Who Do You Think You Are?


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


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 maps.nls.uk and thegenealo­gist.co.uk 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 ( apps.national archives.gov.uk/mdr).

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 exploreyor­k.org.uk.

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