Vic­to­ria Hoyle from the newly re­fur­bished Ex­plore York Ar­chives tells Jon Bauck­ham about a beau­ti­ful map that pro­vides a rare snap­shot of early-17th cen­tury vil­lage life

Who Do You Think You Are? - - CONTENTS -

Map of the Manor of Dring­houses, 1624-29

here’s noth­ing quite like dig­ging out an old map and see­ing where your an­ces­tors lived. But while Ord­nance Sur­vey records and tithe maps from the 19th cen­tury are read­ily avail­able on­line (via and the­ge­neal­o­ re­spec­tively), some­times the old­est and most fas­ci­nat­ing maps can only be ac­cessed by vis­it­ing the ar­chives in per­son. One such ex­am­ple sur­vives in York, as City Ar­chiv­ist Vic­to­ria Hoyle ex­plains...

Which doc­u­ment have you cho­sen?

I’ve cho­sen one of the ar­chive’s most visu­ally strik­ing items, the grandly ti­tled ‘Plott of the Man­nor of Dring­houses lyinge within the Coun­tie of the Cit­tie of Yorke, taken Anno Do­mini 1624 and made up 1629 By Sa­muel Par­sons Sur­vaoir’.

It is the ear­li­est hand-drawn and coloured map in York’s col­lec­tion, as well as an early ex­am­ple of mano­rial maps na­tion­ally. It was made by Sa­muel Par­sons, a sur­veyor who worked mostly in the south of Eng­land be­tween 1618 and 1639, us­ing the lat­est tech­niques for map mak­ing. It is so ac­cu­rate, it per­fectly matches the 1852 Ord­nance Sur­vey map.

It shows the York vil­lage of Dring­houses, which lies on the ‘Lon­don roade’ (now Tad­caster Road), as well as the ‘Knares Myre’ (now the York Race­course), the palace of the Arch­bishop of York and sur­round­ing fields and com­mon land. It is in­cred­i­bly de­tailed, with each field and prop­erty marked with its acreage and the name of the owner. Re­mark­ably, the com­mon fields are also marked with the names of all the lo­cal peo­ple who farmed there.

What does it re­veal about our an­ces­tors?

The Dring­houses map is a win­dow into life in a 17th­cen­tury York­shire vil­lage. The way in which each in­di­vid­ual house and field is la­belled al­lows us to re­ally imag­ine the land­scape and com­mu­nity that our an­ces­tors lived in. We can see the lay­out of their main street, the size of in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties – even how many chim­neys and win­dows they had in some cases – as well as the ex­tent of the land they farmed.

The level of de­tail, right down to the names of farm­ers work­ing the 130 strips of com­mon land, means that it also acts as a sort of census of adult males in the area in 1624. If only this ex­isted for ev­ery vil­lage!

Used along­side the parish reg­is­ter, the map makes it pos­si­ble to form a uniquely clear 3D pic­ture of the peo­ple who were born and lived, worked and died in Dring­houses.

The map also al­lows us to glean im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about how our an­ces­tors’ lives were chang­ing in this pe­riod. We know from ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence that dur­ing the Middle Ages, the whole of Dring­houses was farmed in strips. This sys­tem meant that very large fields were sub­di­vided into thin strips and farmed col­lec­tively by the com­mu­nity. Par­sons’ sur­vey in 1624 re­veals a vil­lage in tran­si­tion from strip farm­ing to the en­closed field sys­tem that we know to­day.

To the west of the main n roa ad, the old sys­tem of in­di­vidu ual strips farmed by dif­fer­ent peop ple is still in use. We can see thatt t the West Field is huge, al­most t 73 acres, and farmed by dozend ns of lo­cal vil­lagers. The odd dly shaped North Field is sim mi­larly y di­vided. But to the east of f the road th­ese large fields hav e bee en con­sol­i­dated into smaller field s owned by one per­son.

The map shows sig­nific cant lo­cal landown­ers were alre eady emerg­ing in the early-160 0s. York Coun­cil Al­der­man MrM Breary owned many of thee neww fields on the east­ern side ofo the e vil­lage, as well as two larg ge houses in neigh­bour­ing Mid­dlethorpe. The Walle er brothers, Thomas and Wi il­liam m, were also res­i­dents in Mid­dlethorpe and growin ng land­hold­ers. Al­though the e en­clo­sure of Dring­houses wasn’t for­mally com­pleted un­til 1822,1822 this early map shows old ways of life were al­ready giv­ing way to new al­most 200 years ear­lier.

Why did you choose this doc­u­ment?

This was an ob­vi­ous doc­u­ment to choose for me, not only be­cause it has such a wealth of de­tail about a sin­gle vil­lage but be­cause it also teaches us about the im­por­tance and value of

mano­rial records for fam­ily his­tory. Parish reg­is­ters and records tend to dom­i­nate our minds when we think of re­search­inghi our pre-1837 an­ces­tors, and, of course, they are cen­tral to any re­search pro­ject, but there is so much more to ex­plore!

Mano­rial doc­u­ments sur­vive across Eng­land from the Middle Ages to the 20th cen­tury and are par­tic­u­larly use­ful for ex­plor­ing the lives of ru­ral fam­i­lies.

Mano­rial rolls and rental reg­is­ters, ac­counts, court cases, maps and plans all in­clude in­for­ma­tion about the peo­ple who rented prop­erty or lived their lives in a manor. While the records can be patchier, as well as chal­leng­ingh­lli to fifindd andd nav­i­gate, they of­fer a unique in­sight into the past. Doc­u­ments like the Dring­houses map are a strik­ing ex­am­ple of how in­ti­mately we can know our an­ces­tors through them.

You can find out more about mano­rial records and how to use them at The Na­tional Ar­chives on the Mano­rial Doc­u­ments Reg­is­ter (­tional ar­

TTel­lll us more aboutb t your col­lec­tions...

As well as mano­rial records, York Ar­chives also looks af­ter theh 800800-year-oldld archivehi off theh city coun­cil.

A coun­cil ar­chive might sound a bit bor­ing, but in fact it is packed with use­ful sources for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans. We have the records of the York Freemen (1272-present day), as well as ap­pren­tice­ship reg­is­ters (1573-1930), city deeds reg­is­ters, muster rolls and hearth and win­dow tax ac­counts. We also hold the records of the York Quar­ter Ses­sions, mag­is­trates and coroners, as well as a wealth of lo­cal busi­ness and com­mu­nity ar­chives. You can also find news­pa­pers, traded didi­rec­to­ries,i elec­toral reg­is­ters and a large col­lec­tion of lo­cal maps in our Lo­cal His­tory li­brary.

We have re­cently re­opened fol­low­ing a £1.6mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment, thanks to the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund and have a new pro­gramme of ac­tiv­i­ties and events to en­cour­age as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to ex­pe­ri­ence the ar­chives. You can find out more at ex­plorey­


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