New Popular Edition
Created from four Ordnance Survey New Popular Edition maps first published between 1945 and 1946
The London this map describes was one shaken by its war-time experiences, a city of rationing queues and bomb sites, and with around a third of its houses damaged or destroyed. Even more significantly, the evacuations (forcible or voluntary) had accelerated the existing pattern of movement out of the central area. The population of the borough of Stepney halved between 1939 and 1951, and inner London as a whole lost nearly a quarter of a million people in the same period. However, London as a whole – Greater London – had over 8.6 million inhabitants, more than at any time before or since. Major social and demographic forces were clearly at work.
This map reveals the reality of this outwards spread with great clarity. For the first time, the area covered by the series shows more built-up area than countryside, and in that respect is broadly similar to the city of today. The railways, though now at their maximum extent, are represented on this map far less prominently than are the roads, reflecting their reduced importance. Yet, nestled between the development, there are still plentiful reminders of the region’s more ancient past: numerous farms, orchards and copses are all clearly marked, though many of them have since been buried under layers of concrete and tarmac.
The New Popular Edition is a record of a battered London at the end of a global war and nearing the end of a period of global imperialism. If the Old Series describes the age of the horse and cart, the Revised New Colour that of the railways and the Popular Edition that of the dawn of the motor car, the New Popular Edition of the late 1940s is perhaps the map of the urban planner. Many schemes, some city-wide, some local, were proposed in the post-war years: some were implemented, others were not. The New Popular Edition elegantly captures the raw material which planners and developers were to use, for better or for worse, to create the London that we know today.