These maps show two routes from London to Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire. They come from a small hand-drawn atlas commissioned by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, in 1767. The maps seem to show Luton Hoo as the centre of the universe - but why?
Luton Hoo was Lord Bute's political constituency. Although one of the most hated men in England, Bute was very much at the centre of politics in George III's time. He served as prime minister from 1762 to 1763, and was always scheming to become more powerful in political circles. In 1767, he employed the hugely popular architect Robert Adam to rebuild Luton Hoo as a fashionable model of eighteenth-century good taste. At the same time, he commissioned the atlas which showed his property, and direct links to London these routes made Bute's property look very grand and important as London was the centre of politics and home of the court. The map also showed the homes of powerful men such as Lord Mansfield who had the potential to become useful political friends.
The very opulence of the atlas and the jewel-like quality of the watercolours must also have helped enhance Bute's reputation by demonstrating his exquisite taste and considerable wealth.