local history john west george the fifth by the grace of God















end of the book
background reading online
original sources
custody of archives
online catalogues
a national archive
a framework of documents
end of the book?


A Framework of Documents

If we embark on an online study of a chosen village like Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire, we combine a search for place and documents. Some records, such as Saxon Charters and Domesday Book will set the early local scene and topography. Later, manorial Court rolls re-create the village’s medieval population and land-use. Taxation returns such as Lay Subsidy rolls will identify the names and status of leading villagers; sixteenth and seventeenth century probate inventories will populate many homes down to the last saucepan. Enclosure Plans and Awards, matched with early 19th century Tithe commutation create an image of landscape, land-use and landowners in times of agrarian change. More recent inhabitants will be identified and numbered in national Census returns from 1841-1911 and their communal activities recorded in each parish’s minutes and the county’s Quarter Sessions. How much of this raw material can we find online?

There is no compulsion to follow the time-line slavishly; the pattern is like a jigsaw puzzle of which we do the straight bits first. Taking up any search by title only (e.g. Lay Subsidy Rolls) will guarantee a list of websites which provides all the basic information you need, plus some transcripts and occasional facsimiles. Use any county’s website as well as your own choice for the best background information and specimens. For your own place’s document you may, as in the case of Chaddesley Corbett, find that the Worcestershire Record Office offers no on-line search and your on-line search ends.


1: Place Names from the 7th century (see example)

These explain the origins of a place, its location or ownership with evidence of physical features, .topography and settlement by Celts, Saxons, Danes or Frenchmen often incorporating its earliest ownership and their family names. In olden days, a useful starting point was Ekwall’s Dictionary of English Place-names, now, sadly out of print and re- modelled.1

Ekwall’s edition is well worth seeking out, as (unlike the modern edition) each entry traces the development of the place-name by a sequence of documentary origins. Thus Chaddesley is Ceadresleage in a Saxon Charter of 816, Cedeslai in Domesday Book and Chaddesleye Corbett in a Subsidy Roll of 1327. Other places may also refer to Court Rolls, Inquisitions post Mortem, Pipe Rolls, Poll Tax rolls, maps or Anglo-Saxon wills. Prompted by such landmarks it is now time to search out these sources on the net. Book and computer work together in many similar combinations.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_name_origins

Before translating the name of your chosen village study, first consult: http://www.englishplacenames.co.uk/

This is an excellent textbook on place-names, with special reference to Norfolk and Suffolk. Simply Google “Place names” for websites of sources for Sussex, Cornwall, Kent, the Yorkshire Dales and many more including a searching analysis of North East England with interactive maps on: www.northeastengland.talktalk.net

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2: Anglo-Saxon Charters A.D. 604-1066 (see example)

To map the Saxon boundaries of parts of a village we need a seventh century grant of land there by a king or overlord to a dependent church or follower. Ironically, the first two documents, possibly the most recondite of all, are ready-made for internet search. In 1968 Peter Sawyer’s “Anglo-Saxon Charters” was literally a landmark, now sadly out of print.2 Instead, we can now turn to a complete outline and index in: http://www.kemble.asnc.cam.ac.uk

This is “The Electronic Sawyer”, a site which provides his authoritative background study of Charters, a list of grants by Kings, another by date. There is a facility to “Browse by Archive”, inserting place-name search to bring up, e.g. for Abingdon: 160 charters, each one summarised by date, site, grantor and beneficiary. These indexes are infinitely browse-able but to find Chaddesley Corbett’s charter for the hamlet of Wolverley it is, as yet, simpler to consult Sawyer’s original Index. Here we find the outline of King Edgar’s grant to Beorhtnoth his comes of land in Cookley in Wolverley in 964.3

The Charter web-site modestly acknowledges that “we are currently developing a search function which will have various options including the facility to “search for a charter” or to “search for a manuscript.”. To read an outline of the Wolverley charter we must leave our computer to seek Sawyer in the Library. To see a copy of the original we must approach the British Museum.4 Or see its facsimile in Village Records (Plate 1)

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3: The Domesday Survey of 1086 (see example)

To read a description of an Anglo-Norman community after the Conquest consult: http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk/index.html

This monumental series of 11th century county surveys portrays the post-Conquest situation of countless English villages. It reveals a picture of the replacement of Saxon thegns by Norman feudal overlords with numerical details of the peasantry, a count of all their ploughs and livestock and the total value of the estate, sometimes “waste”. Wikipedia offers an excellent guide to Domesday with map, facsimile and county circuits. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesday_Book

Searching more precisely not only one but two sites offer printouts of a chosen place. e.g. the entry for Chaddesley Corbett (Worcs.) These are: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/domesday/discover-domesday/

