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  • Writer's picturePeter Berthoud

The Wooden Road Surfaces of London Mapped by Bartholemew's c. 1921

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

In the early 1920s the Improved Wood Pavement Company issued a promotional map of London showing the extent of their wood paved roads, "The ideal road for heavy motor traffic." The mapping was provided by Bartholomew's.


The map carries the boast that:


"With very few exceptions the Wood Paving (Yellow) consists of CREOSOTED DEAL BLOCKS, and the greatest part of this paving was supplied by THE IMPROVED WOOD PAVEMENT CO., LTD., Blackfriars House, New Bridge St., London, E.C."


This is the full map, below it is an expandable version divided into sections and the map's legend.

Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London c 1921.

Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London c 1921.


Click on any map section for an enlarged view.

Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London c 1921 - Click to Enlarge


Legend for Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London c 1921

Legend for Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London


The legend to the map shows the wide variety of different road surfaces that would be encountered in the city, Wood, Asphalt, Tar Macadam, Macadam, Setts or Cobbles. The legend warns that "The Tar Macadam marking does not show the quality of the surface, some being good and some very inferior". Tramways and recommended approaches and main routes are also marked.


The Cover of Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London c 1921

The Cover of Bartholomew's Road Surface Map of London c 1921.


The Improved Wood Pavement Company was obviously keen to promote its treen road surface solutions to anyone minded to build roads but different versions were targeted at other markets.


Several similar maps are available online, all were produced over the course of three decades or so. In 1928 a version was produced for motorists and cyclists, this copy is held by Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has an earlier 1906 version of the Road Surface Map which is fully zoomable.

The website Building London – What is London made from, and where it came from? has an excellent feature on the history of wooden road surfaces in London.


The Wooden Streets of Fremantle by John Dowson 2020 is available to read free online. It shows how so much of the timber used on London's streets originated in Western Australia.

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