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26 July 2013

The changing view of Devon through topographical prints.

Note: This paper was first presented at the Print Networks conference "Travel, topography and the book trade" held in Chichester 23-25 July 2013.

At the 2002 Exeter conference I presented a paper entitled "The production and publication of topographical prints in Devon c1790-1870". This was developed in conjunction with the project "Etched on Devon's Memory", which was funded by the Big Lottery Fund NOF-Digitise from February 2002 to February 2003 with an extension to September 2003.[1] It set out to digitise as many as possible of the topographical prints of Devon listed in 1977 by John Somers Cocks in Devon topographical prints 1660-1870: a catalogue and guide. [2] Somers Cocks listed about 3,500 topographical prints and the project increased this total to some 4,500. A database was produced giving the engraver, title, publisher, date and format of the print, as well as information on the subject content. This catalogue record was linked where possible to extracts from contemporary topographical publications and an image of the print. Now that the project is completed it is possible to search, sort and tabulate this corpus of iconographic material and undertake some degree of bibliometric analysis.

This paper seeks to build on my previous one which dealt with how the prints were produced and published. It will aim to deal more with the content of the prints and will set out to show how people’s mental maps of the Devon landscape changed between the 1700s and 1870, the period when these prints were produced.

The coverage does not include wood engravings except in the few instances where they were printed or sold separately from the text. Different states of a plate are normally counted as separate items. These often bear different dates and bear witness to a continuing interest in the image, or in some cases they are progress proofs. Not all prints are dated, but dates can frequently be assigned from the books in which they appear. In most cases estimated dates are probably accurate to within a few years, making analysis by decade a valid exercise. Needless to say, photographs were not included in the project.

Table 1. Devon topographical prints. Totals for decades

These prints were not evenly distributed over time. In the period from 1656 when the first dated engraving of Exeter Cathedral was made by Daniel King, until 1699 only seven items are recorded. In the 18th century there were 244 engravings. In the first half of the 19th century the pace quickened with 178 topographical prints in the 1800s, 352 in the 1810s, 753 in the 1820s, 825 in the 1830s, and 903 in the 1850s, the most prolific decade. Thereafter production declined, to 670 in the 1850s, 389 in the 1860s and only 173 in the 1870s, with the last dated engraving appearing in 1876.

During these two centuries a top ten of the most popular locations can be drawn up, all of them with a hundred prints or more to their credit. Plymouth (the three towns of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Plymouth Dock, later Devonport) has the largest number with 503 prints, about eleven per cent of the total. Next come Torquay with 482, Exeter with 392, Sidmouth with 238 and Ilfracombe with 222. The five localities with between 100 and 200 prints are Lynton and Lynmouth (181), Teignmouth (158), Dawlish (146), Dartmouth (136) and Exmouth (100). Apart from the two largest towns, Exeter and Plymouth, there are six south coast resorts and two on the north coast. Inland towns, such as Tavistock, Okehampton and Tiverton only begin to appear in the 11th, 12th and 13th positions. However the relative popularity varies over time and we will endeavour to add a little social background to chart this variation.

Table 2. Topographical prints. Totals for places by decade
Lynton & Lynmouth18126215303555333
Tiverton 6471762117500
Berry Pomeroy58565103171020


In the 17th and 18th centuries Plymouth formed the most popular subject for engravings with 56 prints identified. This lead can be extended further if we add in the 16 views of the Eddystone lighthouse. Exeter lags behind with 44 prints, followed by Dartmouth with nine and Okehampton and Thorncombe with eight each. In all some 56 localities are represented, most with only one or two items to their credit. Torquay is conspicuous by its absence. It was an age before people travelled for pleasure; Devon was remote. In 1760 Iliffe’s flying waggon took 5½ days to reach Exeter from London[3] coaches took four days. No roads in Devon were turnpiked before 1753 when the Honiton, Axminster and Exeter trusts were established. However antiquarian interests were strong. Thus the most popular subjects were ancient ecclesiastical or military structures, Exeter Cathedral, of course, monasteries and castles. There was also an interest in the Plymouth dockyards, the harbour of Dartmouth and the Eddystone lighthouse. Towns on or near the main carriers’ routes through to Cornwall were well represented: Exeter, Okehampton, Lydford, Tavistock, Plympton, Plymouth. Almost all the prints were published in London in this period.

