Mapping West Sussex – Part Two: County Orienteering and Plotting Estates

By Abigail Hartley, Searchroom Archivist

Maps are one of the most useful resources for family, local, and house historians. They can tell you about the age, changing shape and structure of properties, as well as shifting land usage and ownership. They are also worth looking at in more depth as records in of themselves. Moving backwards in time, we’ll look at the changing usage of maps, why they were created, and where West Sussex sits in the grand scheme of mapping Great Britain.

Add Mss 10172 – Map of the Sussex coast drawn up in 1587

In part one we looked at OS and Tithe maps. Today we look at the county maps that helped paved the way for the OS’s incredible accuracy, and the estate maps the provided the basis for tithe maps division of land.

Early County Maps

PM 119 – Reproduction of Christopher Saxton’s map of South England, 1579

Whilst OS maps were the first in depth maps of the entire United Kingdom which included details like topography, for over one hundred years, it was Christopher Saxton’s map of England which provided the basis for county maps. First published in 1579, Saxton’s Atlas of the Counties of England & Wales coincided with mainland Europe’s greater understanding of cartography, draughtsmanship and surveying. His map showed hills, but no specific altitudes. His English Channel featured creatures fitting of the here there be dragons warning of foreign waters.

John Norden’s own effort followed in 1595. At the time, Queen Elizabeth I’s court was interested in commissioning detailed maps of England. The threat of Spanish invasion is sometimes cited as one reason for this interest.

Several more versions of county maps were published over the next two centuries. Nodern and Saxton’s maps were repeatedly republished, and improvements in surveying in the 18th centuries led to more in-depth maps. These could include rough locations of hills, as well as major roads. John Ogilby, as part of his Britannia Atlas, first published in 1675, detailed the routes between major settlements. The one for Sussex looks a little odd, certainly nothing like the road atlas we are used to, like a long ribbon. Detailing the routes one could take from London to Arundel or Chichester, using villages as a sort of step by step guide. They reference major hills one had to get over on your journey, but otherwise are lacking in some topographical detail.

  • The map is designed like a ribbon, following a path from London to Chichester. It features little drawings of the towns and cities and the ocassional landmark, but is otherwise depicting a sort of straight line path between the two cities.
  • Text alongside the map of the walled city of Chichester states: "The county of Sussex sends 28 members to Parliament, has one city, 17 market towns and 140 other towns and villages. Besides Hamlets and Chapelries, 312 parishes is divided into 6 Rapes, in all which computed there are 1,140,000 acres of land, 21, 537 houses and according to Templeman's survey it contains 1416 square miles, being 65 miles long and 26 broad. NB the Rapes are subdivided into 63 hundreds."

Richard Budgen’s map of Sussex, published in 1724, is important to note as well. It’s amongst the first to make proper use of the compass, uses one inch to the mile as a scale, and includes details in the landscape like hills and forests, as well as inserts showing town plans of Chichester and Lewes and their landscapes. Also included is Sussex’s network of roads.

PM 47 – A 1779 reproduction of Richard Budgen’s Map of Sussex, originally published 1724
PM 249/5 – Section of Richard Budgen’s Map of Sussex, 1724

This served as the most accurate map of Sussex to date. However, improvements were still to come.

PM 46 – Yeakell & Gardner’s map of Sussex, 1795 edition

This brings us to Thomas Yeakell and William Gardner. Originally employed by the 3rd Duke of Richmond, Charles Lennox, at Goodwood, their initial map was published across four sheets between 1778 and 1783. This time the scale was two inches to the mile. Their maps were so detailed, and used such modern surveying techniques, that the Ordnance Survey would later use their maps as a starting point.

In 1782, the Duke of Richmond was appointed Master General of the Ordnance. Employing Gardner under him, in 1791 Gardner produced a revised version of his map of Sussex, bringing the scale to one inch to the mile. He used information that had been collated by the Ordnance Survey team and published further maps, this time with Thomas Gream (Yeakell having passed away four years earlier). This map predated the first OS map of Kent by six years, and when comparing the first OS map to Yeakell, Gardner, and Gream’s, it is difficult to see any major differences in style!

You would think with the advent of the OS maps, other surveyors would fall out of use, but for much of the 19th century, this was not true. Cole and Roper’s map of Sussex was part of a series of county maps and town plans which were published between 1804 and 1810. The maps were based on the work of John Cary and Charles Smith and were some of the last maps to be published before the arrival of the railways. Also joining them before railways took over the county were the Greenwood maps. At 3 guineas piece however, they could be quite pricey.

Maps also began to be valued for their aesthetic as much as their accuracy. Something to hang on your wall as much as provide an accurate topographical view of Sussex. In this instance, surely it is Thomas Moule’s map which takes the crown. The six Rapes of Sussex are shaded in, plus additional delightful engravings of Chichester, Arundel, and the Brighton seafront. Thomas Dugdale and Joshua Archer’s 1842 map is distinguished by being one of the first to show completed (and proposed) railway lines for the county. Again, the six Rapes are shaded in, though topographical details are sacrificed as a result.

Nowadays these older maps are valued for their appearance more than their accuracy. However, the advancement over the 18th century in surveying helped produce maps which were later invaluable to the Ordnance Survey teams when creating their own detailed maps of the British Isles.

Estate Maps

Whilst private estate maps overlapped with arrival of Tithe and OS maps in the 19th century, they far preceded either. Prior to the 16th Century, surveys of estates were largely done in written form. As with many parts of English history, the Dissolution of the Monasteries changed this. There was suddenly a lot of land up for grabs by the aristocracy that had once belonged to the church, and this helped facilitate the desire to map out what buildings, farms and tenants now fell under the new landowner’s domain.

Add Mss 48838 – Map of the Manors of East Dean, Old Lavington and Graffham, by Richard Allin, 1597
E/35D/5/4 – Map of land in Harting owned by Oliver Whitbys Woodhouse by Nicholas Ayling, 1694

They were typically drawn to quite large scales, as well as accompanied by a terrier or field book which listed tenants’ names, rent, and the acreage of the land. This was not as detailed as what the Tithe maps would serve. Indeed, in the 19th century, some landholders would simply order a copy of the Tithe map as a cheaper alternative to commissioning original maps.

Most were drawn in colour, but they did not feature details such as elevation and they deliberately ignored details of neighbouring estates. Otherwise these maps could be as detailed or sparse as desired by the commissioner. Buildings may have been labelled, they may have not. Details of the landowner’s family may have been included, they may have not. Sometimes even little figures may have been drawn going about their business, helping demonstrate what sections of land was used for.

In later years, estate maps helped for land redevelopment when larger estates began to splinter. At WSRO, our biggest estate collections include Petworth, Cowdray and Goodwood, though many other smaller estates have plans and maps that have been privately deposited.

Sandwiched in between estate and Tithe maps were the Enclosure (or Inclosure) awards. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual enclosure acts were passed, affecting 6.8 million acres. If you are hoping for maps to accompany these legal documents, most will date from 1801 onwards. These awards ate into common and waste lands, and whilst this did help contribute to the so-called Agricultural Revolution, abuse of the practice of privatising land was commonplace. Inevitably this forced a lot of people off land and led to disputes over borders and ownership. This was partially addressed by Tithe maps and apportionments.

Click this link to head to our first blog if you would like to read more about Tithe maps!

If any of the above maps look like something you would like a copy of, our online picture gallery has several of the maps featured on the past two blogs available to order online which you can check out at Alternatively, if they are not available through that channel, you can always order them through us! Send us an email at if you would like to learn more.

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