The National Archives choice offers an immediate invitation to “enter your town or village” producing in response a choice of six thumbnail facsimiles of entries in and around Chaddesley. “I want this one” produces an attractive tinted facsimile of the original “Cedeslai” survey with an English translation. @ £12.95. “Domesday Extracts” gives a black-and-white printed extract for £3.50. Each of these offers facsimile, transcript, glossaries and other background details including a deeply searching final test on our understanding of the facts and working of Domesday. This, so far, on my own steep learning curve has been the most exact match of any requirement by internet. It totally dispenses with my original Phillimore edition of the Worcestershire Domesday Book.5 although the three companion volumes on Places, Persons and Subjects 6 are still essential for in-depth analysis. Domesday Book is indeed a national IT treasure.

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4: Manorial Court Rolls c1250- 2000 (see example)

The most colourful picture of any village’s medieval life, work and disorder lies in its Manor Court Rolls. A simple, plain language search for “Manorial Court Rolls” yields a bundle of sites, such as Maidstone (microfilm copies), Cardiff, Doncaster C.C Newcastle-under-Lyme etc. A few CROs like Cornwall, Wiltshire, Cumbria and Dorset offer their catalogues but these are best searched from their websites or on A2A. There, merely use the “Search” window as “Manorial Records” and choose the county’s name from the list. “ Somerset” will produce 15 catalogues with 20 hits. Press “Details” for a full description of each bundle of documents.

Continuing to search online for Chaddesley Corbett’s manorial records, I find that Worcestershire Record Office’s website has no catalogue until 2009. Turning to A2A raises six possible catalogues from 1170 to 1992 with 7 hits in all. These list many Worcestershire manors: Croome d’Abitot, Feckenham, Powick, Upton Snodsbury and dozens more. The most useful feature of this method of searching the details is that it accepts the “Find” option but “Chaddesley Corbett” produces no result Only by searching for “manorial records” without repository can it be disclosed that as an estate of the Throckmorton family of Coughton Court, Chaddesley’s court rolls are housed in the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive at Stratford on Avon. A return to A2A armed with this information discloses 919 hits dated from 1230 to 1900. Here we find more than 200 documents relating to the yeomen of Chaddesley, their messuages and rentals. Facsimiles of two such court rolls, for November 1375 and October 1401 can be found in Village Records.

Moving further afield we find that Lancaster University’s “Cumbrian Manorial Records” http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/projects/manorialrecords/gallery/court_books.htm offers an outstanding guide to each type of manorial document, with facsimiles and translation of each. Start here for first experience of Court rolls. Continue with reference to “Medieval Source Material on the internet” http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/guide/man.shtml

Here we find yet another massive online Library which includes not only titles but entire texts, including facsimiles from cover to cover of complete books.7

Also invaluable are: The Manorial Documents Register (Historical Manuscripts Commission) http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/guide/man.shtml and the National Archives: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/mdr/ which offers a place-name search for twelve counties.8

Another invaluable tutorial guide to manorial history and its records can be found on Nottinghamshire CRO’s website: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk.libraries/archives/

Starting helpfully from “What are manorial Records” the guide illustrates different types of manorial Court rolls, accounts. rentals, Custumals, Extents and maps, with tinted facsimile examples from West Markham, North Wheatley, Dracklow, Rudheath, Mansfield, Bolsover, Arnold, Upper and Lower Locko and Newark. An outline of the skills required to read and interpret these documents includes a lengthy Glossary of medieval words and legal terms. Whatever our own locality for local study, Nottingham’s website is an essential introduction. Yet another valuable search engine is found in: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html

This contains a massive selection of actual court rolls searchable from the Manorial Documents Register, for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cumberland, Hampshire Isle of Wight, Lancashire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Surrey, Westmorland, Yorkshire and Wales; the Manors of the Abbey of Bec (Wantage, Berks, Bledlow, Bucks, Povington, Dorset, Ruislpi (Mx.) Weedon Beck (Northants), Cottisford and Swincombe (Oxford) Blakenhall (Suffolk) Tooting Surrey, Preston, Sussex, Atherston, Warwicks, Deverill and Ogborne (Wiltshire) and dozens more are stored in full texts.

