Admiralty Charts of Scottish coasts, 1795-1904
The Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty was officially founded in 1795, with a Scot, Alexander Dalrymple, the first Hydrographer of the Navy. Initial progress in charting was hampered by resource limitations and the Napoleonic Wars, and privately funded marine surveyors and publishers continued to dominate chart production in the early 19th century. However, under Francis Beaufort, Hydrographer from 1829-1855, surveying dramatically expanded worldwide, including British home waters under his 'Grand Survey of the British Isles', and new standards of accuracy, consistency, and quality were promoted.
In Scotland, Shetland and Orkney were first to be surveyed, most thoroughly by George Thomas in the 1820s and 1830s. Thereafter the coasts were generally surveyed from the south-west working northwards particularly by Charles Robinson, George Bedford, and Henry Otter in the 1840s and 1850s. Michael Slater and Thomas Henry Tizard were also active on the East and North coasts, largely completing the coverage during the 1860s. The charts are therefore especially useful in providing coastal information that pre-dates Ordnance Survey mapping (by decades for some northern counties and the Western and Northern Isles), with attractive and striking hachured mountains, and sometimes with views of bays and harbours.
Our selection of 74 charts on this website focuses on the earliest Admiralty charts in our collection (two-thirds surveyed before 1850) covering the west and north coasts, with (at present) more limited coverage for the east coast.
- Robinson, A H W, Marine cartography in Britain (Leicester, 1962)
- Ritchie, G S, The Admiralty Chart, New ed. (Edinbugh, Cambridge, Durham, 1995)