Mapping the local community

There are several ways of engaging students, and the public, in local history. One of the most successful for us as a history group, and one students love, is how the place where they live has changed over time.

Old maps feature quite heavily in our displays. Not only do they show how development has changed the place people live, but it also brings to life how people in the past lived. The National Library of Scotland is the most fantastic resource for old maps. You can track the development of places from the late Victorians to the mid-late twentieth century. I use them all the time, not just for written research, but also when planning or investigating archaeology. They also have some of the original maps of the country.

The other maps, which tell an interesting history, are those of the Enclosures of the late 18th and early 19th century. Local records offices will hold copies of Enclosure records, usually maps and a list of owners. Each one had to go through an Act of Parliament, which is also a major bonus because of the detail held within them.

FindMyPast have the 1939 register, which was taken just before the outbreak of war, and amended for about 20 to 30 years afterwards. This has the 1939 maps attached, and is fascianting for those researching bombed areas. I recently found more about my own London history using this, as my great-grandparents were bombed out of the area around the Welsh Harp. I was able to find the street they lived in, the school my grandma went to and the Welsh Harp pub my great-grandma worked in.

The Genealogist is another resource well worth investment in. They are adding in the Lloyd George 1910 Domesday Survey from across the country. This not only includes a map, but also information regarding each house, and piece of land, recorded on the map. Some of the information includes house plans, size of land and what it was used for. Also, on the site, are the 1841 and 1851 Tithe maps. Like the 1910 Domesday Survey, this also includes owners and tenants details, size of land and what it was used for. Through this I found the pub one of my ancestors owned, which was demolished in the late 1800s, after being taken over by the local Rothschild estate. I always knew roughly where it was, but the Tithe map showed the land that they owned, as well as where the pub was.

The Genealogist is expensive, and the Tithe records needs the full package to access it. Local records offices will hold the hard copies, so it is still possible to gain access to them, when Lockdown is eventually lifted. FindMyPast allows access to the 1939 register through an ordinary subscription. Don’t forget to ask local history groups if they have them. If they are anything like ours, we hold nearly all of those records for our area, and have access to the ones we don’t.

The final map I suggest, is not so much a historical map, but one that shows historical elements in the area. The LiDAR map shows archaeological features hidden from view. This is great if you are in a small town or village. Ridge and furrow can be seen, even in fields that have had the modern plough. Features such as Iron Age round houses and Roman buildings can be seen mixing together. This is a really useful tool if you are teaching about archaeology as it is non-destructive, unlike archaeological excavations.

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