Friday, October 18, 2019

The Modern Plague of London

The Modern Plague of London is a map showing the density of pubs in central London. On this map the number of pubs in each kilometer square is represented by the size of the yellow circles. The more pubs there are in a square kilometer then the larger the size of the yellow circle.

The areas with the most pubs are mostly found in Westminster and the City of London. On the 16 x 7 square kilometers shown on the map (112 circles) there are only 9 circles where there are absolutely no pubs. The two most central of these circles are both nearly completely contained within parks (Regents Park and Hyde Park). There are two circles which both contain no pubs in south-east London in South Bermondsey. Four of the other circles containing no pubs are found at the extreme eastern column of circles on the map. These circles are all in close proximity to the vertical population desert created by the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road and the River Lea in London's East End.

The title of my map, The Modern Plague of London', was stolen completely from an 1886 map created by the National Temperance Publication Depot. The original Modern Plague of London map was a dot map showing the locations of all the pubs in London in 1886. The original map doesn't extend as far east as my more modern version of the map. So we can't see if there were any pubs along the River Lee in 1886. However the area in South Bermondsey which now has no pubs can be seen on the original map. In 1886 this area did have one or two pubs but was an area mostly covered by a large railway junction - which is presumably why historically there have been very few pubs located in this area.

Most areas of London now have far fewer pubs than they did in 1886. On the whole though I think it is most striking how many pubs have disappeared from London's East End. Huge areas of Tower Hamlets now have very few pubs. If you had walked through these areas in the Nineteenth Century you couldn't have walked very far in any direction without passing a number of pubs. In 2011, in the last UK census, 38% of Tower Hamlets residents said they were Muslim. Obviously having a large percentage of the population who don't drink alcohol has had an effect on the number of pubs which have been able to survive in the borough.

The only reason I didn't create a dot map of pubs in London, like the original Modern Plague of London map, was because I was inspired by Jennifer Bell's recent blog post on Wurman Dots. Rachel's post looks at the maps created by Richard Saul Wurman in the 1960's. These maps show  density by the size of the fills in circles. Inspired by Bell's post I wanted to try my hand at creating a Wurman Dot map.

Strictly speaking circles are probably not the best choice for visualizing the pub data. The circles kind of imply that the areas in between the circles are not covered and that any pubs in between the circles are not included (which they are). Obviously squares or hexagons do not have this problem as they leave no gaps on the map. However there is something very striking about Wurman Dots - which makes a particularly appealing visualization of the data (at least to my eye).

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