Isaac Johnson Map Collection (HD11/475)

The work of Isaac Johnson (1754-1835) Woodbridge based Topographical Artist and Land Surveyor was extensive.  He surveyed and mapped estates in almost every parish in East Suffolk as well as many in West Suffolk.  His patrons included Suffolk nobility, clergy and gentry, and John Nichols, a London Author and Publisher. The antiquaries Sir John Cullum, Richard Gough and Craven Ord commissioned drawings from him to illustrate their books.

The collection of his maps, plans and drawings, HD11/475 is held at the Ipswich Record Office and is particularly significant as it often contains the earliest surviving map for a Suffolk parish.  When making surveys he also made quick sketches of impressive trees, churches, chapels, houses, cottages, castles and architectural features, including monuments, gateways, windows, porches and monastic remains.  He later used these to embellish many of his maps or worked them up into detailed drawings or watercolours.

Suffolk has fewer parliamentary enclosure maps than many counties due to earlier local agreements.  Johnson’s surveys fill this gap linking with the drafts and copies of tithe maps made by Benjamin Moulton (Johnson’s successor) which also feature within this collection.

Johnson’s work can also be found in

  • ‘Drawings of Suffolk Churches’ Ref HD484/2
  • amongst parish, diocesan, family and estate collections within the Suffolk Record Office
  • the British Library (e.g. Add MS 26108 maps and drawings of antiquities, churches, in the county of Suffolk, 1821)
  • the Society of Antiquaries (Joseph Sim Earle collection includes Isaac Johnson preliminary sketch drawings)
  • and elsewhere – he worked in 12 counties according to Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland, 1550-1850.

The East of England Regional Archive Council provided a grant to enable Suffolk Record Office to fully catalogue the over 2,000 items in HD11/475 to make them more accessible, improve their packaging for ease of handling and long term preservation and to digitise at least 50 items to enable more people to see examples of his work.  The late Professor John Blatchly MBE, MA, HonLittD, FSA, an expert on the work of Johnson and author of Isaac Johnson of Woodbridge Georgian Surveyor and Artist, helped to select the items for digitisation.