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5: Royal Forest Law c. 1100 – 1600 (see example)

Large tracts of English land, including inhabited villages and crops as well as wasteland were designated as “ Forest” – land which was “fores” or outside the common law. These areas were administered by Royal foresters and ruled by Justices of the Forest. Fines and imprisonment were levied on those who offended against the king’s venison or the royal vert (land and verdure). These laws tended to restrict the common rights of manorial agriculture. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_forest

Channel 4’s Time Team also offers useful data: http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/snapshot_forests.html

An interesting modern interpretation of the Verderers’ Courts of the New Forest is found in: http://www.verderers.org.uk/rights.html

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6: Deserted Village sites c. 1300 – c.1700 (see example)

Throughout the Middle Ages, and continuing into Tudor and Stuart times, many villages became vulnerable and might even be exterminated. Depopulation by plague or economic changes, sheep ranching or lordly landscaping, even modern industrial projects, had no concise period but leave considerable archaeological and documentary evidence. “Time Team” on Channel 4 website offers a wide-ranging background study: http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/arch_web.html

“The Internet Medieval Sourcebook” produces a massive library of texts: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html

This is IT’s digital library in full force.

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7: Borough Charters c.1042-1700 (see example)

The earliest records of a town’s incorporation, usually granting burgesses the right to own their burgage plots and to pay a fixed “farm” in place of numerous tolls and dues.

Removed from the sheriff’s jurisdiction, the town was governed by an elected council with a common seal and their own officials, mayor, reeves and coroner. These rights were eventually superseded by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 etc.

The best available introduction to Borough charters is found in “Medieval Writing” by Dr. Dianne Tillotson: http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/word/borough1.htm

See also: http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/sources/charters.shtml
http://www.trytel.com/~tristan/towns/glossary.html A useful, extensive Glossary

A2A selects 2,336 references to “Borough Charters” without entering one repository. If we browse and select our own choice, say “ Grimsby” we learn that North East Lincolnshire holds 14 of the borough’s charters which date from 1227 (Henry III) to 1974 (Eliz. II) and 70 volumes of Bailiff’s rentals from 1793 to 1943. Certainly browse-able!

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8: Lay Subsidy Rolls 13 th to 17th centuries (see example)

It is a useful spin-off from the modern fascination with family history that any record which includes surnames, from Domesday to Census is highly prized in the search for ancestors. This preoccupation also serves the local historian who sees population lists rather as evidence of a community beyond the family. Thus the everlasting national depredation of the impoverished taxpayer offers many a rich harvest to genealogist and archivist alike. Tax returns have been the stuff of English history from Caesar to Gordon Brown. Possibly relatively unfamiliar as an early medieval document, the Lay Subsidy Roll is a village by village record of taxpayers, listed by names and payments. Henry III and his successors levied regular impositions of a tenth or fifteenth of their subject’s goods or “movables”, including crops. The internet offers many unusual aspects of this tax including a published Merioneth roll of o 1292-3 available from Tesco.9

An excellent specimen of a roll from Witheridge in Devon dated 1332 is shown in plain print, a list of 46 taxpayers (including only one woman) who owed from 8d. to 2s. 0d. This is followed by a similar return for 1621. The liability of 23 taxpayers for sums which range from £1 to £10 3s. 4d. illustrate a considerable level of Stuart inflation. Records were kept on lists of names, place by place. A simple description of these taxes, with a typical subsidy roll for 332-3 is found on: http://www.witheridge-historical-archive.com/lay-subsidy-1.htm

Many counties have website addresses for their Subsidy rolls. A brilliant publication of the entire Subsidy for Kent in 1334-5, 10 170 pages village by village, will be found on:http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/058.htm

Yorkshire is also well documented on: http://www.archives.wyjs.org.uk/index.asp?pg=indexhome.htm

This produces an online list of Lay Subsidy Rolls for a whole county, parish by parish in 1379. Finally, we might also strike a lucky hit by entering only the place-name of our study in: http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/sources/tax.shtml with an excellent bibliography.

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9: Inquisitiones post Mortem and Manorial Extents c.1200-1334 (see example)

These are statements of land held and services due from a deceased feudal tenant, usually to establish the age and rights of inheritance of his/her heir, who might be a minor in wardship. For a concise explanation of an I.p.m. see: http://www.genealogymagazine.com/whatisinposm.html

For more detail consult: http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/guide/ipm.shtml

Printed transcripts 1348-1601 lengthy content, useful introduction.

For later examples in print: http://www.paul-ballard.com/IPM.htm

Two articles in Local History Magazine 11 explore the medieval villagers’ ability to recollect the date of past events especially baptisms in a time when there were no parish registers.

