Maps, Surveys, Displays and Other Historical Randomness

I’ve been here, there and almost everywhere over the last few weeks. Trying to find various far flung places is not always easy and sometimes our not so trusty sat-nav fails us (see below for some of the gory details). Mapping our ancestors and the communities of the past is just as important as knowing where we are going in the present. Although it is not a course of my own devising, I am pleased to be tutoring the ‘Maps and Surveys – Locating your Ancestors’ course for Pharos Tutors, starting on 9th August. There may still be spaces, so please do book. The course is primarily about British sources but it is all online, so those of you with British ancestors can study it wherever you are in the world. Apart from a general overview, we shall be looking in detail at one of my favourite sources – the 1910 Valuation Office Survey, as well as the tithe maps and apportionments and enclosure maps. Do join me!

I certainly needed a map on several occasions recently. When we go out swording and spindling, which we’ve been doing a great deal lately, we take a vehicle of suitable dimensions – you try getting eighteen pikes (no not the fish) into a Nissan Micra. So not in the Nissan Micra then but for reasons we won’t go in to, in a vehicle with no way of charging the sat-nav. This means that, in fear of the battery running out, we delay turning on the sat-nav until we get to the point where we are almost lost. Sat-nav set for a school in south east Devon, via Crediton, to avoid as much rush hour traffic as possible and we are on our way. We get well beyond Crediton before we feel the need to turn on the sat-nav for advice. We follow Sally sat-nav’s exhortations to go right, left and ‘turn around where possible’ with only a few slight hiccups when we reach roads that have been built since she was last updated. Suddenly we appear to be miles away from where we should be. I resort to a map (once a girl guide …..) and we arrive with minutes to spare – good job I am genetically programmed to leave what is normally ridiculously early for any event. Later we realise the problem. Even though we were well past Crediton, we had asked to go via Crediton and that is what the sat–nav was trying to make us do – lesson learned.

Amongst all the school bookings have been talks to grown-ups. One was at Devon Rural Archive. We needed a map to find that one too but what a gem. A really great set up, a full house and a very appreciative audience for my seventeenth century gardens presentation. A visit is definitely recommended. Then there was a talk to a Somerset WI who were celebrating their 85th birthday, a yummy birthday tea as well on this occasion! We decided to combine this trip with picking up a ‘collection only’ chest of drawers that I had purchased on eBay. Again we have the large pike-carrying non sat-nav charging vehicle. First finding the industrial estate where the chest of drawers is hiding, comparatively straight forward. Next, getting the chest of drawers into said vehicle – Ah. I had sensibly measured the space at home where it was to go and it fitted. Had I measured the vehicle. Err…. that would be a No. Well, in the end, with much manouvering, we inserted said chest of drawers into said vehicle. Had it been a centimetre larger in any direction we would have been in trouble.

Our local history society has been on display at various events in the village and beyond lately. A few days ago we were part of an open day at a nearby iron age hill fort. Actually getting to the display area by the fort was a logistical nightmare. We needed to get a table, display boards and various books and papers to what was effectively the middle of nowhere. You will note also that this was a hill fort, the clue is in the name. Our Iron Age forebears liked to have a commanding view. We did find the nearest point on the road with the aid of maps, directions and signs erected by the organisers. Sat-navs are no use for hill forts surrounded by woods. We then had to get our equipment along the footpaths to the hill fort. Chris manfully agreed to risk life and vehicle by driving along a bridleway but it was still a jolly long way to transport our belongings. I can verify that I am just too short to comfortably carry a pasting table half a mile without it banging on the uneven ground. Having been blown away at the recent Buckland fete, on this occasion, we were adamant that our display needed to be under cover and out of the wind. Sure enough, we were provided with a large tent, with jolly, retro curtains. Unfortunately, this was a hot day with no sign of wind or rain, so any perusal of our display was limited by how long the public could endure the heat and humidity in the tent! Luckily, we were helped by landrover transport on the way back to civilisation.

We now seem to have summer at last, just as I planned to do things to the house and garden that require temperatures of under 30 degrees, not that I am complaining. I also have visits from small persons to look forward to over the next couple of weeks – hurrah!


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