Of course topographical prints required an artist or draughtsman, who was not always the same as the engraver or publisher. The artist’s view of Devon underlies to a large extent the image presented in prints. The evolving scene is well outlined by Sam Smiles and Michael Pidgley in The perfection of England: artist visitors to Devon c.1750-1870 which, as well as the growth of tourism, covers amateur and professional artists in the county and the discovery and representation of the landscape, with sections on sketching from nature and subscribers to F.C.Lewis’s engravings of Devon rivers. [4]

Table 3. Topographical prints, 1656-1799
All places242
Okehampton, Thorncombe8
Tavistock, Tiverton 7
Lydford 6
Berry Pomeroy, Lundy, Powderham5
Honiton, Kenn, Shaugh Prior, Tamar3
Bishopsteignton, Dartington, Filleigh, Kenton, Lynton & Lynmouth,
Mamhead, Plymstock, Shute, South Brent, Tamerton Foliot, Tawstock
Appledore, Axminster, Bideford, Buckfastleigh, Buckland Monachorum,
Chudleigh, Colyton, Dawlish, Dunkeswell, Exe Valley, Exmouth,
Frithelstoke, Great Torrington, Hartland, Holbeton, Ilfracombe, Ivybridge,
Kingsbridge, Kingsteignton, Kingswear, Ottery St Mary, Sidmouth,
Teigngrace, Teignmouth, Uffculme, Westleigh, Widecombe-in-the-Moor,


After 1789 the French Revolution changed the picture. From the mid 18th century the fashion for sea bathing and drinking sea water had led to the development of coastal resorts on the south coast of Devon. The first was Exmouth, where sea bathing is recorded in 1750, with bathing machines soon after and an assembly room in the Globe Inn in 1770. There was even a coach service, the Exmouth Machine in 1768. Teignmouth followed by 1759 with two bathing machines by 1773 and a coach service from 1769. Visitors bathing and taking the waters are recorded in Sidmouth in 1776. In 1771 Dr Downman, an Exeter physician advised invalids to visit Dawlish to face the "refreshing breeze" and inhale the "briny spray". All these resorts were visited mainly by Devonians, health seekers from inland towns such as Exeter or Tiverton. On the north coast only Ilfracombe had a few visitors, with bathing machines recorded in 1788. The north of the county was remote with Bideford and Barnstaple in decline and the latter town at the end of a twelve hour coach journey from Exeter in 1787. With the continent a risky destination after 1789, Devon began to attract more visitors from Bath and other places up-country, drawn by the mild climate, the picturesque scenery and the cheap prices. In 1791 Exmouth was declared "equal to the south of France" and by 1794 was enjoying a winter season of visitors. In 1789 Teignmouth boasted the arrival of "seven coaches with coronets" – a good class of visitor. [5] Facilities were established for these visitors; circulating libraries are recorded in Exmouth in 1799, [6] and in Sidmouth in 1795. [7] They had already been established in the older towns: in Exeter Plymouth and Barnstaple by the 1780s, in Axminster and Tiverton by the 1790s. [8] It is somewhat surprising therefore to see the rise of the coastal resorts unreflected in the topographical prints of the 1790s: Dawlish, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Teignmouth each only have one engraving to their credit.

Table 4. Topographical prints, 1790-1799
All places (45)91
Honiton, Kenn, Maker, Shaugh Prior, Tavistock3
Bishopsteignton, Kenton, Lydford, Lynton, Mamhead, Okehampton,
Plympton, Plymstock, Shute, South Brent, Tamar River, Tamerton Foliot
Appledore, Axminster, Berry Pomeroy, Brixham, Chudleigh, Colyton,
Dartington, Dawlish, Dunkeswell, Eddystone, Exmouth, Great Torrington,
Hartland, Holbeton, Horrabridge, Kingsbridge, Kingsteignton Kingswear,
Powderham, Sidmouth, Tawstock, Teignmouth, Uffculme, Yealmpton


In the first decade of the 19th century there is relatively little change in the places represented by topographical prints. Despite its significance as a naval port during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars Plymouth loses ground to Exeter and both places have twenty prints during this period. The other popular localities reflect the continuing antiquarian interest, coupled with a growth in the search for the sublime and the picturesque. Okehampton and Berry Pomeroy castles epitomise the romantic ruin. Again the four coastal resorts only have one image each although their development continued. Dawlish acquired a circulating library by 1802 when it was described by Jane Austen as "pitiful and wretched … and not likely to have anyone’s publication". Croydon’s establishment in Teignmouth was more successful while in Ilfracombe according to Mrs Jackson "There is certainly a thing called a library, but it contains far more quack medicines and articles of an all-sort description than books." [9]

