Leslie George Bullock [1895-1971] – Edinburgh publisher John Bartholomew’s leading designer of decorative & historical maps

Leslie George Bullock [1895-1971]

Recent blog posts by fellow map dealer, Tim Bryars on the subject of civil servant cartographer, Leslie George Bullock [1895-1971] greatly intrigued me and have led me to delve a little more deeply into the biography & family background of this interesting mapmaker, whose distinctive & highly decorative series of maps of cities and regions of the British Isles, designed over a period of 32 years, must have presented Edinburgh publishers, John Bartholomew & Son Ltd, with some of their most popular, long-lived and profitable cartographic productions.

Bullock’s decorative maps informed & illuminated the childhood (& adult) years of at least two generations of British families, my own included, and it seems wider recognition and acknowledgement of this gifted artist & popular cartographer is long overdue.

Much of what we currently know of Bullock comes from the brief biography found on the back cover of Frederick Warne’s second 1960 edition of The Children’s Book of London, as highlighted in Tim’s post.

L G Bullock - Biography on back cover - Children's Map of London [1960 edition]

Bullock was in fact born in London on 12th March 1895 (not 1904 as stated in Tim’s blog) “within the sound of Bow Bells” (if the wind was right!) at Forest Gate, West Ham, the eldest child of George Thomas Bullock [1869-1941] and Ada Louisa Johnson [1871-1947].

Soon after his birth the family moved to Leigham Vale in Streatham, South West London, where his three younger siblings would be born. Leigham Vale would remain his parents’ home for the next half century, until his father’s death in 1941 and his mother’s in 1947.

By the early 1900’s his father held the post of Chief Surveyor with the Union Assurance Society Ltd, of 1-2 Royal Exchange Buildings in the City of London. He was a prominent member of Junior Institution of Engineers (serving as its Chairman and as a Member of Council during this period) and also an Associate Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers.

After education at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, Leslie Bullock joined the Commercial Union Insurance Company at 24-26 Cornhill in the City of London in 1911. Following in his father’s footsteps, he trained as a Fire Surveyor for the next three years, prior to the outbreak of World War One. His later RAF records indicate that this Surveyor training involved professional qualifications in plan drawing and draughtsmanship, undoubtedly a useful grounding for his subsequent career as an heraldic artist and mapmaker.

Bullock mentions joining the Territorial Army at the outbreak of World War One. His Medal record file survives in the National Archives, indicating that he initially enlisted as a Private (Service No. 1624) in the Territorials, serving with the Surrey Yeomanry.

His RFC / RAF officer files, also held in the National Archives and dating from 1918-20 shed a little more light on his later wartime service. They indicate that he had also served with the 3rd Sherwood Foresters and 1/8 King’s Liverpool Regiment before obtaining a commission as 2nd Lieutenant with the RFC/RAF in March/April 1918, following three months training at “1 S of A” (School of Military Aeronautics).

It was at this exact time that Bullock married Dorothy May Lethbridge in June 1918 at St.Peter’s, Streatham.

Initially attached to 127 Squadron (day bombers) until it was disbanded in July 1918 (before becoming operational) Bullock did manage to train as a DH9 bomber pilot in the weeks immediately after the end of the War. Official records suggests he may have been involved with flying instruction, after being transferred to 49 Training Depot Station (TDS) at Catterick & then Redcar (N.E. Area Flying Instructors’ School) in the summer of 1918. By early 1919 he was attached to ACS (supplies?) at its London Headquarters and at local area branches in and around capital (Regent’s Park, Brixton Rd, Kidbrook Rd, Reigate). He finally left the RAF in March 1920 with the rank of full Lieutenant (Tech).

