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Early Victorian Ordnance Survey Map

Barwicker No. 113
March 2014

The Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society has a map which consists of several maps joined together covering both agricultural and industrial parts of Yorkshire. The maps were published at a scale of six inches to the mile by the Ordnance Survey Map Office in Southampton on 31st May 1852. The map survey was carried out by Captain Tucker R.E. (Royal Engineers) in 1846 - 47.

The map we have covers an area stretching from NW to NE - Huby to Wetherby and from SW to SE - Armley, Leeds to Lotherton. This particular map has an unknown origin. An owner, probably the original owner, had all the estates owned by the "Landed Gentry" tinted blue. This seems to signify an interest in estate ownership. The whereabouts of this map during its first 120 years or so are not known. In about 1975 it was rescued from a barn floor in a poor condition. The rescuer, who lived in the Barwick-in-Elmet parish, found it in a filthy condition and had to cut away the bottom section of the map which had rotted. For 30 or so years it was kept flat on the rear of a pair of wardrobes which protected it from much further damage. When its safe location was due for alteration, the rescuer offered it to the Historical Society.

After ten years with the Society, during which time its condition made it difficult to use, we made a bid (in September 2012) for funding from the Barwick and Scholes Community Fund, which has been set up by the organisers of the Leeds Festival for the benefit of residents. This paid for the map to be cleaned and re-backed by the West Yorkshire Archives Service's conservation section. We now have the map carefully stored in our Resource Centre.

The fund also paid for the map to be photographed in its entirety. However, the image is too large to show the, level of detail which is needed for future use. The society has since arranged for the map to be photographed in eight sections for detailed Inspection. It is hoped that these images, now on this disc, will save the map from being accessed regularly. When examining the photographs of the map you will note the occasional hole and tear in the map. torn edges along the southern side and some irremovable stains. All these testify to the age of the map and its years of neglect in a barn.

We now have a very valuable source of information on the parish in the 1840's. The original purpose of Ordnance Survey maps was for military use. Their value to the general public was recognised in the mid-nineteenth century and the map we now have on a CD is the first made for use by the general public. The production was in the hands of military cartographers in the Royal Engineers and occasionally references of general interest to the military are entered on the map. This map shows references such as "General Wade encamped on Clifford Moor in 1745" and a reference on Camp Hill says "Bullets found here". Modern O.S. maps do not show this type of detail other than the sites of past battles.

The main purpose of the map originally would have been to plan a journey or find particular places. However, with the passing of time, the map's value has increasingly become one of showing what the land was used for at a particular period. As such it is of value to both historians and geographers in seeking explanations as to why the conditions are what they are. The middle of the 19th century was a period of rapid change brought about by the industrial, agricultural, demographic developments of the period. In addition, the map records the boundaries of parishes and boroughs dating from mediaeval times before the rationalisations and revisions in local government areas at the end of the 19th century. Thus there are cases shown in the map of parts of parishes being enclaves in other parishes. It shows features now lost and forgotten such as quarries and footpaths.

By using a computer to examine the map you can do things which you cannot do with a printed map. It is possible to traverse a map which is too large to cover a table top and you can zoom in to see minute detail. Within minutes of examining our local villages we found things which were long forgotten and which we didn't know. The information in the map is too valuable for the Society to keep to itself and we have decided that it should be made available to a wider public. Its reception from members of the society demonstrated that it would appeal to many interests - railway enthusiasts, farmers, historians, geographers and people wanting to see what the land was like before their current or past houses existed. We have distributed the CD to schools within the larger former parish of Barwick-in-Elmet. It could also be of use to all schools covered by the map.


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