Table 5. Topographical prints, 1800-1810
All places (50)172
Drewsteignton, Plympton, Tavistock8
Berry Pomeroy, Lynton & Lynmouth, Powderham6
Ivybridge, Paignton5
Dartmouth, Teignmouth, Yealmpton4
Bickleigh (Plymouth), Bishopsteignton, Eddystone,
Exmouth, Lydford, Sowton, Tamerton Foliot
Chudleigh, Dunsford, Ilfracombe, Kenn, Marldon, Meavy2
23 places, including Crediton, Dawlish, Tiverton, Torquay, Totnes1


In the 1810s there is a dramatic change. Sidmouth emerges from nowhere, its 63 prints representing almost one fifth of the 332 recorded for this decade. Teignmouth and Torquay, each with 24 items, push Exeter and Plymouth into fourth and fifth places. The production of prints now reflects the developing tourist industry in resorts which had become capable of supporting one or more well-established circulating libraries. These often provided a diverse range of facilities. In Sidmouth Wallis relaunched the library shed, opening the Marine Library in 1809. His panorama was one of his first productions. [10] and he launched an ambitious series of publications which included at least 224 topographical prints over the next decade, including Scenery on the southern coast of Devonshire; comprising picturesque views, at or near the fashionable watering places, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth, Dawlish, Teignmouth, and Torquay which appeared in 1819. One print was entitled Gore’s library on the beach, Dawlish". The accompanying text reads "These elegant and commodious Rooms, which comprise a library, ball-room, billiard and reading rooms, are situated on the north side of the bridge, command a full view of the sea, and lead to the public walk, termed the Esplenade." But this tribute to a rival establishment, albeit in a different town, is pallid in comparison with that paid to Croydon’s library in Teignmouth:

The Public Library, Reading, Billiard Room, and Printing Office, kept by Mr. CROYDON, is a new and elegant building, and in its various departments forms a very desirable lounge for the visitors to this favorite [sic] watering-place. The Library contains an extensive and well selected collection of books, to which new publications are continually added, and is fitted up with every possible convenience. An extensive assortment of books, stationary, perfumery, jewellery, fancy and ornamental articles of every description, for sale, is kept here. Music and drawings are also let to hire. The terms of subscription are exremely [sic] moderate. This truly may be said to be the principal place of resort for such as wish to vary the joys of retirement by the pleasing recreations of a shew [sic] shop, lounge, library, or reading room.

Society here entwines its wreaths,
Good nature o'er each meeting breathes.

Terms of Subscription to the library and Reading Room.
£ s. d.
Per Annum116
-----Half Year100
Per Month060
To the LIBRARY only.
Per Annum110
-----Half Year0120
Per Quarter036
Per Annum110
-----Half Year0120
Per Month040
The Reading Room is open, from eight o'clock in the morning till night, and the following papers, &. are for perusal.

The GLOBE, STAR, and COURIER, London daily Papers,  and EXAMINER, (Sunday), and in addition to the above, the following provincial ones:

Monday…..The Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury.
Tuesday…..The Western Luminary.
Thursday…The Exeter Flying Post.
Saturday….Woolmer's Gazetteer.
Sunday…...The Plymouth and Dock Telegraph.
Lloyd's List, every Thursday and Sunday

. Terms of the Subscription Billiard Room.

Per Annum0
-----Half Year012 0
This level of enthusiasm is explained by the fact that it appeared in one of Croydon’s own publications. [11] In comparison the print of Gore’s library in Wallis’s publication is very nondescript. [12]

Table 6.Topographical prints, 1810-1819
All places (73)332
Tiverton 7
Berry Pomeroy, Eddystone, Egg Buckland, Plympton, Salcombe Regis, Tavistock, Totnes5
Bishopsteignton, Chagford, Lydford, Plymstock, Powderham4
Branscombe, Dartmouth, Drewsteignton, Exmouth, Ide, Ilfracombe, Kingsteignton,
Northlew, Paignton, Tamerton Foliot
15 including Kingsbridge, Lynton & Lynmouth2
27 including Budleigh Salterton, Clovelly, Ottery St. Mary, Salcombe1


In the 1820s Sidmouth retains the prime position with other south coast resorts, rivalling the major conurbations of Exeter and Plymouth. However this was a period of stagnation for Devon coastal resorts, visitors being attracted to alternative destinations on the continent or closer to London. The Sidmouth bookseller Marsh went bankrupt in 1819. What is also noteworthy is that north Devon resorts now begin to figure more widely, with Lynton, Ilfracombe and Clovelly all with an increasing number of illustrations to their credit. In about 1828 appeared The beauties of the north of Devon, a set of at least 20 lithographs by George Rowe, which was published in Exeter. But Rowe faced competition from the north of Devon. While remote from good road links, Ilfracombe benefitted to some extent from steamship services from the 1820s, bringing visitors from Bristol or south Wales.

