Hydrographical Mapping

Lewis Morris

Lewis Morris (1701–1765), land surveyor and author, was born on the island of Anglesey. The son of a local merchant, Lewis worked as a deck hand and clerk on his father’s sloop, which traded coastwise from Anglesey as far as Liverpool to the East and Caernarfon to the South1.

In September 1723, the young Lewis was contracted to make a survey of Owen Meyrick’s Bodorgan Estate on Anglesey which encompassed over thirty parishes; the project kept him occupied for three and a half years1. During the making of this vast survey, Morris developed a thorough knowledge of the island including its history, its antiquities, traditions, geology, and natural history.

Detail of the Island of Anglesey Morris, Lewis, 1800. Chart of St. George's Channel: extended by an actual survey... from Liverpool to Cardiff in the Bristol Channel

Detail of the Island of Anglesey‌ 

By 1736 Morris had devised a plan to draw up a ‘Hydrographical description of the coast’ of Wales. The idea for the survey probably arose while he was working as a customs official in Holyhead; at this time there were no accurate hydrographic charts of the Welsh coast and many lives, ships and cargoes were lost as a result. Morris completed the survey under the auspices of the Admiralty, though it would seem they were not always forthcoming either with payment for work completed or with the promised boat essential for his work1.

The survey took over a decade to complete while Morris retained his post working as a customs officer. The result of his labours was the publication in 1748 of Plans of harbours, bars, bays, and roads in St. George's Channel. The chart illustrates the coast of Wales from Formby Point in the north to Cardiff in the south and includes vital maritime information such as the principal harbours; safe anchorages; the extent of sandbanks; and tidal ranges.

Morris, Lewis, 1800. Chart of St. George's Channel: extended by an actual survey... from Liverpool to Cardiff in the Bristol Channel. Published by William Morris. (HBUR 001)

Notes: 1. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19313?docPos=3 (accessed 03/07/13)