Maps and plans

Ordnance Survey

The majority of the maps held at the Cornish Studies Library (CSL) were produced by Ordnance Survey (OS). The origins of the Ordnance Survey date back to the mid 18th century. While surveyors started work in Cornwall just after the turn of the 19th century (1803-1811), it was 1813 before maps were finally published for the whole county (at a scale of 1 inch to 1mile or 1:63,360). A copy of what is thought to be an 1820 impression of these maps is held at the CSL.

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Larger scale maps were produced later. South East Cornwall was surveyed around 1860 at 25 inch to 1 mile (approximately 1:2,500) with the remainder of Cornwall being surveyed and published around 1880. At this time 6 inch to 1 mile sheets were also published for the whole county and 1:500 scale (very detailed maps) were developed for principal town centres. With a few exceptions, copies of all these maps are available either in paper or microfilm formats and they are commonly known as the First Edition County Series maps. These maps were revised by a further survey of the county around 1907 and again, although only partially, in the 1930s.

After the Second World War the National Grid system was introduced. Most of East Cornwall was surveyed in the early 1950s and surveys of the rest of the county were carried out between 1962 and 1981. Maps for the whole of Cornwall have been published from these surveys at scales of 1:10,000 and 1:2,500. Maps of the principal town centres have been published at a scale of 1:1250. As with the earlier County Series maps, the CSL has near complete coverage.

There are also many maps of various dates at smaller scales up to and including the OS' latest releases. There are also oddments among the collection, for example, maps that have been annotated by planners, which can provide useful information about urban development.

Tithe payments (traditionally one tenth of a farmer's produce given to support the church) had been around for centuries, but by the early 19th century were in such a state of confusion that parliament passed the 1836 Tithe Commutation Act in an effort to standardise the payment of tithes across the country. The Act replaced the traditional payment of goods for a financial levy to be set in proportion to the annual price of wheat, barley and oats. To achieve this it set out procedures whereby a map would be produced for a tithe district (almost always a parish) with an accompanying apportionment (survey) detailing the amount of tithe payable for each parcel of land.

In Cornwall most of these maps and apportionments were produced around 1840. The scales of the maps vary but are detailed enough to show individual buildings and can be cross referenced with the apportionment to discover details such as land ownership, land use, field names and so on. They are particularly useful for property history.

The CSL holds copies of tithe plans and apportionments for most of Cornwall's parishes; these are on microfiche but are variable in quality and the amount of detail shown. The originals, and digital copies, are held at Cornwall Record Office and digital copies can be purchased from there as well.

During the 19th century many maps were produced to aid the mining industry. Typically they show locations of shafts and the strike (direction) of lodes and cross courses at a particular depth. Paper copies are held for most of the principal mining districts of the county and, as they were usually based on the tithe survey information (but with additions), can be used in conjunction with the tithe plans and other surveys for purposes other than mining research. Cornwall Record Office also holds a large collection of mine maps and plans. 

There are many other maps and charts held at the CSL which were produced for specific purposes such as geology maps and land use and classification maps. We also hold shopping centre plans (Goad/Experian) from the 1970s onwards and a collection of historical and modern hydrographical (Admiralty) charts.