It is also a decade when two competing surveys began publication in London, both of them appearing in parts between 1829 and 1832: Thomas Moore's History of Devonshire, published by Jennings and Chaplin, and John Britton's Devonshire illustrated, published by Fisher, Son & Co., each with an engraved title-page and 94 line engraved plates of virtually identical format and with considerable overlap in their coverage, one artist, W.H.Bartlett, and one engraver Henry Wallis, actually working for both projects. It is enlightening to compare the two series; for example there is a good representation of country seats, usually with the name of the owner prominently featured. Both include views of Saltram in Plympton, Haldon in Kenn, Ugbrooke in Chudleigh, Watermouth in Berrynarbor, Kitley in Yealmpton, Killerton in Broadclyst, Castle Hill in Filleigh, Dartington Hall, Bicton and Powderham Castle. Many others were only covered by one of the two publishers. Both publishers were probably hoping for patronage, but it does also reflect the interest in country houses, which could often be visited. As early as 1805 Mrs Price, on holiday in Exmouth undertook a tour on 24 June of Mamhead, Oxton and Powderham but only in Oxton were they were graciously admitted by the Rev. Swete "to see the house and take some refreshment". In Mamhead they saw the family "very plainly through the windows … but were not permitted to enter". In Powderham they were refused admission by the housekeeper on the orders of Lord Courtenay. "We also saw his Lordship cross the yard, he came past the carriage, but he never turned his head to look at us". [13]

Table 7. Topographical prints, 1820-1829
All places (111)711
Dartmouth, Dawlish24
Holne, Tavistock16
Lynton & Lynmouth15
Ilfracombe, Lydford and Dartmoor13
Exmouth, Okehampton12
Berry Pomeroy10
Clovelly, Milton Abbot9
Buckland Monachorum, Plympton, Powderham, Totnes8
Barnstaple, Bicton, Buckfastleigh, Chudleigh, Eddystone, Tiverton6
Bickleigh (Tiverton), Kingswear, Petertavy, Tamerton Foliot, Werrington5
7 places including Newton Abbot, Seaton4
13 places3
28 places2
30 places1


During the 1830s Plymouth and Exeter regain their position at the top of the table. It is a decade when the north of the county continues to be well represented with Ilfracombe overtaking Sidmouth. John Banfield had registered a press in Ilfracombe in 1820 and his bookshop and circulating library in the High Street became for more than thirty years a centre for the production and distribution of topographical prints. James Banfield’s series known as Scenery in the north of Devon consists of a set of at least 32 lithographs, which was made up into booklets with various numbers of plates. George Rowe of Exeter and later Cheltenham produced lithographs for Banfield as well as other artists including George Hawkins, G. Wilkins and the London lithographers William and Paul Gauci. It is significant that the turnpike roads from Exeter to Barnstaple and on to Ilfracombe were improved in 1830.

Table 8. Topographical prints, 1830-1839
Total places (93)784
Lynton & Lynmouth30
Tiverton 21
Exmouth, Tavistock14
Clovelly, Plympton10
7 places including Bideford, Chudleigh, Totnes6
7 places including Eddystone, Honiton, Powderham5
6 places including Dartington, Ivybridge4
15 places including Berry Pomeroy, Newton Abbot3
16 places including Crediton and Ottery St. Mary2
26 places1


The 1830s ended with a massive landslip at Axmouth on Christmas Day 1839 which started the 1840s with Axmouth reaching 15th position in the league table of topographical prints. It is an unusual example of a current event producing prints, but also reflects the growing interest in the geology and fossils of the Jurassic coast. Torquay heads the league table by a wide margin during the 1840s. It was a period when the resorts were vying with each other in promoting the health-giving effects of the local climate. For Dr James Clarke , writing in 1829 only Torquay "possessed all the advantages of the south-west climate to the highest degree". [14] Exmouth was damp and subject to fogs, Sidmouth subject to currents of cold air from inland. Torquay’s climate enabled it to have a flourishing winter season but this was not without its downside. Dr. A. B. Granville’s work on spas and sea-bathing resorts in 1841 described it as "filled in general with respirator-bearing people who look like muzzled ghosts", the air filled with the "frequent tolling of the funeral bell … awful and thrilling to the rest, who were trembling on the verge of their grave with symptoms of the same devouring malady, consumption". [15]

The 1840s saw a renewed interest in historic buildings, particularly churches, and as a result many smaller communities were now represented in published images. William Spreat’s Picturesque sketches of the churches of Devon published with descriptive letterpress in 18 parts by the artist in Exeter was completed in 1842. It contains a lithograph title vignette and 74 other lithographs or lithotints by Spreat. While the work was in progress the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society was established in 1841 to report on the fabric of the churches of Devon and also to approve designs for new churches. Its Transactions, published quarterly from 1843 onwards by the Society in Exeter contain many plates of architectural details but also some topographical line engravings and lithographs mainly by J. Le Keux after J. Hayward and by William Spreat after Edward Ashworth. In this decade 139 different places are represented in topographical prints, more than any other decade, largely because of this interest in churches.

