Mapping York

Anyone who knows me well, will know that I was at the right at the back of the queue when a sense of direction was being handed out. Geography is not my strong point. As far as I am concerned, sat nav and Google maps are life-saving inventions.

Bizarrely however, I have always found printed maps to be rather beautiful things. Perhaps it’s the colours, or the hand-lettered place names on old maps that appeal to me.

So (much to my husband’s astonishment) I signed up for a great online course on given by Anne Ditmeyer. The course (luckily for me) is not about accurate cartography, but more about creatively mapping a place.

I recently spent a few days exploring York – a place I’ve been to many times as it was the destination for our school trip year after year. On this occasion, the thing I noticed most were the unusual street names, many of which date back to Roman and medieval times. Some of the most fascinating ones belong to what have been delightfully christened ‘snickelways’ by former York resident, Mark Jones, who has (hand)written and illustrated a lovely little book on the subject.

Snickelways are the narrow, little snickets, ginnels and alleyways (depending which part of the UK you come from) which people have used for centuries to get to work, or market or wherever on foot. The one that set me thinking was ‘Mad Alice Lane’. And yes, there was a real ‘Mad Alice’, apparently. (She hanged for poisoning her husband in 1823, according to Wikipedia.)


So I created a map of some of my favourite York street names, along with a couple of the things York is most famous for: the railway museum, Roman heritage, tea-rooms and chocolate. And of course, the Minster (but I’m not very good at drawing churches …).


If you’re a fellow fan of maps, you might enjoy this astonishing video of a hand-drawn map by David Atkinson of Hand Made Maps Ltd.



5 thoughts on “Mapping York

  1. Snickelways! I love that! And ginnels! Spellcheck won’t even let me type them, which must mean they are wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Lovely lettering.

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