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10: County Maps and Village surveys c1560-1900 (see example1) (see example2)

A remarkable British Map Guide for collectors will be found on:http://www.antiquemaps.com/uk/info/mapguide.htm

This approaches the subject by regnal years in four parts from Elizabeth I to Victoria. This covers many more than the usual popular mapmakers like Christopher Saxton (1577), John Speed (1610) and Christopher Greenwood (1722)

County maps show the topography and details of settlements in different periods, showing development and growth, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=48093 is a useful starting point. Most websites advertise galleries and bookshops, some with facsimiles. Nottinghamshire Archives for example, produce a comprehensive guide to this study, citing county maps, estate plans, enclosure and tithe maps each with an attractive specimen facsimile in: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/mapsandplans.pdf

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11: Town Maps and Plans c.1600-1900 (see example)

The appearance of town plans during the late 16th and early 17th centuries marks an important landmark in the study of urban history Some fortunate towns produce an on-gong series of maps through several centuries, revealing stages of urban growth. The existence of a street plan before 1700 is evidence of the growing importance of any town. Many town plans appear as marginal illustrations to a county sheet. Soon there was more careful attention to scale and exact delineation for purposes of town planning, for example of drains .Ralph Agas in his ”Preparative to Platting” (1596) recommended care in this: “The survey should lay out the streets, waies and alleys as may serve for just measure for paving thereof, distance between places and such other things of use.”

Most unusually, this category of ancient documents is difficult to trace by merely Googling - “Town Maps” Inevitably, a whole atlas of present day town centres, their car parks and public offices crops up. It is fortunate that “Historic town maps” finds a ready market place for collectors. See for example: http://www.old-maps.co.uk/

A remarkable sequence of 11 maps of Coventry from 1225 to 200 (plus an aerial photograph) is a cartographic history of the growth of the city is offered in: http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/covmaps/allmaps.php

Although these maps are not ancient documents but a series of hand-drawn modern street plans, they offer a complete historic guide to the city, including street names, castle site, churches, manor house, monastery, town walls and gates. As if this were not enough we can also choose an animated street index and a map showing how the city wall would have looked in 2000. More, each map has site numbers which are active to produce pictures and descriptive text. Apart from an off-hand credit to Rob Orland and an almost hidden “About me..” the authorship of this unique teaching aid is modestly concealed. The extensive notes on sources and development are essential to any local history student Skipton has a similar custodian on: http://www.skiptonweb.co.uk/history/maps_collection.asp

This site offers sixteen lovely tinted A2 and A3 prints of maps which show the development of the town from 1720 to 2003. The maps and air-photographs are offered on sale in a folder by Skipton Civic Society @ £22.

Another welcome collection of 30 maps, starting with Speed’ s Plan of Lancaster in 1610 down to an OS map of 1931. Lancaster University offer this collection for personal, educational or research purposes in Devon: http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/100178/1.html

Always ready with a sale, Parish Chest : http://www.parishchest.com/ has a county list which includes many town plans, such as Durham in 1787 or Bath in 1899 with 12 engraved cenes in black-and-white. “A wonderful collection of West Country maps” from 1695 to 1931 @ £11.50 is advertised. Many of these sample studies are useful historic aids, even if not related to your own place-name.

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12: Parish Records 1530- present day (see example)

In 1538 Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar General declared that all births, marriages and burials must be recorded in their parish. These were once kept in 12 the parish chest but in 1978 a Parochial Registers and Records Measure set a high standard of care and conservation and insisted on proper custody in County or Diocesan Record Offices. Some “chests” may also contain records of the parish’s National School, poor law provision, tithes, enclosure of common land maintenance of highways, militia books and muster lists. These all provide down to earth insight into parochial life through the ages with occasional gems such churchwardens’ powers to enforce the wearing of woollen caps on Sundays.

The basic registers, with other associated documents: such as vestry minutes faculties, archdeacons’ visitations, graveyard registers, glebe terrier, other surveys and local acts are now centrally stored.

Fortunately the current preoccupation with family history has raised a swarm of websites which list and index parish records, usually at a subscription rate. The Genealogist has thousands of records online and available at a subscription rate http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/ Websites are dominated by the quest for ancestors rather than demographic surveys of the villages themselves. The website of “Parish Chest” also offers sale of registers, county by county and parish by parish, alphabetically: http://www.parishchest.com/shop/index.php?cmd=listlinkeditems&cat=D4093

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13: Quarter Sessions Papers 1590- 19 th century (see example)

The Courts of Quarter Sessions date back to 1363 when Keepers of the Peace were formally called Justices and empowered to meet four times a year. The court dealt with both criminal and administrative functions which ceased in 1888 when county councils were introduced.

Cases were presented by village constables. They deal with vagrancy, poor law administration, petty crimes, prison records, transportation and licensing of ale-houses. A concise explanation of these records is found in: http://www.gmcro.co.uk/cs/quarter_sessions.htm and a valuable sample study is found in Wolverhampton’s Archives and Local Studies: http://www.gdn81.dial.pipex.com/quart_sess.htm

Wolverhampton’s courts were held from. 1864-1971. Their study presents, very attractively sample facsimiles and details of content in Record or Order Books, Depositions, indictments, Calendar of prisoners, jury lists and newspaper reports. Wherever your own study lies, if unfamiliar with these records, begin the study in Wolverhampton.