It was also a decade when the railways arrived in Devon, transforming travel into the region. Exeter was reached in 1844, Tiverton in 1848, Torquay in 1848, Plymouth in 1848, Barnstaple in 1854, Bideford in 1855 and Exmouth in 1861. It was probably the spread of the railway network that encouraged several publishers to start series of small format numbered vignette views covering the whole country. The first was J.Harwood of London who published at least 764 views between 1841 and 1854 in his series Scenery of Great Britain, about 40 of them for Devon. Kershaw and Son published at least 1,200 undated vignettes between about 1845 and 1860, about 70 of them for Devon. William Frederick Rock, a Barnstaple man who moved to London, began his series in 1848. His numbering would eventually reach almost 7,000 including at least 422 different editions of Devon scenes, many of them being updated states. [16] The same year as Rock an Exeter printer, Henry Besley, began the production of a series of larger vignettes, mainly by the local artist George Townsend (1818-1894). In the years to 1871 this ran to about 100 views of Devon and Cornwall and they were issued individually or in booklets containing 4, 6, 12, 18, 30 or even 60 prints. Besley took care to update plates in this series to reflect building developments.

Table 9. Topographical prints, 1840-1849
All places (139)869
Lynton & Lynmouth35
Tavistock, Teignmouth31
Berry Pomeroy, Tiverton17
Milton Abbot, Ottery St. Mary, Powderham9
Bideford, Okehampton, Totnes8
Manaton, Paignton, Wembury7
7 places including Barnstaple, Budleigh Salterton6
6 places including Ashburton, Clovelly5
5 places including Axminster, Ivybridge4
13 places3
22 places2
62 places1


The 1850s was a decade when the railways continued to spread, linking up Barnstaple in 1854, Bideford in 1855 and Paignton in 1859, also extending into Cornwall in 1859. Cheap fares from Exeter were introduced in 1858 and increased visitors to resorts such as Teignmouth and Dawlish, but not always acceptably. The issue of the Western Times for 30 July 1859 reports from Dawlish: "the town was visited on Sundays by 300 or 400 bathers from Exeter; and they were conveyed down and back for sixpence … there were loud complaints of the very indecent conduct of the bathers by that train." A smaller series of vignette views after the artist George Townsend, introduced by Besley of Exeter in 1853, was made up of 31 scenes of south Devon for that year (nos. 100-130), including viaducts on the line to Plymouth, but between 1854 and 1858 he turned his attention to north Devon with 22 prints (nos. 131-151). Some of Besley’s vignettes are up to the minute with two views of Instow by Besley appearing in 1856, within a year of the arrival of the railway. [17] The railway featured on many prints in this period, including a series by the Exeter lithographer Owen Angel. [18] The arrival of the railway in north Devon brings Ilfracombe closer in the rankings to Torquay, which still holds first place, while Lynton pushes Exeter into fifth place.

Table 10. Topographical prints, 1850-1859
All places (78)648
Lynton & Lynmouth55
Barnstaple, Exmouth, Newton Abbot, Totnes13
Berry Pomeroy, Berrynarbour, Sidmouth10
Clovelly, Ivybridge6
Axminster, Crediton, Tiverton5
Bideford, Mortehoe, Okehampton4
9 places including Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Honiton3
9 places including Budleigh Salterton, Chudleigh, Powderham2
35 places1


The range of places depicted in topographical prints becomes more restricted, with the main coastal resorts making up almost sixty per cent of the views, but Sidmouth has declined, reflecting its remoteness from the railways. One new resort represented is Westward Ho!, set up by a syndicate in 1863, the golf course opening in 1864 and the baths in 1866 but the three engravings, published in 1864 (Rock no. 5222), 1865 and 1869 (both by Besley) did little to encourage the early success of this bleak and remote locality.

