A group of us have been allowed to undertake voluntary work at Bradford Local Studies Library (LSL). This offers a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in local history and we are very grateful to the library staff for their unstinting welcome and guidance. My personal project is to report on items in the uncatalogued map collection. Many of the more robust maps are already freely available to the public but a substantial number, many of which are now rather fragile, are in store and don’t seem to have been examined recently.
At present the LSL has two large map tables which combine viewing and storage areas. One table contains current, and one historical, maps. There is also a card based map catalogue. Transferring all the catalogue information from the cards to a computerised database will, one day, be a huge job for somebody. Even without computers, after a little effort, it is usually possible to identify a desired map together with its catalogue index. The index reference should enable the library staff to locate the item. Along with contemporary texts, and field studies, maps form one of a triad of principal information sources for the local historian and geographer. Examples of the data they offer would be the development of transport and buildings, the position of antiquities, the course of settlement boundaries, and the existence of old place names.
How do maps and plans differ? Plans closely resemble maps but usually cover smaller areas and are drawn with a specific purpose, such as the identification of resources or explaining a proposed changes to the built environment. Both maps and plans should be used with caution, as must any historical document. Thought must be given to the purpose for which maps were created and the methods by which they were made. They may not be accurate, nor correctly dated, or they may show developments which were considered but which did not take place. You can date maps by the presence or absence of big landscape features, like mills, turnpike roads, railways or canals. Similarly landowners’ names and dates can be researched and an approximate age of a map mentioning them can be consequently obtained. In my project I cannot possibly have the required depth of knowledge for all parts of Bradford. I may have mentioned before what a helpful community is formed by those researching local history. In this instance I have a group of generous friends generously prepared to help me out with their expertise.
It is already apparent that a substantial section of the reserve material is represented by estate plans. These start to be drawn in the late sixteenth century and usually serve to show the property of a large landowner. They are especially valuable in that they may predate other maps of a similar large scale.
From the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries maps were more usually produced on a county basis. The first famous name in county maps is Christopher Saxton (1577). A generation later John Speed published beautifully produced examples although almost all the information is copied from Saxton. In the eighteenth century John Warburton and John Jeffreys produced Yorkshire county maps with much new information about roads.
In the eighteenth century maps of Bradford itself start to appear. When using these maps it is important to remember that its component townships were not incorporated into the borough, or later the city, at the same time. Heaton, for example, does not feature in Bradford maps earlier than 1882 and Idle & Eccleshill not before 1899. The names of surveyors Dixon and Walker & Virr are closely associated with many nineteenth century Bradford maps. By 1879 a plan of the Town and Environs of Bradford was prepared for the Post Office Bradford Directory. Similar maps accompany the PO Directories until 1928.
Plans for all proposed undertakings such as turnpike roads, canals and railways had to be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace. This very ancient office evolved by the later nineteenth century into effectively a county CEO. Submitted plans for the historical West Riding of Yorkshire are mostly at the Wakefield headquarters of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, but some later examples are kept locally. Enclosure maps are large scale maps produced after a private Enclosure Act, usually in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, or the General Enclosure Acts of 1836 and 1845. The maps accompany enclosure awards by which common land was allotted to local landowners. They do not exist for all places, and usually show only the land that was enclosed, and not the remainder of the affected township.
Tithe maps were large scale maps produced after the Tithe Commutation Act, 1836. The act replaced the payment of 10% of land products in kind with an agreed cash sum. Together with the tithe awards such maps provide information about a township at this time, and the size of landowners’ holdings. From this the monies due to the Church of England from each owner and tenant could be calculated. For the purposes of the act it didn’t matter if a farmer was a Quaker, or a Methodist, or a fire-worshipper; he still had to pay the Established Church. In places where the tithes had already been commuted there are, of course, no tithe awards or maps. Three copies of such maps were made: for the parish, the diocese, and the Tithe Redemption Commission. Copies of those for: Allerton, Baildon, Bolton, Bowling, Bradford, Burley in Wharfedale, Eccleshill, Heaton, Idle, Manningham, Menston, Shipley and Wilsden were deposited at the Bradford branch of the West Yorkshire Archive Service This is located in an office adjacent to the LSL. The LSL itself has a copies of some tithe maps including Tyersal and Wilsden.
Ordnance Survey (OS) maps contain huge amounts of information. The OS was founded in 1791 to produce 1 inch to 1 mile maps for the whole country. The original purpose was essentially military, hence the name. Between 1805 and 1873 the OS was completed in 110 sheets. The local area was surveyed at 6 inches to 1 mile in 1847-50 and published at a scale of 1 inch to 1 mile in 1858 (sheet 92). The 6 inches to 1 mile map was published in 1852 (sheet 216). The survey for the Bradford area was revised and published c.1893 at a 25 inches to 1 mile scale. Later editions were published in 1908 and 1934. OS maps published after the Second World War (National Grid series) are available at 1:1250, 1:2500, 1:10,000 and 1:25,000 scales. There are also examples of OS surveys providing the base maps for regional geology or the location of antiquities.
There are many other map types, for example nineteenth and twentieth century sale plans. Examples of these were drawn up for the Earls of Rosse Estate sale in 1911, which cover large areas of Heaton and Shipley. These, like enclosure maps, usually only show land immediately round the property of sale but are, for perfectly understandable reasons, very accurate. Maps are also included in books, directories, reports etc. Helpfully, several valuable series of maps have recently become freely accessible on-line:
Ordnance Survey maps
Available at the website of the National Library of Scotland:
Tithe maps from the Bradford area
Available at the website of the West Yorkshire Archive Service:
Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society
A small number of maps and plans of Bradford are available at the society’s website:
British Geological Survey
The website of the BGS offers access to several useful maps on the geology of the UK which can be most helpful for those interested in Yorkshire industries:
The website of the Coal Authority offers an interactive map which allows access to a database of sites at which coal mining remains have been recorded:
We are really very lucky to have such an excellent Local Studies Library available. As well as maps there are large collections of books on Bradford, also trade directories, electoral registers and local newspapers. At the moment the LSL is displaying important information regarding the city during the Great War, and it offers free computer access to the websites devoted to family history studies. If you live near Bradford do please visit the LSL. These days, let’s be frank, it’s so often the case of use it or lose it.