A simple Google for “Quarter Sessions will raise websites for Bath, also Somerset (with an excellent outline of various agenda and an ongoing Project to catalogue 300 rolls online.) See also: Bedfordshire County Council, Doncaster, Peterborough, Sheffield, Plymouth, Powys, Shropshire with an Index CD, the North Riding and many more.

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14: Probate Records 16th – 19th centuries (see example1) (see example2) (see example3)

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century and even in some cases down to 1859 careful records were kept of the assets of a deceased person in terms of household goods, furniture, books, jewellery, clothing, money and commercial or agricultural stock, in order that the will could be “proved”. These lists were “appraised” by reputable neighbours, who often recklessly under-valued their neighbour’s goods. Durham University offers the most comprehensive introduction to probate inventories from their archive of 13,000 documents dating from 1542 to 1720.13 A special aspect of these documents lies in their occasional insight into the size and layout of the deceased’s dwelling house. This facility depends upon the assessors having arranged their list room by room from Hall to Solar over the Hall, from Buttery to Kitchen, Parlour and Chamber above and Cellar below. A qualified architect with an understanding of half-timber structures was able to re-create conjectural plans and elevations of these Tudor homes.14 As a modern internet treatise on this possibility see:“Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles” (using Wills and Probate inventories in building history.) This survey has a county by county bibliography on the subject and a section on using ancient maps for building history. This is yet another valuable source on the web http://www.buildinghistory.org/Wills.htm

An outstanding, comprehensive outline of the content and details of the inventories of the diocese of Durham and north-east England (1550-1720) with specimen document and transcript. offers an essential introduction. httilyrecords.dur.ac.uk/nei/NEI_inventory6.htmhttp://familyrecords.dur.ac.uk/nei/NEI_inventory6.htm

A2a lists 87,696 probate inventories. 33 of these are from Lincolnshire, dating from the 12th to mid 20th centuries. In a lively Elizabeth Exhibition we find John Atkin of Tattershall a musician (1585) whose furniture was worth £8. 2s.including his harp valued at 3s.4d. Here too, are Bridget Simpson who died of the plague (1585), and Thomas Jeffery yeoman of Bolney (1657): "He had 10 thousand of bricks, 1000 foot of beechen boards, 3000 laths, 35 foot of Juch (?) board and 1350 foot of settridge board”. These are shown with facsimile documents and transcript. The Record Office offers order forms with prices online.

There are many fascinating offshoots from the study of inventories. See, for example: Wills and Inventories of Single Women 1611-1700 ( University of Hull, available for download.) http://ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/collection.htm?uri=hist-5063-1

Documentary searches are full of surprises, as when searching for English inventories, we come across William Harvey and his slaves in Macon County, Alabama in 1852. The inventory contains a list of 57 “Negroes” aged from 3 to 50, each valued from $200-900 with Taswell a blacksmith valued at $1,200. The total value being $34,285. This is distanced learning at its most adventurous.

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15: Hearth Tax Returns 1622-1689 (see example)

Every century, including our own has been prone to invent experimental forms of unpopular taxation – scutage, tallage, tithe, customs and excise, poll tax, window tax. and VAT. With the restoration of Charles II a levy known as “Chimney money” was placed on fireplaces in every home. Assessors with rights of search kept lists of householders liable for hearth tax.. Another essential introduction to these documents is offered by Roehampton University, centre for the Hearth Tax Research Project. which is “working to publish the fullest surviving Hearth Tax return for every county in England and Wales.” Start here, with four useful on-line articles with special reference to Durham and Kent’s returns. http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/hearthtax/publications/britishrecordsociety/index.html

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16: Enclosure Awards and Maps 1730-1880 (see example)

From Celtic lynchets, Domesday ploughland and medieval ridge and furrow, local landscapes continually changed. Progress was made by constant growth and “assarting” by lords of the manor or enterprising peasants. Especially in the agricultural Midlands each village’s land lay open and contiguous in two or three or four large areas, each laid down to different crops or fallow without benefit of individual division by hedges or walls. Every man’s holdings lay alongside his neighbours’ parcels of about one acre’s ploughing. A large proportion of every village’s land was open to communal use for stints of cattle and forage. Large untended areas were “waste”. The challenge to individual enterprise was irresistible.