The railways continued to expand during the 1860s. Dartmouth (or rather the opposite bank of the River Dart) was reached in 1864, Okehampton in 1867, Brixham in 1868. By this date the topographical print had become cheaper and much more accessible. Rock and Besley continued their series, but Harwood and Kershaw seem to have ceased their Devon coverage by the early 1860s. The impact of the vignette view is evident in a series of three sketch books compiled by H.M.A. under the title "Drives &c in and around Torquay". [19] It is a journal of a visit to Torquay over the winter of 1863 to 1864. The author can be identified as Harriette Matilda Armytage, the daughter of Sir George Armytage (1819-1899) fifth baronet, of Harshead-cum-Clifton in Yorkshire. She was born in 1843, so was just twenty when the family arrived in Torquay by train from London, taking the Great Western and then the South Devon Railway. They stayed in Cumper’s Private Hotel in Sulyard Terrace before taking residence at Kanescombe, a villa in Lower Warberry Road rented by her "Papa". She had started writing up her diary before 24 October 1863, the date of a correction she made, so she had collected many of the engravings she included in the volumes by that date. She gave a day by day account of the rides the family made in the neighbourhood, illustrated by 84 engravings, including two maps of Torquay. The bulk of the illustrations are of Torquay, but there are four of Dawlish, three of Teignmouth, two of Berry Head and Brixham and one each of Devonport, Berry Pomeroy, the mouth of the Dart, Compton Castle and the Teign estuary. There are about 70 small format line-engraved vignettes and a dozen larger ones and they come from a mix of London and local publishers, showing the range of items available in booksellers’ shops at that time.

The family left for London on 2 May 1864. Harriette died in 1865 aged 22 ; she was clearly one of the many consumptives who sought relief in Torquay, and the drives were undertaken to give her plenty of fresh air.

Table 11. Topographical prints, 1860-1869
All places (58)376
Lynton & Lynmouth33
Newton Abbot8
Dartmouth, Tavistock7
Budleigh Salterton, Paignton, Totnes4
Westward Ho!3
10 places including Berry Pomeroy2
30 places1


Railways contined to reach places in the remoter parts of Devon with Sidmouth and Ilfracombe being connected in 1874, but too late for our story as we now reach the last throes of the topographical print. Torquay and Exmouth head the list, but figures are too low to draw many conclusions. The only type of print to increase during this period is the depiction of hotels, with thirteen recorded examples. The last number of Besley’s small vignette series known is 215, a view of Babbacombe, Torquay after an un-named artist, produced in about 1875[20] and the last known Rock vignette of Devon (no. 6928), of Woolbrook Glen, Sidmouth appeared in 1876. [21] Line engravings and lithographs were succumbing to the competition of other media. Since the 1830s the wood engraving had made its presence felt, most notably in periodicals such as the Illustrated London news where it could be printed together with the text to deliver views of current events such as the breach of the railway line near Teignmouth in March 1855. Apart from the Axmouth landslip there are very few scenes of events among the topographical prints, the opening of the Canal basin in Exeter on 29 September 1830 and the construction of the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash, opened on 2 May 1859, being notable exceptions. Already the supremacy of the engraving was being challenged by the photograph, produced by both local and national photographers. Francis Bedford (1816-1894), Photographer to the Prince of Wales in the East as he so proudly described himself, had a great fondness for Wales, Warwickshire and especially Devon. He turned from lithography to photography in about 1853 and visited Devon many times in the 1860s, publishing many of his views in a series of booklets with titles such as Photographic views of north Devon, as well as separate publications, including the Devonshire illustrated and Exeter illustrated series of stereoscopic view cards. A sample of 192 of his images, taken largely from the booklets shows a similar distribution to the engravings with 51 for Lynton, 30 for Torquay, 26 for Exeter, 24 for Dartmouth and 17 for Ilfracombe. Lynton and Ilfracombe are especially well represented, perhaps because Bedford seems to have arrived by steamer from the north. Dartmouth and the Dart estuary are also well covered and of interest are about ten views of places in and around Dartmoor. In Exeter Owen Angel also transferred from lithography to photography, running the West of England Photographic Institute in 1855.

Table 12. Topographical prints, 1870-1876
All places (39)169
Budleigh Salterton, Ilfracombe, Teignmouth5
Lynton & Lynmouth3
9 places including Axminster, Dartmoor, Dartmouth, Okehampton2
19 places1


The story could be continued into the twentieth century through the work of national photographers such as Valentine or Francis Frith. This is more difficult to quantify, particularly after the development of the picture postcard in the 1890s. One source would be the negative archives of major national photographers, where they survive. Francis Frith was one of the most prolific postcard publishers and his images have the advantage of being numbered. Records do date tens of thousands of these images, but it is difficult to arrive at a complete listing. The images on the website and the listings issued with the microfiche collection do not completely overlap.

