Different types of maps and plans and why they were created

Here at North Yorkshire County Record Office, we hold hundreds of different maps and plans covering the length and breadth of the county of North Yorkshire. Here are some examples of the maps we hold and why they were created…

Tithe Maps

Following the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, Tithe maps were prepared to identify lands subject to Tithes. Tithes were one tenth of the annual produce of land or labour, taken as tax for the support of the Church and Clergy. The accompanying apportionment gave details of each plot with a number reference corresponding to a parcel of land on the map. These details included the landowner, the occupier, a name and description of land, the state of cultivation, the quantities in acres, and the amount of tithe payable in pounds, shilling, and pence.

North Otterington Tithe map and apportionment, 1842 [T]

Estate Maps

Estate maps recorded land ownership of townships, villages, and sometimes just a few fields. Included with the map were details such as landowners, tenants, land use and acreage. These could be written onto the map or with numbers in each parcel of land corresponding to a separate survey. Different to Tithe maps, which were commissioned and completed during a short period of time, estate maps can be seen to span over hundreds of years. Land surveys were often commissioned for probate reasons after someone died, when there was a change in ownership, or after new land had been purchased.

A map of the Manor of Crambe, 1703 [ZCG M1/2, Cholmley and Strickland Family of Whitby archive]

Enclosure Maps

Enclosure maps and awards were created with the aim of recording the redistribution of land, showing legal proof of historical ownership and the boundaries of landholdings. Enclosure maps may leave the area of a village blank due to its focus on the subdivision of land. The accompanying award detailed aspects such as ownership, roads, paths, and boundaries.

Prior to Enclosure, land was divided into large open fields in which tenant farmers were allocated strips of it to cultivate; as well as having access to common land for grazing animals. Enclosure, which became widespread by the 19th Century, meant these strips of land in open fields were consolidated into bigger plots, and access to common land lessened.

A plan of lands in the township of Gilling, with the allotments on the common and waste grounds, 1815 [NRRD No11]

You can read more about the enclosure of open fields in this blog post.

Sanitary Maps

Plan of the town of Northallerton, surveyed and drawn by Richard France (surveyor to the local Board of Health) 1852 [DC/NOU]

In the 19th Century, cesspits/cesspools were installed in basements or shared spaces between houses. These would be filled via indoor facilities or outdoor privies – shed like structures containing a toilet. The privies in Northallerton were likely mapped by Richard France, Surveyor to the Local Board of Health, to record the number of them in the area. Modern sewerage systems were built around this time (mid-19th century) as a reaction to the sanitary condition brought on my industrialisation and urbanisation.

Sea Charts / Navigation Maps

Sea charts are maps for navigation at sea, describing seas, coasts, and features such as harbours and shore defences. The 1791 map of Whitby Harbour includes general remarks about Whitby Rock, Upgang Rock, Runswick Bay and the Port of Whitby, and how ships should navigate the sea around it – “To avoid Whitby Rock when you are coming from the south you must keep the north cheek of Robinhoods Bay a little open of High Whitby till you bring Larphill House and the East Pier End in one; you may then stand in for the Harbour.” It also includes views of the land from different direction coming from the sea, remarks for vessel coming into the harbour from the southward, and a plan of the town of Whitby.

Whitby, Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay with inset plan of the town of Whitby and remarks on the port of Whitby, 1791 [DC/WHU]

Defence Maps (Political)

Plan of the defences of Whitby, Francis Gibson, with observations on the town & port, 1794 [M85]

Defences along the coast were needed against natural attacks such as flood, or enemy attacks; ‘Enemy by Sea’. This 1794 map of Whitby appears to have been commissioned for the following reason – “it hath been judged absolutely necessary, since the commencement of the present War, to augment and improve its Batteries, not only for the preservation of internal property, but for the safety of vessels that frequently seek for protection under its cannon.”

You can read more about Francis Gibson’s plan in this blog post.

County Maps

From as early as the 1570s, until Ordnance Survey maps took over in the 19th Century, county maps were the basic unit of regional mapping. They were used to plot the location of villages and towns, parks and rivers, roads, and fields – but not to great detail, they rather gave a general overview of the area. Some examples of county mapmakers include John Speed, Joannes Blaeu, Thomas Jefferys, and Christopher Greenwood.

Greenwood’s map of the North Riding of the County of York, 1834 [ZQH 6/66]

Ordnance Survey Maps

Ordnance Survey is a national mapping agency, originating in 1791 to map Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite rising of 1795. The first OS map was published in 1801 of Kent, at 1 inch to a mile. In the next 20 years, OS had mapped a third of England and Wales. The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 led to calls for large-scale surveys of England and Wales, such as 25 inch to a mile, and the first editions were completed by the 1890s.

You can read more about Ordnance Survey maps on this blog page.

Other Maps and Plans

Other maps we hold here at North Yorkshire County Record Office include…

Mining maps, showing the ground leased by companies both above and below ground.

Legal maps, used in disputed land and boundary lines.

Churchyard plans, used to manage the churchyard burial plots.

Railway maps, showing rail lines and stations.

Constellation maps, map the constellations and their names.

Geology maps, plans of historic designed landscapes, Public Rights of Way maps, road maps, river maps and more…

Further information:

Whilst we hold lots of maps covering a wide range of places and topics, please check our map Guide 3 and Guide 4, available to access as pdfs via links on the front page of our online catalogue, to discover if we have maps that cover your area of interest!