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Fire insurance and shopping centre plans

The Map Library holds a comprehensive collection of fire insurance plans produced by the London-based firm Charles E. Goad Ltd. dating back to 1885. Fire insurance plans, and the shopping centre plans which followed, are invaluable sources of detailed information about urban areas and town centres. 

  • Goad insurance plans were made for most important towns and cities of the British Isles at the scales of 1:480 (1 inch to 40 feet), as well as many foreign towns at 1:600 (1 inch to 50 feet). Early editions were updated every 5-6 years by means of revision sheets designed to be pasted on to the original plans. They provide a record of all the individuals buildings and businesses within a street.
  • "Shopping centre plans" began to be produced beginning in 1966, and were published on a scale of 1:1056 (1 inch to 88 feet). These ceased to be printed on paper in 1999, marking the end of British Library holdings.
  • The Map Library owns the archive of Chas E. Goad Ltd 1899-1972, consisting of 39 volumes of letter books and miscellaneous manuscripts that include correspondence, surveys, and indices.
Goad Insurance Plan

Insurance Plan of City of London. Charles Goad. Vol. 1, Sheet 10.London. 1886. Maps 145.b.22. Copyright © The British Library Board


Charles E. Goad was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1869 where he started producing his fire insurance plans in 1875. In 1885 he opened a branch in England and his plans proved to be a big success.

Produced originally to aid insurance companies in assessing fire risks, these plans showed each building, its use (commercial, residential, educational etc.) along with the number of floors and the height of the building. Construction materials were also identified (and thus its risk of burning) as were special fire hazards (chemicals, kilns, ovens). This information could also indicate the likelihood of large groups of people in a building, for example in schools and places of worship. Plans were updated on a regular basis.

As developing technology lessened the risk of fire, the plans evolved into documents about property development and management (shopping centre plans), the use they are put to today. Although Goad fire insurance plans ceased publication in 1970, shopping centre plans which started in 1966 continue to this day. They show town centres and retail occupancy with details of retail category, floor space, fascia name and a wealth of other detail.

Experian, the successor to Goad, ceased producing paper shopping centre plans in 1999 and, as a result, legal deposit at the British Library also ended in that year. However, current editions are still available directly from Experian. They offer digital files as A4 or A3 PDFs, or print-on-demand 1:1000 scale paper plans (A4-A0) covering entire retail centres.

The Goad retail database from Experian is the current incarnation of shopping centre plans.


Fire insurance plans

Original plans. The original fire insurance plans can be ordered from Explore the British Library under the name of the town or city. These are held at various shelfmarks [e.g. Insurance plan of Bristol held at Maps 145.b.9.(2.), Insurance plan of the City of Birmingham held at Maps 145.b.10.(3.), etc ].

Revision sheets can be ordered from Explore the British Library under the name of the town or city (including London) and the shelfmark, Maps C.15. These cover the years 1895 to 1970 in twenty six bound volumes and in four portfolios.


Original plans. To find the correct volume number or letter for the desired area in London consult the graphic index in ‘A catalogue of fire insurance plans published by Chas E. Goad 1878-1970’ at Maps Ref. E. 2. (20.) on open access in the Maps Reading Room.

Central London is covered by volumes 1 -12 at Maps 145.b.22.(1-12).

Other areas of London are covered by volumes A to K at either Maps 145.b.24 [1889 -1897] or Maps 145.b.23. [1899-1904]

Revisions. For later editions London is covered in volume numbers 14 to 21 of the twenty six bound volumes and in two of the four portfolios (all at Maps C.15) as mentioned above under the section ‘Revision sheets’. The revision volume numbers for the London area are arranged by year as follows:

    • Vol. 14.           1922 – 28
    • Vol. 15.           1929 – 38 
    • Vol. 16.           1939 – 48
    • Vol. 17.           1949 – 50
    • Vol.18.            1951 – 52
    • Vol.19.            1953 – 54
    • Vol. 20.           1955 – 57
    • Vol. 21.           1958 – 60

Sheet numbering remains constant throughout the editions.

Shopping centre plans

Maps 1175 (224.). For our holdings please consult the manual records held at the Issue Desk of the Maps Reading Room.

Goad Manuscripts

These can be found on Explore the British Library under the individual town name at shelfmark Maps Goad. MSS.

Goad Archive

Letter books may be found on Explore the British Library under Maps GOAD.MSS.

Further Reading

  • Rowley, Gwyn, British fire insurance plans. Goad, 1984.
  • Rowley, Gwyn and Shepherd, Peter, 'A source of elementary, spatial data for town centre research in Britain'. Area8 3 (1976), 201-208.
  • A catalogue of fire insurance plans published by Chas E. Goad 1878-1970. Part A 'British Isles'. Part B 'Foreign'. Goad, 1984.