Rocque, John (Jean) (c.1704–1762), cartographer, surveyor, and landscape designer, was born in France into a huguenot family of four children. After spending some time in Geneva, Rocque arrived in England (c.1709). His earliest published works, consisting mainly of plans and prospects of gardens and country residences, mostly around London, date from 1734; his brother Bartholomew was a celebrated horticulturist and landscape gardener. By the late 1730s Rocque had branched out into cartography, and the decorative and illustrative aspects of his garden plans were also manifest in his cartographical output.
When commissioned to survey landed estates, he often took the opportunity to produce county and town surveys of the local area. He undertook his first real cartographic endeavour, a map of Bristol, in 1743. His map of London (1746), the outstanding plan of the capital produced during the eighteenth century, accurately marked the locations of huguenot churches in the city. Moreover, many of his publications bear French subtitles, hinting at close links to the local French community in the city, itself central to the engraving trade in the first half of the century.
His business prospered as he produced maps and atlases of foreign towns, principally the European capitals. Having begun his career in the huguenot enclave of Soho, he moved to Whitehall and then to the Strand after a fire destroyed his premises and possessions. Replacing his stock in Paris, he reestablished his business at the centre of the London map trade. By this time he was styling himself ‘chorographer’ (topographer) to the prince of Wales and (from 1760) to the king, though this carried with it no official recognition or government remuneration.
Rocque first visited Dublin in August 1754. Initially establishing himself at the Golden Hart, Dame St., then at premises on Lower Ormond Quay (August 1755), he finally moved (June 1756) to premises in Bachelors Walk. His survey of Dublin Bay was on sale by November 1754. His proposal to map the city comprehensively, for which he sought advance subscriptions, was first advertised in September 1754. However, Robert Kendrick's intention to survey the city, as Dublin corporation's official surveyor, may have influenced Rocque's decision to advance his project sooner.
The city and environs of Dublin (1756) was followed by his most influential work, The city and suburbs of Dublin (1757). ‘Uniquely detailed’ (Andrews, 279) and printed on four sheets at a scale of 200 ft to 1 inch, it so impressed George II that he ordered it to be hung in his apartments. Rocque also published The city and suburbs of Dublin with divisions of the parishes, reduced from the large plan in four sheets (1757), The city, harbour, bay and environs of Dublin (1757), and Pocket plan of the city of Dublin (1757).
His other output in Ireland included three different maps of Dublin city and county as well as surveys of Thurles, Kilkenny, Cork, Co. Armagh (including the towns of Newry and Armagh), Co. Dublin, and ‘the kingdom of Ireland’. Rocque intended to survey the harbours of Cork and Kinsale for publication in 1761, though this project was seemingly never completed. Many of these works carried French titles when published and he also sold a range of imported maps and ‘views’.
His magisterial survey of the earl of Kildare's (qv) estate (1755–60) testifies to his immense reputation. Rocque's impact on Irish cartography was considerable, as references to the ‘French school of Rocque’ in the following century testify. His extended residual influence after his departure from the city after a stay of six years was found in the methods and discriminating quality of his various pupils’ output, especially their estate maps. Rocque continued visiting Ireland until 1760 after which he resided in London, where he died 27 January 1762.
He married first (a. 1728) Martha and secondly (1751) Mary Anne Bew, sister of his apprentice – and later a successful cartographer in his own right – Peter (Pierre) Bernard Scalé. Scalé was more than likely responsible for much of the decoration on Rocque's Irish maps. Rocque's widow continued his business with the help of some of his associates.