From the earliest days a steady process of exchanges, sales, forfeiture and combinations began to shuffle each man’s portions into new shapes. As early as the 13th century pestilence and agrarian boom began a gradual process of private enclosure of arable land and common. Many deserted village sites prove the depredation of progressive landowners with power of eviction. During the eighteenth century a more purposeful effort was made, better organised than the “ancient enclosures” of Tudor and Stuart times. The landowners’ movement was made by a long series of private Acts of Parliament. Worcestershire Record Office for example holds 117 Acts and plans passed from 1735 to 1881. Opposition was widespread in the form of counter petitions and amendments. In Surrey, for example, of 101 bills submitted from 1730-1839 only 50 Acts were successfully passed. Halfway through this process of continuous demand Parliament accelerated the movement by passing the fist General Act in 1801, followed by further Acts of 1836 and 1840. These Acts made it possible for a group of landowners to enclose their village fields and common without individual reference to Parliament as long as a majority agreed. Over the whole period of organised enclosure 21% of English land was enclosed by more than 5,000 Acts of Parliament which dealt with almost 7 million acres of land. About two thirds of the land had been arable and one third common or waste.

In pre-net years the most complete summary of all enclosure awards was found in W.E. Tate: Domesday of Enclosure Acts and Awards. (University of Reading 1978.) This book tabulates by county every enclosed village with date, place-name and area of enclosure, distinguishing between private and general Acts and specifying enclosure of arable land. This old friend is still well worth consulting.

As a comparison, by far the best internet Guide to Enclosure Awards is found in the National Archives catalogue of Research Guides. This outlines the historical background and uses as an example of “How to find Enclosure Records” the village of Anstey in Hertfordshire (1826) with a specimen Map. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/researchguidesindex.asp?j=1

Berkshire’s website on “How to read an Enclosure Award" is also an essential starting point and a valuable index to that County’s Awards. http://www.berkshireenclosure.org.uk/research_reading_award.asp?h=6#6

A National Archives Research Guide to this subject, includes an example of how to find an Award, with the help of find a document with a specimen map: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=252&j=1

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17: Tithe Awards and Maps c.1836-1842 (see example)

The payment by parishioners of one tenth or “tithe” of their annual produce to the Church was established in Anglo-Saxon times and continued for centuries. Payment was made in kind in crops and cattle. The industrial revolution of the 18th -19th centuries extended this demand to factories and their new industrial goods. This was too difficult a task for the assessors to manage. In 1836 modernisation of the system was proposed by a Tithe Commutation Act The Church's demand for "produce" was re-calculated as the payment of a rent charge. Surveyors known as Tithe Commissioners were employed to map each parish and evaluate each property’s future payment. Commutation of the tax in any parish resulted in a map of numbered fields and houses and a reference table, “Apportionment” or “Award” identified owners and tenants, with the size and value of their farms in numbered plots.

From 1837 to 1851, in parish after parish, this change was recorded in a large, broad Tithe Award or Apportionment. This listed all owners and the tenants who were listed as Occupiers. A complete list and valuation of their property, fields and houses was given, detailing the extent of land laid down to crops, with current prices per bushel. Meadow, pasture, woodland and common were also listed. Each Award was accompanied by a large scale Map of every plot in the village. These Awards and Plans are now deposited in Record Offices and the National Archives.

Among the best of Record Offices’ coverage of Tithe Awards is found on Warwickshire’s website.http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/countyrecordoffice Here we find a list of 174 parishes alphabetically listed from Alcester to Wootton Wawen where tithes were commuted from 1838-1853. These can be searched by parish, owner or occupier. The parish of Barston opens a list of 484 numbered and named places and each entry is successively scanned to view Owner, Occupier and Plots. If we activate a landowner, Letitia Martha Molands, up comes a list of her 50 plots in 1842, the four main occupiers of her land and the details of each tenure, whether land or premises, the state of cultivation and plot size in acres roods and perches with the occupiers’ names

The North Hampshire Map Project have copied six of their parishes’ Tithe Maps for Steventon, North Waltham, Wootton St. Lawrence, Basing, Basingstoke East and West and Worthing. http://www.dutton.force9.co.uk/tithes/portal.htm These are capable of enlargement from 25% to 500%. Cheshire proudly boasts that all their apportionments and maps from 1836-51 are now online. These are matched with OS maps of 1875 and 1916 and a modern map. http://maps.cheshire.gov.uk/tithemaps/TwinMaps.aspx . West Yorkshire have a grant to digitalise all the Tithe Maps which they hold and Leeds report a similar grant to copy 58 maps which cover much of the city. This website http://www.familytreefolk.co.uk/page_11068.html also has a concise account of the history of tithe commutation. The majority of East Sussex’s tithe maps are now available on CD at £13.each. http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/leisureandtourism/localandfamilyhistory/esro/collections/tithemaps/ as are also Cornwall’s 200 awards and maps listed for search from St.Agnes to Zennor. http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4090 These cost £22.50 “with a £5 discount for residents in certain parishes”. The same service is offered by Parish Chest http://www.parishchest.com/shop/index.php?cmd=listlinkeditems&cat=D4093 to a remarkable level. A shopping list of parish CDs @ £3 - £5 includes parishes in East Sussex: Hailsham 1844 Pevensey 1842,Westham 1838;Willingdon 1842 etc with a shopping trolley for immediate orders.