So, through the 19th century topographical prints do reflect the changing mental map of Devon, but it is perhaps interesting to speculate to what extent they reflected an existing image of the county and to what extent they helped to create it. Certainly the development of tourism was only reflected considerably after the development of the string of south Devon resorts in the late 18th century, and the London publishers were largely content to reflect the existing image of the county. It is rather to the local publishers that one should look to see promoters of the county’s image. In Sidmouth Wallis and Marsh from about 1810 and Harvey in the 1830s spread a view of Sidmouth and its neighbourhood which gave it a much higher profile than the population of the small fishing village would seem to merit. In 1811 Sidmouth had a population of 1,688, compared to inland Tiverton’s 6,732 but this grew to 2,747 in 1821. But the large number of prints was not reflected in the development of the resort which found itself bypassed by the railway and stagnated until the branch line arrived in 1874. Between 1841 and 1881 its population hovered around the figure of 3,400. In Teignmouth Croydon’s activity which started a few years later, extending between about 1817 and 1850, took place in a town where the railway arrived in 1846 and which steadily increased its size between 1821 and 1871 from 3,980 to 6,751. Its location on the route of the South Devon Railway was reflected in a steady increase in print production into the 1850s although Croydon produced only 73 recorded illustrations as opposed to Wallis’s 224. The case of Torquay is even more dramatic. It grew steadily from an insignificant fishing village of 838 souls in 1801 to 21,657 in 1871. However most of the engravings here came from non-local publishers, either in London or Exeter. The Torquay branch of Croydon was responsible for only 32 local views. Ilfracombe over the same period also expanded steadily from 1934 in 1811 to 4721 in 1871 even without the benefit of the railway. Of its total of 136 prints 116 are due to the industry of Banfield between the 1830s and the 1860s.

Table 13. Some significant publishers

There are certainly aspects of the county that are not reflected in the prints: tin mining, of importance around Dartmoor, has not a single print, quarries have only one or two, and watermills figure not as industrial sites but as picturesque views by artists such as Samuel Prout. Much of the inland area is poorly represented. Holsworthy, a market town in north Devon with a population of 1,857 in 1841 boasts only one print, of a local country seat in 1806, [22] the Duchy town of Bradninch one Spreat lithograph of its parish church in 1842 when it had a population of 1,714. South Molton only had two engravings, both of the church, one by Spreat in 1842 and one by Rock in 1849. South Molton at that time was a growing town with about 4,400 inhabitants although, like so many rural settlements in Devon, it was to decline to 2,892 by 1901. And the vast area of Dartmoor was largely undiscovered until later in the 19th century, apart from the area of Lydford and the river valleys sketched by Lewis. This change of landscape preference was also relected in the landscape painting exhibited in the Royal Academy before and after 1870 at which date pictures of the high moor start to appear[23].

Nor are topographical prints the only source of evidence. Images other than the purely topographical can help build the mental map of a region. Physical maps have been a potent inspiration for mental maps of Devon ever since the publication of Saxton’s county map in 1579. Interestingly many of them bear images: Exeter Cathedral is the most popular, appearing on eight plates, followed interestingly by the Eddystone lighthouse with four and four other coastal scenes. Outside Exeter there are few depictions, Plymouth appears twice, but late on, and Dartmouth and Tavistock each appear once. [24]

Table 14. Images on county maps of Devon 1579-1879
Vignette views (Rock)1851 (3 of 19 places otherwise unrepresented)
Exeter panorama1610, 1689, 1868
Exeter Cathedral1763, 1817, 1829, 1833, 1857, 1868
Exeter Guildhall1836
Exeter, County Sessions1836
Eddystone Lighthouse1724, 1743, 1744, 1868
Coastal scene1765, 1819, 1868
Babbacombe Bay, Torquay1831
Dartmouth Castle1816
Tavistock Abbey1836
Plymouth Royal Hotel, Theatre & Athenaeum1857
Plymouth Docks1868
Archaeological finds1724
Coats of arms, frequent but multiple arms1579, 1645, 1732

Coats of arms appear more regularly and these are an important alternative image. Portraits of local celebrities such Drake, Raleigh or even the humble itinerant bookseller Tommy Osborne help to form an image, as do plates of archaeological objects, architectural details or local livestock, included in early agricultural surveys. The Victorian mania for improving leisure pursuits also provides a different range of images. Philip Henry Gosse’s visit to Ilfracombe resulted in A naturalist’s rambles on the Devon coast in 1853, one of a series of works on the marine biology of Devon’s coasts with wonderful chromolithographs. Charlotte Chanter, wife of the vicar of Ilfracombe and sister of Charles Kingsley published Ferny combes : a ramble after ferns in the glens and valleys of Devonshire in 1856 with coloured botanical illustrations. They were too popular; Gosse lamented over the despoliation of rock pools by overenthusiastic amateur naturalists, and the lanes of north Devon were ransacked by amateur and professional gardeners indulging in the craze of fern collecting.

