Our History

Phyllis Pearsall MBE, with inset A-Z Map cover circa 1940

The present Company enjoyed the daily involvement of Phyllis Pearsall until August 1996 when she sadly died following a short illness. At 89 she continued to play a major role in the affairs of the Company, whilst at the same time writing and painting prolifically with many exhibitions and media appearances.

The story of the early days of the Company is related by Phyllis Pearsall in her book From Bedsitter to Household Name which is available to buy online.

Pre-war the Company had a staff of just two, one draughtsman and Phyllis Pearsall, who dealt with all the indexing, printing, selling, delivering and accounting.

The War years, 1939 - 1945, caused great difficulty at a time when the Company was in its infancy, but by publishing maps showing the current "War Fronts" trade was able to continue, although in a very limited form.

After the War the A-Z Atlas of London was printed by Letterpress method in Holland to overcome the paper restrictions in the UK. The Dutch connection continued until the early 1960's.

In 1966 Phyllis Pearsall became aware that in the event of her death the increase in value of the Company's privately held shares and resultant death duties could place the Company and her colleagues in jeopardy from take-overs or mergers, so she took the unique step of forming GEOGRAPHERS' MAP TRUST for the benefit of the employees.

At that time Phyllis Pearsall virtually gave her shares to the Trust and the ideals and business ethics established from the foundation have set the standards of behaviour and mutual consideration in the current workings of the Company.

A-Z Offices Selection of A-Z atlases
 

In the post-war years the Company extended its range of street and road maps including the A-Z atlases of Birmingham and Manchester. Continued expansion meant that by 1962 the Company had completely outgrown its premises in Gray's Inn Road, London WC1. The showroom was retained, but with the offices and warehouse moving to three industrial units leased in Sevenoaks, Kent, with the loss of just one member of staff.

In 1972 it was acknowledged that as the A-Z insignia was so well-known universally it was decided to incorporate it into the registered Company title as Geographers' A-Z Map Co Ltd and at this time further expansion led to the leasing of purpose built office premises on an adjacent site. This was again out-grown by 1991 when the Company purchased a derelict site in Borough Green, Kent and built its present premises (Office, Drawing Office, Warehouse), moving in on 1 January 1992. In May 2004 the Gray's Inn Road showroom was closed and retail sales transferred to Borough Green.