It is clear that documentation of tithe commutation is one of the most reliable connections with the internet. A plain language search for “Tithe Awards” calls up many direct lines. For example: Nottinghamshire (120parishes) http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/home/leisure/archives/archivescollections/summaryguide/archivestithes.htm

Eskdale (Cumbria): (Muncaster 1843) Eskdale with Miterdale (1839-40) Birker (1844) etc.(with excellent maps) http://homepages.tesco.net/~trochos/eskdale/munctithea.gif

Kelsal (Cheshire); http://www.the-dicksons.org/Kelsall/kelsall/tithemap.htm

Wiltshire (Brinkworth 1840) via Genuki: http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/WIL/Brinkworth/BTITHE.htm

and many more; or consult A2A: e.g. Northumberland 207 entries listed. http://www.experiencewoodhorn.com/archive.htm

Or, if I am still nostalgic for “A Book” I must needs consult “Tithe Surveys for Historians” by J,P Kain & Hugh C.Prince, published by Phillimore in 2000.

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18: Commercial Directories c.1760 – 20th century (see example1) (see example2)

These local volumes, available in most towns’ local libraries, were published commercially in County form. A sort of Yellow Pages. Though produced by many local publishers, the format and content of each volume is always much the same, year by year. All of them describe the amenities of towns and larger villages and list principal residents and tradesmen. Details of schools, local churches and postal services, with a brief historical sketch of the origins, development and population at the last census of each place are included.

After such national online treasures as Domesday Book and the National Census Historical Directories, a project of Leicester University is possibly the most astounding coverage of any chosen document so far. The University’s Project, History Directories on: http://www.historicaldirectories.org/hd/ud/usingdir4.asp is a digital library which not only catalogues, county by county, all major Directories (Kelly, Webster, Pigot, Slater etc) but offers, searches of locations, book by book, showing the complete text of any chosen volume. More astounding still, there is the practical facility of an Index to places The student cannot expect more of IT.

On the other hand, should I wish to buy my own copy of a home-town volume,. Pigot’s Somerset Directory for 1830 is for sale. This covers the whole of the county with descriptions of all the towns and main villages, churches, schools etc and a listing of people with trades. Everything from doctors to candle makers, dressmakers working from home to chimney sweeps, butchers, bakers and bricklayers, all for £11.50 and available from: http://www.parishchest.com/

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19: Census Records 1801-1911 (see example)

This is possibly the most complete set of any Victorian archive source. The original and immediate accessibility of the full text of our earliest documents, Saxon Charters and Domesday Book, is matched by this modern example. For general information on census procedure, see Family Records Centre Fact Sheet: http://www.familyrecords.gov.uk/frc/pdfs/census_returns.pdf
See also: http://www.ancestor-search.info/SRC-Census.htm

The earliest decennial censuses from 1801 are not as accessible, nor as informative as those from 1841 and even that is slightly less developed as in later decades. From 1851 tabulated pages give each address by house number and street. Here we find 60 years of population study, street by street ready-made online. Decennial returns online have been recently updated to include the year 1911.

Each household entry is based upon the concept of the “Head” whether married man, widow or single person of either gender. The household is listed in order of age, with the relationships of wife, sons, daughters and grandchildren with the addition of lodgers and servants. The occupation of each employed person of whatever age or gender is entered, whether landowner, tradesman, artisan or professional worker. The entry of Place of Birth after 1841 offers ample evidence of population mobiliry.

It is possible to order complete printed pages online. There are several websites, both official and commercial which supply copies. Unfortunately, as with many other records, a modern preoccupation with personal family history tends to obscure the development of whole communities. Many sites demand a subscription for person-to-person search only, as does: http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/index.php

A local study needs access to page-by-page printouts of a town’s entire enumeration. These are available at cost from: http://www2.nationalarchives.gov.uk/census/default.htm or, as in Northumberland, easily accessible at the County Record Office.

The 1911 returns are now separately available on www.1911census.co.uk  with printouts available at £6.95 for registration and cost of units. Unfortunately in 1911 only a single family per page was returned. This is ideal for the family historian, less so for the local historian who, in earlier decades can survey a whole street at a time.In 1901 also, www.1901censusonline.co.uk  search of  the census returns are also confined to person and address.

