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Pratts High Test Map of the Great North Road

  • Author: TAYLOR, Alfred Edward (artist)
  • Publisher: Anglo-American Oil Company Ltd, London (publishers)
  • Date: 1930
  • Dimensions: sheet: 94 x 38 cms / map: 84 x 33 cms


Pratts High Test Map of the Great North Road: Decorative 1930 pictorial road map designed by Alfred E Taylor [1887-1959]

About this piece:

Pratts High Test Map of the Great North Road

Original colour printed map. Single sheet, unfolded. Extra wide margins. Paper slightly yellow in tone, as issued. A few marginal repairs to minor edge nicks along sheet edges, otherwise fine. Slight dust soiling & foxing to lower margin closely adjoining but barely affecting decorative border of map. In all a well-preserved example.

Alfred E Taylor’s fine 1930 pictorial map of the Great North Road, Britain’s longest pre-motorway highway, and for centuries the main coaching route connecting London, York and Edinburgh. The Great North Road’s route in fact dated back to Roman times and was renowned for its rich and colourful history and for the numerous fine hostelries & coaching inns found in the market towns along its route, details which Taylor vividly captures in this engaging & decorative map.

Some 276 miles in length it is here shown running from London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne following a route via Baldock, Stilton, Stamford, Grantham, Newark, Retford and Doncaster. At Doncaster the route diverges via Wetherby & Boroughbridge or via York, Thirsk & Northallerton, re-converging again at Darlington and thence onward via Durham to Newcastle. The present-day A1 Motorway follows many sections of this now sadly defunct highway.

In the Depression-hit summer of 1932 Anglo-American Oil, the owners of the Pratts High Test Oil brand, initiated an advertising campaign to promote both the Pratts High Test brand and the idea of a patriotic British “staycation”. The campaign was backed by a series of charming pictorial road maps, including this one, which Anglo-American had commissioned two year earlier from the well-known British cartographer and illustrator, Alfred E Taylor [1887-1959]. The maps were published in a variety of formats and proved immensely popular both with the British motorist and the general public.

Taylor’s map is filled with numerous decorative vignettes & coats of arms, short historical facts, amusing local anecdotes and pertinent literary quotations. A large title cartouche upper right is embellished with images of 1930s automobiles, which contrast with the historical coaching scenes directly above it, which are accompanied by an amusing quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel St Ives [1897],  about the smoothness & quality of England’s late 19th Century road network (“you could take your dinner off any part of them without distaste”!). A large decorative compass spur with adjoining scale embellishes the map lower left, the coaching scenes of the upper right corner mirrored by a contemporary scene depicting speeding cars and motor cycles in the lower left corner. Immediately below this is Taylor’s signature and the design’s original date of completion (’30).

For a detailed study of Taylor’s life and work as a pictorial cartographer see our recent Barron Maps Blog post

Refs: David Rumsey Collection