The written word also builds up a mental map of a place. Many of the topographical prints illustrated guidebooks or accounts of travel and the role of newspapers, both London and provincial, is very significant in promoting tourism. Works of literature also conjure up an distinctive atmosphere, whether the romantic poets who haunted Lynton and Lynmouth or Charles Kingsley, whose novel Westward Ho! even inspired the name of a seaside resort.

It is also important to bear in mind the differing perceptions of the local resident, the artist, the tourist and the person who could never aspire to visit such a remote area. One quotation from the local artist and publisher Thomas Hewitt Williams must suffice here. Writing in 1804 he says: "Can any mind receive delight from the richest assemblage of rural objects where there is poverty among the inhabitants? […] The common repast of the labouring families in this part of the country is tea; it is their dinner, probably increased by a few potatoes, and at the tea-hour of the evening it is alone their supper: on a Sunday the coarsest part of animal food is their luxury […]". The realisation of such poverty "embitters every rural walk, renders as fabulous all the delightful visions of country life imbibed in youth, and reduces to fictions, extravagant as Arabian tales, the descriptions of poets." [25]

So, what is the value of an exercise such as this? While topographical prints do not build the whole picture in forming a mental map of a locality or region they do provide the main visual building block. Provided that there is a sufficiently large sample, and the 4,500 prints of Devon do just about reach the required level for the margin of error to be acceptable be valid, provided that analysis is not too intensive. So bibliometrics does provide a tool to quantify to some extent one of the different elements that make up people’s mental map of an area – and this number crunching does provide an anorak like myself, who belongs to the train-spotter school of bibliography, with a harmless enough occupation.


1. Etched on Devon’s memory URL:

2. John Somers Cocks, Devon topographical prints 1660-1870: a catalogue and guide (Exeter: Devon Library Services, 1977). Individual prints in the catalogue are referenced by the designation SC followed by the number, and the URL on the Etched on Devon’s memory website.

3. Dorian Gerhold, Road transport before the railways: Russell’s London flying wagons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 30.

4. Sam Smiles and Michael Pidgley, The perfection of England: artist visitors to Devon c.1750-1870, (Exeter: Royal Albert memorial Museum, 1995)

5. John F. Travis, The rise of the Devon seaside resorts 1750-1900 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1993) is the source of most of my information on the Devon seaside resorts.

6. K. A. Manley, "Lounging places and frivolous literature : subscription libraries in the West Country to 1825" in Printing places : locations of book production and distribution since 1500 (New Castle DE: Oak Knoll Press ; London: British Library, 2005), p. 111.

7. John Swete, Travels in Georgian Devon, edited by Todd Gray (Tiverton: Devon Books, 1998), p.139.

8. Dates for circulating libraries are taken from Manley (see note 4) and Robin Alston Libraries in England to 1850, archived on

9. Sir George Jackson, The Bath archives : a further selection from the diaries and letters of Sir George Jackson, edited by Lady Jackson, (London, 1873), vol. 1, p. 134.

10. SC 2473.

11. Edward Croydon, Guide to watering places on the coast between the Exe and the Dart, including Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay (Teignmouth: E. Croydon, 1817), p.20-22.

12. SC0652.

13. Berkshire RO: R 11A/401, The journal of Mrs Price.

14. James Clarke, The influence of climate in the prevention and cure of chronic diseases (1829) p. 49-54.

15. A. B. Granville, The spas of England and principal sea-bathing places (1841), iii, p. 474, 483, 492.

16 Numerical listing of Devon Rock vignettes:

17. SC1357 ; SC1358.

18. Somers Cocks S.186, a series of lithographs of viaducts on the South Devon Railway.

19. Devon Heritage Centre, Westcountry Studies Library shelf mark: sB/TOR 7/1863/ARM.

20. SC3067.

21. SC2623.

22. SC1177.

23. Peter Howard, "Early tourist destinations: the influence of artists’ changing landscape preferences" in Historical atlas of South-West England (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1999), p. 450-452.

24. Kit Batten and Francis Bennett, The printed maps of Devonshire 1575-1837 (Tiverton: Devon Books, 1996) ; Kit Batten and Francis Bennett, The Victorian maps of Devon : printed maps 1838-1901 (Tiverton: Devon Books, 2000).

25. Thomas Hewitt Williams, Picturesque excursions in Devonshire and Cornwall. Part 1: Devonshire (London; J. Murray and J.Harding, 1804) p. 75-6