Historical Maps

In October 2019, we gathered at the History Centre in Chippenham for a maps workshop.

Maps of Bremhill

Notes on sources from the workshop, 17 October 2019

Note: OS = Ordnance Survey, WSA = Wiltshire & Swindon Archives (at the History Centre)

Because we are local historians our history is concerned with places, and the history of places equates with historical geography, which naturally involves maps. Historical maps help to answer one of the basic questions posed by local history – what has happened here?

Since c.1880 large-scale Ordnance Survey maps have been an easily accessible and reliable record of topographical change. The most useful for rural areas are those published at 6-inch (1:10,000 or 1:10,560), and 25-inch (1:2,500) to the mile scales. Until the 1940s these are known as county series maps, and 6-inch maps are described as, for example, Wiltshire sheet XXVI (Roman numerals are printed on them). Each 6-inch map covers the area mapped at 25-inch by 16 sheets, in four rows of four, so Wiltshire sheet XXVI.1 is the first quarter of the first of four rows, and so on. These maps were published in the 1880s, and revised in the 1900s and 1920s (and sometimes later). Post WW2 maps at these scales use national grid squares, for example ST97SW (for 6-inch), ST9476 (single) or ST9475/9576 (double) for 25-inch maps.

Much OS mapping is available online, through the National Library of Scotland Georeferencing site, which has a slider to show satellite imaging, (https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore) and Know Your Place West, which enables comparison between different editions (http://www.kypwest.org.uk). Some are also available on British History Online (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/wiltshire).

Other information was added by colouring some OS maps, including solid and drift geology, land use classification and land utilisation (1930s). For geology an excellent online resource is this: https://www.bgs.ac.uk/discoveringGeology/geologyOfBritain/viewer.html. Inland Revenue valuations were prepared in 1909-10 based on OS maps, with accompanying schedules, and these enable one to discover the ownership, occupancy and nature of all parcels of land. They are held at WSA (for Bremhill you need to order L8/1/25 and L8/10/27) and in greater detail at the The National Archives, Kew. For Wiltshire these records are not available online, but it may be worth exploring https://www.glos1909survey.org.uk/ for examples and explanations relating to a neighbouring county. Sale catalogues produced after c.1880 generally use OS mapping and parcel numbers, and often give details of field names and (sometimes) tenants. We looked at WSA 1409/15/19, Cadenham sale 1883; and WSA 1225/36, Foxham and Avon sales, 1910-11, with accompanying legal documents.

Before c.1880 printed maps exist, but in rural areas generally to a smaller scale. The OS produced 1-inch to the mile maps (in southern England) during the period 1800-30, and other commercial mapmakers did likewise (e.g. the Greenwood brothers). Earlier than these is Andrews and Dury’s map of Wiltshire 1773, which has been published as a reduced facsimile. Greenwood and some other small-scale printed maps have been reproduced in a Wiltshire Record Society volume (52) and the first edition OS 1-inch maps are also available in modern editions.

A variety of manuscript maps survives, mostly from the 18th century and later. There are four main categories. Tithe maps, and the apportionments that accompany them, were drawn up in the 1840s to convert tithe collection in kind to money payments. They are to a large-scale and number each land parcel subject to tithe. The apportionment gives details of owner, occupier, field name, land use and acreage, but not in numerical order. Very little of Bremhill was included on its tithe map (WSA T/A Bremhill), as most tithes had been extinguished previously. Inclosure (or enclosure) maps and awards give somewhat similar information, though are not so uniform. Much of Bremhill was inclosed by Parliamentary act in 1775-7 and maps exist with the award (WSA EA 10). When a public undertaking was proposed, such as a canal, turnpike road or railway, the proprietors were required to deposit plans and schedules to the local authority (which before 1888 was Quarter Sessions). Many of these survive, even if the project did not proceed, and so there is a set of plans and schedules of an aborted railway line across Bremhill (WSA A1/371/108MS).

The fourth and most diverse category of manuscript maps are estate maps, produced for a variety of administrative, legal and prestige reasons. These can date from as early as the 16th century, but are more often of the 18th-19th centuries. They may be meticulously drawn, showing buildings, hedgerows, gates, etc, and usually give parcel numbers, distinguish land use, and name neighbouring owners. Sometimes they include a schedule of field names and acreages in a corner of the map, or there may be a separate survey in book form, to which the numbers correspond. Often only the map or the survey has survived, but sometimes a lost survey becomes reunited with its map, and vice versa. Some estate maps cover a whole, or large part of, a parish, but those for Bremhill at WSA relate to quite small areas. We looked at WSA 1001/3H with its survey, WSA 2062/11, the estate of Sir James Tylney Long, 1796; WSA 4274/1H, the estate of William Crook, 1802; and WSA 1171/139H, Lord Crewe’s estate, 1848. There are other Bremhill estate maps in the library of the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes (and probably at Bowood).

Although none of the Bremhill maps available tell us about land use in the parish before the later 18th century, because we can derive from them the names and locations of fields and other features, it is often possible to make deductions about disappeared buildings, quarries, recent inclosures, open-field agriculture and previous occupiers, etc, from the names themselves, or by comparing the names with earlier surveys which do not have related maps but refer to the same names. We looked at a small survey book of Cadenham and other manors, 1713-25 (WSA 451/272) and a much larger survey of the Baynton tenants and their landholdings in Bremhill, dated 1612 (WSA 122/1). There are books to help us understand the significance of field names, and of fields themselves as an indicator of agricultural history, in particular: John Field, English Field Names: a Dictionary (1972); John Field, A History of English Field Names (1993); and Christopher Taylor, Fields in the English Landscape (1975, revised 2000). There are many books describing historic maps and their uses, for example Paul Hindle, Maps for Historians (1998).

John Chandler

October 2019

Photographed is John Chandler with a varied selection of maps covering the parish of Bremhill.