button to main menu; 

Map Notes -- 
brief essays about a map in 
the HMCMS Map Collection   Map Notes


These notes are about the 21 geological county maps by William Smith, 1819-24. There is no map for Hampshire in this series.
map type: HantsMap & Smith 1819

William Smith

William Smith was born 1769, Churchill, Oxfordshire - on the lesser road between Chipping Norton and Stow on the Wold. He was educated in the village school; taught himself surveying, and was employed as a surveyor from the age of 18.
He was appointed by John Rennie, canal engineer, to survey a canal route from the Somerset coal fields to join the Kennet and Avon Canal near Bath - at Dundas as it turned out. William Smith, in this as in and other jobs, noticed the strata as he went, and with the help of friends he set out a:-
Table of the Strata near Bath dictated by William Smith at 29 Pultney Street
Smith had the insight that (quoting from the writings of J Phillips?):-
... each stratum had been in succession the bed of the sea, the animals had lived and died during the period of time for the formation of the stratum in which they are found.
Smith was a founder of stratigraphical geology. The ideas were 'in the air'. Robert Hooke, for instance, had suggested the use of fossils to establish a chronology of rocks about a 100 years earlier. William Smith's insight was that you could relate strata in different places by what fossils are found in them.

Smith's Geological Maps

In 1799 William Smith drew up a table of british strata from Coal Measures to Chalk which was distributed in manuscript to a number of geologists. He drew a manuscript map of the geology of England and Wales in 1801; drawn over a map published by John Cary. The map shows the basic distribution of Chalk, Greensand, Oxford Clay, Oolite, Lias, New Red Sandstone, and Carboniferous Limestone rocks. This map was given to the Geological Society of London in 1831.
William Smith continued his practical fieldwork and published the first ever sound geological map of an extensive area or country, 1815, the:-
Delineation of the Strata ...
for which a prospectus had been published in 1801. The scale of the map is about:-
1 to 313800
5 miles to 1 inch
'Strata Smith' was recognised as the 'Father of English Geology'.
The country map was followed by a series of 21 county geological maps published 1819-24: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, Cumberland, Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Suffolk, Susex, Westmoreland, Wiltshire, and 4 sheets for Yorkshire.
The maps are based on John Cary's county maps of 1809, published in Cary's New English Atlas. Their scale is about:-
1 to 170000
3 miles to 1 inch
At the top of the plate is a new title on the pattern:-
There are [not quite continuous] edge lines for the geological areas, and the areas are coloured. Alongside the areas, both sides, is a small rectangle of the same colour with a legend, eg:-
20 Upper Oolite Rock, which contains Beds of Bath and Box Freestone
18 Forest Marble used for rough Paving and some polished for Hearths and Chimney Pieces

Other Early Geological Maps

In the latter 17th century, Martin Lister proposed making coloured or shaded maps of soils. In 1746 Philip Bauche, a frenchman, made some maps of western european gelogy using shading and symbols for rock formations and minerals.
The first published geological map of Great Britain was by Robert Bakewell, in an Introduction to Geology, 1813. The map is crude; just showing alpine, middle and low districts of rocks. It is earlier than William Smith's map; but it is not thorough. It was published in editions 1813, 1815, 1828, 1833, and 1838, with a few revisions.
George Greenough, President of the Geological Society of London, compiled a map from uptodate survey and observation in 1818. This was not published till 1820; delayed for the compilation of its base map by T Webster. Its scale is about 6 miles to 1 inch, published in 6 sheets. There were editions 1830, 1839, and 1865.


:: Early Geological Maps of England and Wales in the 19th Century: British Geological Survey Library (unpublished notes)

Edwards, W N: 1976: Early History of Palaeontology: BMNH

Phillips, John (nephew of William Smith): 1844: Memoirs of Wiliam Smith: Murray (London)

Smith, William: 1815: Geological Map of England and Wales

Smith, William: 1816: Strata Identified by Organised Fossils

Smith, William: 1817: Stratigraphic System of Organised Fossils

Smith, William: 1819=1829: Geological Map of [County]

button list of map notes
button map type Smith 1819 -- menu of resources

HantsMap Notes -- SMITH3.txt
MN: 13.8.2001
last edit: 21.2.2002