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20: Provincial Newspapers from 1690 (see example)

These are familiar records of everyday life and events in past centuries and the present. Many complete sets are already available in town or county archives. The national site to search is that of the British Library’s Newspaper Archive at Colindale online at www.bl.uk This Library houses 920,000 journals’ and newspapers’ titles and has an online catalogue. This offers only complete details of publication date and continuity without printouts or facsimile pages. There is however an online ordering process. Searching from “Newspaper Catalogue subset” by place name. “ Somerset” produces 240 titles from 1810 to date. This Catalogue is one of a set of four which include also a main British Library website of 10,000 pages, an online Gallery of 30,000 “treasures”, Catalogue records of 14,000,000 items and 9,000,000 articles from 20,000 journals. Using the integrated “Search” (other than the Newspaper subset “Radstock" in "Somerset” or "Bristol and Bath" produces titles and dates of 12 journals from 1886 to date.) The integrated catalogue finds another 69 results for Radstock. A typical lucky find was: The Register of Bath published in 1694 by a Somerset physician, Thomas Guidott. This contains 200 accounts of patients’ experiences of the healing effects of the town’s hot waters. Basic facts, summaries and some facsimiles are in most cases adequate summaries of content; otherwise a useful on-line order form (with copyright fee) is provided.

In June 2009 Colindale has announced the addition to its web of 2,000,000  facsimile pages of 49 newspapers dated from 1800 to 1900. These will now  be found on  http://newspapers.bl.uk.  This is the first phase of an ongoing project.  This is a huge step forward in research from catalogues and microfilm to the new paperless study.

The 49 publications are listed alphabetically from Aberdeen Journal to  Western Mail  and are also mapped by location. We find familiar titles like Bristol Mercury. Birmingham Daily Post, and Glasgow Herald, as well as the more evocative Brighton Patriot. (1835), Poor man’s Guardian (1831-5) and Hull Packet (1800-1886).  A valuable introduction if offered under Research  Tools, as well as a specific outline of the background and history of each newspaper: its “audience” and its political or class affiliations.


Search can be extended by entering subject key-words, such as “enclosures” or “poor law”. or village names. For example, the Ipswich Journal offers an account of poor law objectors rioting in Baddingham in 1800.  Be prepared, when subject searching, for a typical response of 4.097 “hits” There were 25 newspapers reporting poor law riots at that time. Selected pages can be easily opened and, if necessary, enlarged, with an effective “Find” function for specific names or facts within the text.


This is in fact a generous website which adds much to the Library’s earlier familiar and well-used Integrated Catalogue.  Registration and payment of a subscription of £6.99 for 24 hours service (100 items) and  £9.99 for seven days (200 items)  The only added advantage gained is permission to download selected articles. Hours of interesting work can be done without charge.

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1. Eilert Ekwall: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names O.U.P (4 th Edition) 1980. Now A.D.Mills: Dictionary of British Place-Names 2003 back

2. P.H. Sawyer: ”Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated Lists and Bibliography” Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks. No.8 1968. back

3. See also G.B. Grundy: Saxon Charters of Worcestershire Trans.Birmingham Arch.Soc.1931 and D.Hooke, Worcestershire Charter Bounds Boydell Press, 1990 back

4. Cotton Ms. Tiberius Axiii fo.185v back

5. Domesday Book: Worcesterhire Ed. John Morris. Phillimore 1963 back

6. Domesday Book : History from the Sources General Editor: John Morris Index Parts 1-3 (Nos.36, 37 and 38.) Phillimore 1992 back

7. e.g. Paul Vinogradoff: Villeinage in England” (1892) back

8. Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cumberland, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Lancashire (parta), Middlesex, Norfolk, Surrey, Westmorland, Yorkshire and Wales back

9. The Merioneth Lay Subsidy Roll, 1292-3 published by the University of Wales Press (hardback) 1976 @ £23.75 from Tesco books back

10. By H.A.Hanley and C.W.Chalklin Published by Kent Archaeological Society (2004) back

11. John West: Local History Magazine No.83 , Jan-Feb. 2001 “How Old is William ?” and No.88, Nov.-Dec.2001 “Medieval Memory” back

12. The outstanding authority on this subject is W.E. Tate’s The Parish Chest. Phillimore 1983 back

13. From: “Inventories in the Probate Records of the Diocese of Durham” by Linda Drury (Archeologia Aeliana, 5th series No.28 2000) back

14. Five of Chaddesley Corbett’s houses as described from 1608 to 1621 were skilfully outlined by F.W.B/Charles in 1962 (John West op.cit) back