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Manorial maps

From the 16th century onwards, some lords and ladies of the manor began to employ surveyors and cartographers to draw up maps of their lands for them to keep with their manorial documents. Prior to this time the manors would have only been described in written Latin documents. The terrier was a written description of a manorial lord or lady’s property by acreages and boundaries. The manorial maps, when they were introduced, would then provide visual details of the manor’s boundaries and might include some information on the adjoining manors and parishes. Topographical features would also be marked on these maps and they may also show the different types of land included in the manor. At first the manorial maps were more of a representation but in time they became much more likely to have been properly measured and drawn to scale.

Maps may have been drawn up to illustrate a particular aspect of the manor, for example to indicate the location of commons or the extent of encroachments that were being made.

Manorial maps could accompany surveys of the manor, or they may have been created for the purpose of identifying who rented which piece of land. Numbers included on maps could relate to accompanying tables that list field names, who the tenants were and the acreages.

When doing our research we should always bear in mind that a single landowner may have held several manors and their tenants could move from one part of his overarching estate to another. This could explain why a researcher’s ancestor, who had previously been identified on a manor, may suddenly appear in or disappear from a certain parish over time. A lord or lady of the manor could also be a landowner that held some freehold properties with tenants which were not part of any manor and so not on the maps or in the other manorial records.

Manorial maps, as with other documents pertaining to a manor, may have remained in private hands. To find where many manorial documents are located today the Manorial Documents Register (MDR) is particularly useful. This resource enables researchers to find the location of large numbers of surviving manorial documents in England and Wales. The MDR is an index of manorial records in these two parts of the British Isles and provides the researcher with brief descriptions of documents, including manorial maps, detailing their locations whether in public and private hands.

See also: estate maps.