Bullock subsequently joined the Civil Service, working at the Ministry of Labour. He first comes to public attention in official records in early 1930 when appointed Secretary of the Ministry of Labour’s Dock Transport Workers’ Committee. This Committee  would compile an important report that investigated the decasualising of British dock labour system & the administration of unemployment insurance schemes for dock workers. This probably explains Bullock’s close association with the Port of London during this period, still very much the commercial lifeblood of Britain’s imperial & maritime trade. In April 1930 he travelled to Germany to compare the operations of the dock labour market in the ports of Northern Germany. In 1932 he was transferred to Scotland, working as Secretary to Lt.Col Sir Arthur Rose, an independent businessman appointed a Special Areas Commissioner by the Ministry of Labour to investigate the Depressed & Derelict Industrial Areas of Scotland. Rose produced a final Report on these areas in July 1934, noting in the final paragraph of the introduction:

I would like specially to record my very sincere appreciation of my personal colleague, Mr. L. G. Bullock, whose enthusiasm and hard work are beyond praise, and of whose contribution to the results of this Inquiry I cannot speak too highly.
H. Arthur Rose.

Bullock continued to work under Rose as his Secretary, as part of the Office for the Commissioner for Special Areas (of Scotland). It is a role that he appears to have retained through to 1939.

It was during this time in Scotland that he designed the first of his many decorative maps, a Pictorial Plan of Glasgow, prepared in 1937 and published by John Bartholomew & Son Ltd as a guide for the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, which opened at the City’s Bellahouston Park in May 1938.

L G Bullock - John Bartholomew & Sons Pictorial Plan of Glasgow [1937]1938
L G Bullock – John Bartholomew & Son Ltd
Pictorial Plan of Glasgow [1937]1938
L G Bullock - signature & date on Glasgow map
L G Bullock – signature & date on Glasgow map

Bullock would no doubt have been readily familiar with the City of Glasgow having worked as civil servant in Scotland over the previous five years, much of it very probably in and around the Glasgow area.

His Glasgow map design, undoubtedly more restrained than his later maps, nonetheless provided a template that Bullock would replicate repeatedly in subsequent cartographic productions: a finely designed central map, annotated with informative details & references, accompanied by a surrounding decorative border of colourful coats of arms and heraldic devices. These would become his personal hallmark as a cartographer and undoubtedly accounted for the enduring popularity and longevity of his maps.

This style evolved still further in the same year, 1938, when his Children’s Map of London was first published in November 1938, being reviewed in The Times on the 26th of that month, where it was described as a map of “bright colours and pretty fancies”.


Childrens map of London 1938
The Children’s Map of London [1938]

“Gog and Magog guard the east and west borders, the Lord Mayor’s coach and the Lifeguards hold the north and a dozen heroes of the nursery world watch over the south. Even so, there is still room for oranges and lemons in each of the corners to refresh the lions (rampant, couchant, rouge and or) escaped from the Heralds’ College.” (The Children’s Map of London, The Times, 26th November 1938, Page 9).

It is interesting to note that all royalties due to the author in respect of the Children’s Map were made over entirely to the benefit of The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

It would appear from the records of the Bartholomew Archive, that the first of Bullock’s series of Historical Maps of the British Isles, England & Wales, was published very shortly after the outbreak of World War Two, in December 1939:

Historical Map of England & Wales [Shell issue 1971]
England & Wales
[Shell free issue 1971]

The England & Wales map was subsequently substantially revised and updated in the 1950s and 1960s and went through numerous editions. One of the last was one offered free with purchases of petrol at Shell service stations in 1971.

The Second World War interrupted Bullock’s map making activities. After a period with the Ministry of Supply, Bullock transferred to ARP and Civil Defence (CD) duties eventually becoming Deputy Principal Officer, South & South East Region, CD, in January 1942. He was based at Regional Headquarters in Tunbridge Wells. It was a post that he would fill until his promotion to Principal Officer in January 1945. He remained in this role until his retirement.

Much of his post-war career seems to have involved the detailed organisation of Civil Defence in the South of England against the backdrop of the ever-growing geopolitical uncertainties of the Cold War. His presence is reported in the national & regional Press during the late 1940s and early 1950s at official Conferences & meetings and regular Civil Defence exercises.

