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May 2013 Item of the Month

Plan of Ferryhill by Richard Richardson, 1765

The bishops of Durham and the Dean and Chapter (formerly the Priory) each owned extensive estates and manors across County Durham and also Northumberland and North Yorkshire. In addition to detailing the administration of the church's substantial agricultural and industrial resources, these records include the property transactions of leasehold and copyhold tenants, many of whose names and family relationships would otherwise remain unrecorded. Such records can also inform our understanding of community life, and provide fine detail on particular properties and buildings, including many 19th-century maps. Detailed guides to tracing the history of a property using these collections are available.

An example from the Bishop’s Halmote Court manorial records will be featured in June, and so for this month’s document we turn instead to a map from the Dean and Chapter’s collection of plans and surveys, recording their lands and tenants in Ferryhill in 1765. It is accompanied by a terrier and rental, providing more detail on the individual tenants and sub-tenants and their various holdings. The plan was drawn by Richard Richardson, a land surveyor, estate agent and banker of Darlington active between the 1740s-1780s: the University Library’s Special Collections hold a number of his and his son's works of draughtsmanship, (and indeed a £1 note issued by the bank he founded with John Mowbray). Such maps often include extraneous details: in this instance Richardson has made some attempt to record the appearance and size of individual buildings (click on the image to enlarge). Compare Sir Onesiphorous Paul’s property (no. 248) on Market Street with the building today: described as a homestall (or homestead) in 1765 it is now the White Horse public house. Remnants of an earlier building, perhaps that depicted in the plan, can be seen behind the pub in the photo.

Comparative images: 1765 plan detail and 2013 photo.
Compare the 1765 plan (North at top), and as it is in 2013 (looking South). (Modern photograph kindly provided by Tim Brown).

The boundaries of newly enclosed allotments awarded to tenants in 1637 are also recorded in the plan – the earliest map evidence for these enclosures, and long before the tithe and ordnance survey records series began to be commissioned in the 1830s and 1850s, respectively. The digital image below has been enhanced to bring out the red ink used for the 1637 tenants' names and the stream faintly marked with a long wavy line leading past the ruined medieval mill. The map includes many historical notes of great interest, in this case recording the shifting of the mill higher up the stream "for better convenience of water".

Ferryhill is one of six villages selected to form part of the Village Atlas Project, part of the Limestone Landscape Partnership: the project aims to celebrate the historic environment of these communities, using archaeology, historic buildings, and landscapes, and which, placed in context with the area’s rich biodiversity and geodiversity will provide a fuller understanding of the environment. For more details see the partnership’s website.

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