Rocque’s map, that endless treasure trove.

John Rocque’s famed map of Dublin (detail above) is a genuine work of genius, and one of the best maps made of any city in 18th century Europe.  Today it forms a superb and indispensable resource for anyone interested in Dublin, its streets, buildings its religious, cultural, social or political history.

Just one example of its use, (from many thousands) is how it reveals the changing streetscape, or the locations of dozens of long-vanished, sometimes near-forgotten churches, of multiple denominations, from Catholics and Anglicans to Dutch and French Churches (French always means Huguenot in this 18th century Dublin context)  to Presbyterian and Quaker meeting halls across the city.  But the map can be used in an infinity of ways…

Roque All.

It was first published 1756, later revised and republished several times.

For his original, highly through survey, Rocque, a London based Huguenot, devised a new, combined system of “chain” measurement, combined with triangulation, (with triangulation and viewing points often taken up on the city’s many church spires).  But he was also incredibly painstaking with drawing and detail, all rendered very accurately and indeed very beautifully.  Just look at this tiny section, expanded here, showing the tiny ships and even what appear to be individual lengths of timber, lying in a lumber yard!


Look here at this section, expanded further, and the ships, lying at anchor in the river.


Or here, below, an section north of the ships buildings, expanded even further.   Look how the level of detail holds up.   Then bear in mind,  this same map stretches west out to Dolphins Barn, south along the coast right out to Ringsend and north to Clontarf!  And then think, how everything is rendered at this same level of detail.

GLASS House and THOMAS Ch Malb St

Below, another detail expanded, of ships upriver at Dublin’s former Custom’s House, where import was once levied prior to the building of James Gandon’s later 18th century new Custom’s House, that masterpiece further downriver. 


Not just detail, but cartographic accuracy is also part of the miracle.  Experts tell me that even in this age of satellite imaging; Google-Earth, number-crunching super computers and advanced mathematics, Rocque’s survey measurements stand up remarkably well.  But even with his new techniques and approaches aside, I still can never quite fathom just how he managed to do it to even measure, note down and record, let alone draw, and engrave such vast amounts of information.    Bearing in mind the wide area covered, the level of detail seems almost magical to me, his achievement astonishing.

Either way,  the final result is remarkable.  Rocque’s opus is, for example,  an incredible leap forward from say,  John Speed’s 1610 map a hundred and forty years earlier, (Speed also is also a vital historical record and resource).


Essentially then, Rocque was something of a genius, and his map is one of the best you’ll ever see.

In common with many other historians, amateur and professionals alike, I  often use it to understand and illustrate various development in Dublin’s history.  Current posts available which make use of the map, and/or the later updates by Bernard Scale, (itself based on Rocque’s earlier work)  will be found in a quick list below, which I’ll start on next week.   As new posts are added I’ll do my best to amend this list and keep it up to date.   Many such posts posts zero in on a particular small section of his map, a tiny area, like a watch-house say,  or small chapel on a single street corner,  to focus attention on one specific aspect of Dublin’s 18th century history.   Either way,  I hope you find them useful or enjoyable.

List of posts where Rocque’s map used as reference and illumination. (constantly being updated, please bear with us while we install the links and add more, or visit us again).

1- On Pitt St/Balfe St, and courtesan Peg Woffington, see here.

2-  On Bartholemew Mosses Rotunda Lying In Hospital, see here.

3- On Cavandish Row,  and Rutland Square (today Parnell Sq) see here.

4- For a piece on John Speed’s 1610 map, and some tips on interpreting that, see here.

5-  To see a piece about a wonderful map made by Edwardian scholar Leonard Strangeways,  showing the route of Dublin’s medieval walls and many of the old city’s ecclesiastical and public buildings (and to understand how some key institutions like the Four Courts and old Customs House frequently moved location)  -see here.

6-  to subscribe to the free monthly newsletter, which notifies you when our sociable Dublin Decoded historical and architectural walks of Dublin take place each month,  (walks run about 2-3 times p/month,  March to November each year)  please see here.

7-  To go direct to the Bibliotheque National digitized version of John Rocque’s map of Dublin,  go here.

NB:  all these links are instructed to open in a new window, so you won’t loose your place on this article and index.

We’ll improve the list up above, and further cross-referenced with new resources, links and articles, as we go along. cI hope the insights we can  gain from this legendary map give you some interest and pleasure over the winter months.    Do come in and visit us again to see what’s new each few weeks.

Until then, thank you for reading.


11 thoughts on “Rocque’s map, that endless treasure trove.

    1. my pleasure Oglach! It sounds like you are getting the same kind of kick out of this map i always do. Genuinely think it’s a masterpiece, and something of a miracle. I’ve added a link now direct to the big hi-res digital version, (added in the resource index above.) Thanks as always for your comments and support. -Arran.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fascinating! The detail and skill are extraordinary. Your explanations drew me into the post (I rarely read posts. I am more of a picture looker). I can’t wait to show this to my brother in law who will be visiting us from Dubbers this Xmas. He will help me make more sense of it and be equally fascinated, I’m sure. Looking forward to more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is truly wonderful – I’m from Dublin – now in West Cork – from time to time things just come into my head – why were St Brides school and church in Ship Street – imagine there was a former entrance in old Bride St – also where was St Johns Protestant church that gave its name to St Iohns and St Brides United national School – in Fishamble Street – where I went to school! I definitely must get my laptop repaired – this screen is too small! Thank you so much for bringing this Map to people. Jo


  3. Thank you for this I loved wandering around the Liberties as a child in the early 50’s then further afield to the Tenters eventually getting as far as the Museams, with a couple of friends we would set out not realising we looked a little untidy, to say the least! But most times we managed to persuade the porters to let us in, probably because we were girls! I look forward to trying to see this on a big screen thank you again. Jo


    1. Thank you Jo, for the information, and for such a great response. Absolutely delighted you enjoyed/ enjoy this amazing map as much as I do. I frequently spend hours looking at it. It can become an obsession! But yes, will definitely repay looking on a big screen. Come back again, because I’ll put up more links at the foot of this article, as soon as I get the chance, link both to the map at BNF direct, ( the big digitised version) plus to some articles you may enjoy here on using the map, with more context and historical background on selected small section. Thanks again- Arran,


  4. So cool and such a useful tool for historians! I often find the place I’m researching to be just off the edge of a map or not mapped at all historically. It’s so exciting to see such useful maps!

    Liked by 1 person

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