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The working maps drawn up by the Inland Revenue under the Finance Act 1910 were handed over to the Wiltshire Record Office in 1979 and are now in the custody of the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. The maps are typically consulted by the public for family and local history research and for evidence to support the existence of public rights of way. There is no other comparable national survey of landownership and occupation in our history.
Our member Bill Riley, from Bradford-on-Avon, has been using the maps for rights of way evidence since 1979 when only a handful of people knew of their existence. As he explains, ‘The maps contain cogent information to support the existence of public rights of way; mainly for restricted byways and bridleways, but occasionally for footpaths too. They are a vital source of supporting evidence for definitive map modification order applications.’ Even in 1979, most of the maps were in poor condition and, with the growth of interest in family and local history, their use has increased and their condition has deteriorated rapidly.
Although archivists were sympathetic to Bill’s concerns about the condition of the maps, they explained that, in the scheme of things, the maps had low priority and conservation was not possible without outside funding. So in 1994, Bill drew up a scheme to raise £15,000 for the conservation of the maps. £10,700 has been raised to date which has enabled the History Centre to carry out much-needed conservation work on the maps but there is much still to be done and, with increased costs and time involved, it is likely that only half the maps will be repaired for the originally agreed sum of £15,000.
‘This is such a worthwhile project and I would be most grateful for any funds that the society and its members can contribute to enable this work to continue’, says Bill. ‘The conservation department have made a beautiful job of the maps already repaired. They are now mounted on linen in sets of 16, as per the OS index, and stored flat in acid-free holders’.
The trustees of the society have already donated £200 to this project as they recognise the importance of these maps for those who are researching the existence of public rights of way. If you would like to make a donation, please click on the button below or send a cheque, payable to Wiltshire Council, to Bill Riley, 141 Bath Road, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1SS. Your donations will be gratefully received and acknowledged with a receipt and progress report from Bill.