In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, he would produce a third, ever more decorative map, the United Nations Map of the World, again published by Bartholomew in 1946, alongside his own short reference guide to the map, specially provided for the assistance of students and teachers. The map was clearly published to commemorate the first sitting of the General Assembly of the United Nations which met in London in January 1946.

In June 1947 (not 1948) he was awarded the OBE, in recognition of his services in relation to Civil Defence.

In 1948, Bullock’s charming Children’s Book of London was first published by Frederick Warne & Co. Embellished with several of his own maps and illustrations, it also featured black & white drawings by artist Cyril Deakins. The book also included a copy of the original 1938 Children’s Map of London, folded in as the book’s final plate.

L G Bullock -The Children's Book of London - Frederick Warne London [1960]
      The Children’s Book of London  [1948/60]             
L G Bullock - Illustration - The Arms of the City Livery Companies - The Children's Book of London [1960]
The Arms of Some City Livery Companies
L G Bullock - A Route Map to London - from Children's Book of London [1960]
A Route Map to London showing the Old City

It was during this late 1940s period that the next of Bullock’s Historical Maps,  Scotland [1948], was designed and published by Bartholomew. Then in the mid 1960’s Bullock completed the set, finalising complimentary map designs for Wales (& Monmouth) and the whole of Ireland:


LG Bullock - Bartholomew - Historical Map of Scotland - c1948-52
       Scotland [1948/1952]
L G Bullock - Bartholomew - Historical Map of Wales & Monmouth - c1966-
Wales & Monmouth [c1966]
Historical Map of Ireland c1966
Ireland [c1966]

And finally in 1969, Bullock’s last design, an Historical Map of London, harking back to his original 1938 Children’s Map. It is perhaps fitting that this last design should be for a map of London, a city in which he was born and which clearly fascinated and captivated him. Bullock’s favourite authors, by his own admission, were Stow, Evelyn and “anyone who has written about London….The more one reads about London, the more one realises how little one knows” he quipped. His maps were his personal way of illuminating so many of those  unknown facts & little-known features.

Historical Map of London 1969-71
Historical Map of London

All of Bullock’s Historical Maps continued to be republished by Bartholomew throughout the 1970s. It is not clear when they ceased to be issued. His England & Wales would witness ever wider circulation as a free offering from Shell Garages & Dealers in 1971. It was perhaps a timely indication that at least some of Bullock’s maps were perhaps beginning to reach the end of their long commercial shelf-life. The more recent editions of his maps remain easily obtainable at a very modest price.

Bullock himself died in Tunbridge Wells on 29th November 1971, after a short illness. His widow Dorothy died in Leicestershire in April 1974.

In the catalogue of the Bartholomew Archive, now part of the Collections of the National Library of Scotland, are listed the original drawings & artwork designs for several of Leslie Bullock’s maps, including original drawings for his United Nations World Map and his Historical Map of Scotland [Bartholomew Archive, NLS, Proof Maps & Plans [B5-1], p.35] and his original artwork for the Pictorial Plan of Glasgow [1938], The Children’s Map of London [1938], The United Nations Map of the World [1946] and the Historical Map of Scotland [1948] [Bartholomew Archive, NLS, Proof Maps & Plans 6.[B5-2], p.36].

For further information, see: Bartholomew Archive Inventory, pp.35-36


As a postscript to this original post, two hitherto unattributed maps, now know to have been designed by Bullock, have recently come to light:

  • A folding Pictorial Map of Bath, with insets & coats of arms, signed L G Bullock & dated 1941, 77 x 58 cms, descriptive notes to verso, published by Edward Everard Printers Ltd, Bristol.
  • A pictorial historical Map, with insets & coats of arms, entitled Croydon, signed L G Bullock and dated ’60, publisher unknown,  reproduced on linen (81 x 52 cms). Probably a special commemorative souvenir of the May 1960 Millenary celebrations of the Town’s foundation -“Croydon 1000”.