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Friday, 27 November 2020

You are here! But who was before? Discover history on your doorstep using Cheshire Tithe Maps Online

This blog explains how to get started using our Cheshire Tithe Maps Online website to explore the history of your house, a plot of land or another place of interest.

As you will soon see, delving into the history of a site can sometimes raise more questions than answers, but is still an absorbing activity!

What is Cheshire Tithe Maps Online?


Over 400 individual tithe maps from the 1830s and 1840s have been electronically stitched together to form a continuous and (more or less) seamless map of the whole of the ancient county of Cheshire, as well as a few townships in the Warrington area. 

On entering the website you can see the historic tithe maps on the left-hand side of the screen, and a modern map on the right. You can click anywhere on either map to move the coverage area around, or use the + and – buttons on the right to zoom in and out. Even more usefully, the site also opens with a search box, where you can tap in a postcode or street to zoom straight to a location on the map. 


How can I use the website to find the history of a building or plot of land?


We'll show you how we use the Cheshire Tithe Maps Online website to learn more about the history of a building. 

In this case we are interested in the site of the Neuromuscular Centre (NMC) on Woodford Lane West, Winsford. We have a postcode for this site, CW7 4EH, which we can insert into the location box:




Clicking and dragging on the circle between the 19th century tithe map and the modern day map allows you to directly compare the two maps, revealing what was on the site of the NMC in 1846... Nothing! 



This is disappointing, but the plot does have a number on it... What does this mean? 

The tithe maps show numbered plots, which correspond to an accompanying book (called an "apportionment" - literally how the land was portioned out), which identified the owners, occupiers, and area, and what the land was used for. This last category might just say "House and buildings", or it could be a field name, for example. 

This particular plot is number 438, and by clicking on it we can view the names of the owners, occupiers and the description given in the apportionment:



We now know that the owner was Richard Dutton, the occupier Martha Hodgkinson and the land use … mowing! Nowadays the land surrounding the site is still known as The Meadow.

We can enter these names into the 'Search Tithe Maps By Person' field to see if they own or occupy any other land. 

In Martha’s case she is shown as occupying a few more plots for mowing/pasture, and we can see the full extent of Richard Dutton’s ownership in the area. 



Where next?


If want to find out more about an owner or occupier, the census returns, available for every ten years from 1841 to 1911, are an extremely useful source. They can be searched online through Ancestry and Find My Past.

The small window in the bottom left hand corner of the tithe map website gives the year that particular map was drawn, so the map for Over (one of the historic townships that has become Winsford) was drawn in 1846. A search on the 1841 and 1851 census would be our next step. 

Unless we are very lucky with some very unusual names, we will probably have to make some educated guesses using birth year, occupations and geography to narrow the results down to the likeliest suspects.

The most likely local Richard Dutton appears to reside in Stanthorne Hall and is listed as being a farmer of 172 acres:



The most likely Martha Hodgkinson is more tricky. There is one living at Thurlwood, Odd Rode married to Matthew who is an Agricultural Labourer, but is this a bit too far away? She was born in 1810 and is the only Martha of the right age. 

We probably have to rule out whether another Martha Hodgkinson married or died between 1846 and 1851 using indexes of marriage and death registration online. We probably also need to know more about how far the rural workforce travelled to tend to meadow or pasture. 

If we are interested in verifying these people and knowing more about them we can go down more of a family history route. A search for named individuals or properties on the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies online catalogue may also be useful. Our collections cover a lot of estate, solicitors and institutional records, though unfortunately owners are more likely to appear than occupiers, obviously!

If you are more interested in property or land history you can go back to the maps again. On the Cheshire Tithe Maps Online website click 'Change Maps' and you'll be presented with a list of nine other options you can look at. 



As well as the default options of the Tithe Map and latest Ordnance Survey maps, you can also see the first, second and third Ordnance Survey six-inch plans (published in the 1870s, 1890s and 1910s respectively), as well as aerial photographs taken in 1971-73, 1999-2003 and 2010. 

You can choose which to have as the left map or the right map, and change your selection at any time. Using these snapshots in time you can work out approximately when a plot was first built on, or when a building was demolished. 

The National Library of Scotland have an even more extensive range of Ordnance Survey maps from the 19th and 20th centuries. These can be especially helpful in filling the gaps in the Cheshire Tithe Maps site after 1900.


Interested in historic maps and mapping we have a Walk Through History video

You never know where a quick search might take you - check out the NMC History Project here

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