Beware the sea serpent which prowls the Solent Strait and preys on unusually large ships featured on Norden’s magnificent map of Hampshire dating from 1595. His highly decorative map contains referenced symbols indicating market towns, hamlets and castles and also reveals the dangerous beasts which lurked in the sea.  Norden was the first English mapmaker to publish triangular tables indicating the distances between places and to show administrative boundaries within Hampshire.

Norden's Map

Norden’s map is one of many located at Hampshire Record Office. Our collections contain maps from the 16th century to the modern day – a fantastic resource for local, family and house history. Maps can show the development of communications – roads, railways and canals – and they provide graphic documentary evidence of major historical changes that have occurred in our landscape, for instance, the Industrial Revolution and the growth of urbanisation.  Maps also offer an opportunity for family historians to discover where their ancestors lived and the changes that occurred during their lifetimes.   Individual features within the landscape, including buildings, make maps the perfect resource for those investigating their local or house history. Furthermore, maps are often consulted for more practical uses such as finding out about boundaries or rights of way.

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Two different editions of Ordnance Survey maps revealing the change in the area of Eastleigh.

The first known town plan of Winchester is from an inset on John Speed’s highly decorative map from 1612, published in Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain. The inset illustrates Winchester Cathedral, the city walls, Hyde Abbey, St Catherine’s Hill and much more.  John Speed’s map also records a story of how Empress Matilda escaped Stephen, during their Civil War, by pretending to be dead in a coffin and being carried away in a litter from Winchester in 1141.

speed's map

speed inset of winchester

John Speed’s map of Winchester (1612) and inset of Winchester.

A primary map source are tithe maps which were produced throughout the country following the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. There is a tithe map for nearly every parish in the county, showing it at a large scale exactly as it was in c.1840.  Alongside the map is a tithe award which contains information about the name of the owner and occupier of the land and how it was used.

Example of tithe map and ward.

 Another useful collection of maps are those made concerning enclosure.  Enclosure involved the subdivision and fencing of common land into individual plots and the removal of communal rights, controls or ownership over that land, giving the owner sole control over its use, and rights of access to it. Enclosure maps were compiled from the mid-18th century onwards usually as a result of an Act of Parliament.  Unlike tithe maps, enclosure maps do not exist for every parish but only areas affected by the enclosure of the fields. As with tithe maps, the enclosure maps were made to accompany awards which set out who owned each individual field.


Enclosure of North Stoneham Common, 30 Sep 1736.

The earliest maps produced by the Ordnance Survey (OS) were one inch maps derived from larger scale drawings or field surveys now at the British Library, which were compiled from 1800-1820. These were created in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion and due to the fear of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.  However, OS maps which are most useful to the local historian are the maps produced later in the century at the larger scales of 6 and 25 inches to the mile.  These were produced in four editions in the 1870s, 1890s, 1910s and 1920s.


First edition 25 inch ordnance survey map of Alton.

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies holds many hundreds of maps specifically showing lines of communication with the most important of these being deposited plans. These cover all sorts of communications including railways, canals and roads.  Deposited plans may also include what are known as ‘lines of deviation’ within which the route could deviate. Our earliest deposited plan is for the Andover and Redbridge canal 1789 but the series continues right up to the twentieth century and there is for example a deposited plan of the Esso refinery pipelines built in the 1960s.

Ogilby’s map of the London to Southampton road (1675) and Andover and Redbridge Railway and London and South Western Railway: deposited plan (1862).

There are various other different maps which I haven’t mentioned, including estate maps and maps founds in sale particulars. So, why not visit us and delve into the amazing collection of maps we hold here at Hampshire Record Office.

Matthew Goodwin, archivist

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