a tour of the westcountry in 1824. An advertising announcement in the Alfred of August 31st apologises for failed ascents by Mr Graham in Exeter the previous Tuesday and also in Taunton shortly before and promising to fly his balloon in Exeter on 7th September. Generously one third of receipts were to go to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Fig. 5. The Alfred August 31st 1824. Note the balloon announcement.

Possibly on another westcountry tour they stopped in Plymouth where they attempted a balloon ascent from Stonehouse market in Plymouth on Monday 14th November 1825. However, 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 3pm 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 below) was published by John Cooke of 48 Union Street, Stonehouse in December 1825, ie the address of Mrs Nile.

Fig.6. George and Margaret Graham´s balloon landing in the sea between Stokehead and Yealm Point, near Plymouth, Devon on Monday 14th November 1825[7].

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[8] 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.[9]

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 Plymouth and the breakwater: on the breakwater is a commemorative stone to Prince Wm. Henry, Duke of Clarence, Duchess of Clarence, July 17th 1827. The Traveller’s Directory was published in 1828 and is important for one more reason: on the title page John Cooke is given as Map & Chart Engraver, and Geographer Extraordinary to H.R.H. The Duke of Clarence, Lord High Admiral.

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 Plymouth.[10] The upper plan has title Cooke’s Plymouth Breakwater, and there is the usual signature Mr Cooke Engraver, 82, Union Street Stonehouse. The lower plan is titled Transverse Section Of The Breakwater. There is an imprint (under complete plan): Pubd By JOHN BENNETT, 3 Ebrington Place, Plymo. & 53 Paternoster Row, London 1847. There is a printer’s signature Printed by C Baggs and the signature of Wm Stuart superintendent, the supervisor back in the 1820s. However, below Cooke’s signature and address is - Map & Chart Engraver and Geographer Extraordinary to His late Majesty William IVth – in his 80th year of age.

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.



Fig.7. 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 Devon, Eliza and John were not. It is tantalizing to think that if Eliza was also entered as an engraver, could this be the previous Mrs Nile? John Cooke died on the 11th March, 1845, and Eliza Ann Cooke died in the last quarter of 1851. In the 1851 census John Cooke (junior?) is registered at 2 Hobart Cottages with wife and three small children, now working as a cooper.

[1] The Three Towns were Plymouth, Devonport (previously known as Plymouth-Dock) and Stonehouse.

[2] 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.

[3] Note too, that Stuart´s name crops up on Cooke´s final breakwater plan.

[4] 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.

[5] Somers Cocks: Devon Topographical Prints, 1660-1870; Devon Library Services; 1977. See entries 1912, 2157, and SC. 108.

[6] 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 London.

[7] The illustration of TheAlfred kindly forwarded by Patrick Pollak of Rare Books in South Brent - /www.rarevols.co.uk all rights reserved. 

Illustration of the broadsheet courtesy of Cabinet UK Ltd, official retailers of images in the British Science Museum collection. All rights reserved.

[8] 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.

[9] 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 Devon Archives and Local Studies.

[10] 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.

[11] My thanks to Dr Shirley Atkinson for records of the baptisms and census entries. Shirley is related through Edward, John’s eldest son.


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