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Pratts High Test Plan of the New Forest

  • Author: TAYLOR, Alfred Edward (artist)
  • Publisher: Anglo-American Oil Company Ltd, London (publishers)
  • Date: 1930
  • Dimensions: sheet: 66 x 63 cms / map: 59 x 59 cms


Pratts High Test Plan of the New Forest [1930]: Decorative pictorial road map designed by Alfred E Taylor [1887-1959]

About this piece:

Pratts High Test Plan of the New Forest

Original colour printed map. Single sheet, unfolded. Wide margins. Paper slightly yellow in tone, as issued. A few marginal nicks and tears, expertly & invisibly closed. One longer repaired tear into lower right of image, invisibly closed and reinforced on verso. Slight marginal dusting & soiling but overall an attractive & well-preserved example.

Alfred E Taylor’s fine 1930 pictorial map of the New Forest in the English County of Hampshire, the former hunting preserve of William the Conqueror after 1066, from which fact Taylor draws much artistic inspiration & amusing decorative embellishment in this attractive & finely designed piece

The map depicts the whole of the New Forest, bounded on the East and South by Southampton Water and the Solent respectively, and extending westwards as far as Fordingbridge, Ringwood & Christchurch. In the North it extends as far as Braemore, Miz Maze & West Wellow. Southampton and the Hamble estuary are also included in the East, as are Yarmouth and parts of the Isle of Wight. A decorative compass spur fills the lower right corner, below which appears Taylor’s signature and the date (’30).

Across the top and bottom of the map, Taylor cleverly recreates an 11th or 12th Century  pictorial frieze, reminiscent of scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry, filled with scenes of hunting & rural life. He draws amusing contrasts between the casual leisure pursuits of modern motor tourists with those of their 11th Century counterparts, whose own leisure time was spent hunting all manner of animals & beasts within the confines of the New Forest, whilst local herdsmen, husbandmen and labourers made a living from  farming livestock in its settlements & clearings, cutting & coppicing its then abundant trees and catching fish in its rivers.

Nor does the ill-fated William Rufus (King William II)  escape Taylor’s sense of fun with a vignette of his demise beside the doggerel Latin inscription Rufus copsiit. The King was killed in mysterious circumstances (by an errant arrow in the chest) whilst hunting near Brockenhurst in the New Forest in August 1100, as depicted here.

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 recently commissioned 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 wider general public. With the advent of the new Esso branding of their product range in 1936, Anglo-American published an illustrated gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland which incorporated several of these maps on a reduced size & scale.

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