House history - maps

House history - maps

Map surveys

Tithe apportionments

The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 provided for the replacement of customary payment of tithe on agricultural produce by a rent charge on landed property. It led to the creation of a vast number of parish surveys or apportionments, each with accompanying large-scale map, executed by local surveyors according to guidelines laid down by the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales. The apportionments, which are arranged in alphabetical order of owners, record the ownership and occupation of houses, fields etc, which can be identified from numbers on the map. The tithe surveys have a special value for house history. Because they were mostly made in the 1840s they hold out the possibility of linkage to other types of surviving records, especially the returns to the national censuses of 1841 and 1851 and the earlier series of duplicate land tax assessments retained by clerks of the peace of counties between 1780 and 1832.

Unfortunately, not all parishes have tithe maps. This is often the case with former open-field parishes enclosed before 1840 which may have made provision for the extinguishment of tithes in their inclosure awards. Almost a third of all Buckinghamshire parishes, mostly situated in the north of the county, have no tithe apportionments and some others have apportionments which cover only small residual areas of the parish. The Record Office holds a complete diocesan set of tithe commutation records for the county. For a list of the parishes concerned see Annual Report and List Of Accessions, 1981. There is another set of tithe apportionments in the Public Record Office, Kew (Classes IR 26, 27).

Inclosure awards

As a result of the parliamentary inclosure movement between 1740 and 1870, inclosure awards exist for over a hundred Buckinghamshire parishes and can be consulted in the Record Office either in the original or in the form of copies. These awards extinguished common rights over arable and pasture land and apportioned compact "allotments" in lieu of common or other property rights claimed. Most awards are accompanied by a large-scale map of the parish concerned, which usually shows houses in block plan and supplies the names of owners - but not tenant occupiers - by means of reference numbers corresponding to an accompanying schedule. Some inclosure awards are in book form, most are rolls. For a concise list see W.E. Tate's Handlist of Buckinghamshire Enclosure Acts and Awards, 1946. For some inclosures minute books, claims registers and other working papers of the inclosure commissioners survive, from which it may be possible to obtain a description of the lands etc, appurtenant to a house before the inclosure.

The 1910 valuation

The Finance Act of 1910 was responsible for a uniquely comprehensive national survey of landed property. These records comprise principally (a) the valuation books, commonly known as the Domesday Books, giving particulars of the owner, occupier, usage and extent (in acres) of each "unit of occupation", otherwise called a hereditament, in every parish, together with the hereditament number and a map reference number; (b) large-scale (25-inch to 1 mile) Ordnance Survey sheets coloured to show the boundaries of each hereditament and its hereditament number; and (c) "field books" which duplicate the information in (a) with much additional data, often including brief details of rooms in a house and the rent, length of frontage, etc. Records (a) and (b) have been deposited in local record offices while (c) are in the Public Record Office, Kew, as class IR58. The deposited hereditament maps are the rough working copies only and vary in their quality and state of preservation. The Buckinghamshire Domesday Books are complete for the pre-1974 county, while the hereditament maps are nearly complete except for the former Slough area.

The Record Office also holds several other local valuation surveys for areas of north Buckinghamshire made in the 1920s and 1930s. The information recorded is in some instances on a par with that given in the 1910 field books. For details see Annual Report and List of Accessions, 1985 (AR 117/85).

Estate maps and other map surveys

Estate maps are often found with the records of the large landed estates to which they relate, but many maps of smaller properties, even of individual farms, are also found separately. Usually, there is an accompanying reference table or book showing occupiers, or the information is shown on the map itself. If, as not infrequently happens, the reference has been lost, the value of the map is greatly reduced. The earliest maps date from the late sixteenth century and are usually of manors. Several fine examples of Elizabethan maps survive for Buckinghamshire.

Some estate maps show whole parishes, including properties not part of the estate concerned. Parish map-surveys of an official character are also occasionally found, usually made for rating purposes in the mid-nineteenth century. Some maps are difficult to categorise but not necessarily the less useful for that. An example is Rutt's "Eye-Draught" of Aylesbury of 1809 which indicates all the houses in the town and their occupiers in a more-or-less schematic fashion. An up-to-date index of maps held in the Record Office (including copies and photographs) is available. Other Buckinghamshire maps in major repositories and in private hands are listed in E.M. Elvey's Handlist of Buckinghamshire Estate Maps, 1963, and examples are reproduced in the companion volume of facsimiles.

If your house is close to a railway line, it may be included in the plan and reference book of the line concerned. Even if not near an existing line, it may have been on the route of one of the many unbuilt lines. So-called "parliamentary" plans of projected new public utilities such as roads, canals and railways were required to be deposited with the clerk of the peace for the county concerned from the 1790s onwards and these are now in the Record Office. Duplicates are also preserved in the House of Lords Record Office. Most of the maps are large scale and show a strip of land on each side of the proposed route within the limits allowed for deviation; names of owners and occupiers are given in the book of reference. A one-inch Ordnance Survey index map showing railway routes is available (P.u/U).