Thomas Kitchin

Thomas Kitchin

Thomas Kitchin was born in 1718, (one source claims it was August 1719). He died in 1784, so he was 66 years old when he died in St Alban’s, Hertfordshire. He was an English engraver and cartographer, who became Hydrographer to the King. He was the eldest of several children of Thomas Kitchin, a hat-dyer, and his wife Mary Birr.

He was an active Baptist, and married (secondly) the daughter of a notable baptist preacher.

On his earlier maps he calls himself “Geographer to the Duke of York” who was presumably George III prior to his accession.

Kitchin was also an author, and wrote extensively about the history of the West Indies.

He was born in Southwark, which was then in Surrey but is now the Cathedral borough on the south bank of the Thames in London- in which Shakespeare ran most of his theatres. Thomas Kitchin was apprenticed to Emanuel Bowen in December 1732. Originally he based in Clerkenwell, north east of the City, and there he worked “Under the sign of The Star”. Kitchin did not graduate to become a partner of Emanuel Bowen and by 1741, nine years after his apprenticeship started, was no longer apprenticed to him and was working on his own account. But he and Bowen often worked together in their latter years, and on a religious level both became prominent members of the well-known Barbican Chapel in Paul’s Abbey in the City and very actively involved in the affairs of the London Baptist community.

By late 1755 Kitchin was established on Holborn Hill. From 1773 Kitchin was Royal Hydrographer to the King (engraver of marine charts). He married Sarah Bowen, daughter of Emanuel Bowen, in 1739. In 1762, when Sarah died, Thomas took a second wife: Jane Burroughs, daughter of Joseph Burroughs, an educated divine and non-conformist Baptist preacher. Thomas Kitchin moved to St Alban’s Hertfordshire in the 1760’s and lived and worked there for twenty years. He died in St Alban’s, on the 23rd June 1784.  He was buried in the Abbey there but the inscribed plaque has disappeared from his tomb.

He produced John Elphinstone‘s map of Scotland in 1746.

Geographia Scotiae in 1749.

The Small English Atlas was published in 1749 with Thomas Jefferys.

The Large English Atlas 1749-60 with Emanuel Bowen This was an attempt to cover England on a large scale. He is perhaps best known for his partnership with Bowen, with whom he published this work containing detailed county maps, with accompanying descriptions of county towns, fairs and markets.

170 maps for London Magazine were produced between 1747 and 1783. 

 Mitchell Map of North America in 1755.

He worked for the Gentleman’s Magazine.

A Compendium of the Natural History, Geography, Topography, and Antiquities Ecclesiastical and Civil, of England and Wales which had 54 maps. It was reissued periodically in 1764 and 1765.

He worked with Thomas Jefferys and published atlases with him.

He engraved a maps for R and J Dodsley’s England Illustrated in 1764.

The Present State of the West-Indies: Containing an Accurate Description of What Parts Are Possessed by the Several Powers in Europe 1778, a book published by Robert Baldwin of London.

The English Atlas or, “A Compleat Set of Maps of all the Counties of England and Wales”; the maps were the same as those publishers in The Compendium of Natural History.

As an artist Kitchin produced portraiture, architectural and perspective views.

Some say that Kitchin could be a plagiarist and “frequently stole the works of other cartographers”, which, they contend, accounted for his large body of work. Most cartographers stand on the shoulders of their predecessors and all stand on the shoulders of Ptolemy, Speed and Saxton; so most cartographers can be tarred with the brush of “plagiarism”: certainly: Cruchley, Smith, Archer, Morden, Gall and Inglis, and Bartholomew who only succeeded due to the Ordnance Survey. Stole” means very little in this context.

In General a Kitchen map has more in common with Morden of the 1690’s-1710’s than Cary, Walker or the other cartographers of the early days of the Ordnance Survey. It is interesting that he was a Hydrographer for that gives his county maps a degree of empirical detail which earlier cartographers lacked. However generally his towns and hills were still pictorial graphics, this parks were rounded enclosures. If his country maps had one specific purpose, it was travel and tours by horse carriage and stage coach.