Map of the week – Grey Friars, burial place of King Richard III

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Map Date: 1887

Greyfriars was a Franciscan monastic community (called Grey Friars from the colour of their garments), established on the west side of Leicester from about 1255, and demolished at its dissolution in the late 1530s. Although a small monastery, its Church acquired national significance when Richard III was buried there following his death at Bosworth Field.

Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England.

In August 1485, a rebellion led by Henry Tudor landed in Pembrokeshire, with a small contingent of French troops, and marched through Wales recruiting foot soldiers and skilled archers on his way towards London.

Richard mustered his troops and intercepted Henry’s army south of Market Bosworth. The King divided his army, which outnumbered Henry’s, into three groups. One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry kept most of his force together under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford. Richard’s vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford’s men. Northumberland took no action when signalled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the king’s knights separated from his army, Lord Stanley, and Sir William Stanley, who had brought a force to the battlefield, but held back while they decided which side it would be more advantageous to support, led their men to Henry’s aid, surrounding and killing Richard. Richard was the last English king to die in battle.

Following his death at Bosworth Field, Richard III’s body was thrown across a horse and carried to Leicester where, after a period of public display, it was buried inside Greyfriars Church. Ten years later, Henry VII paid for a tomb to be built. The tomb was presumed to have been demolished along with the Church following its dissolution after 1536.

Sir Robert Catlyn acquired the site following its dissolution by Henry VIII and sold it to Robert Herrick, who built a mansion with extensive gardens over the east end of the Friary grounds. These gardens were visited by Christopher Wren Sr. in 1611, who recorded being shown a handsome stone pillar with an inscription, “Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England”. Any remains of such a pillar having long since disappeared with the subsequent redevelopment of the land.

However, the Archaeology service of the University of Leicester, along with the Richard III Society and Leicester City Council, initiated an archaeological study resulting in three trenches being dug across the parking area behind the buildings on Greyfriars. These excavations revealed walls of the cloisters and the Church, enabling a possible layout for the monastic buildings to be drawn. Also found was the complete skeleton of a male showing severe scoliosis and major head wounds. On 4 February 2013 it was confirmed that the DNA matched, that the radiocarbon agreed, and that the characteristics of the bones and the nature of the head wounds were all entirely consistent with it being the remains of Richard III.

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Map of the week – Llanwddyn the lost village of Vyrnwy

Llanwddryn the lost village of Vyrnwy

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The 1200 acre reservoir known as Lake Vyrnwy (Welsh: Llyn Efyrnwy) was created by Liverpool Corporation to supply Liverpool with a reliable and plentiful supply of water. The Victorians built the dam, the first large masonry dam of its kind in Britain, between 1881 and 1888 as a result of the need for a new water supply and it was decided that the pure water of the Welsh mountains was ideal to be carried, by aqueduct, from Vyrnwy to the city.On 14th July 1881 the first commemorative stone was laid by the third Earl of Powys who was one of the owners of the village of Llanwddyn, which was doomed to be drowned by the reservoir. At that time Llanwddyn consisted of the church, 2 chapels, 3 public houses and 37 houses, 10 farmsteads and 1 mill.By the time the reservoir was opened in 1892 a new settlement had been built lower down the valley by the Liverpool Corporation. The buildings of the old village were razed to the ground before the inaugural filling of the reservoir. Even the remains of the dead were removed from the churchyard and reburied next to the new church before the land was finally submerged.

Today the only place you can see the original village of Llanwddyn is on a map.

Maps shown are available from the Cassini Maps shop. Maps can be centred on any location in the UK.

Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 County Series

Published 1855-1896
(available from http://www.cassinimaps.co.uk/shop/downloads.asp)

The origins of the 1:2,500 maps date back to 1840 when it had been decided to extend the 1:10,560 series mapping project to cover the whole of Great Britain. However, it soon became clear that more detailed maps were needed. After prolonged debate about the scale, format and (inevitably) the cost of the new surveys – it was eventually agreed that the whole country would be surveyed at 1:2,500 except for areas of moorland and mountain where 1:10,560 was deemed sufficient.

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The small army of surveyors was once more despatched across Britain while teams of engravers and printers in Southampton eagerly awaited the material this operation would so painstakingly collect.

The first maps at 1:2,500 (roughly 25 inches to the mile, or roughly one square inch to one acre) were published in 1855 with coverage of the cultivated parts of Great Britain being completed in 1896. By then, a thorough revision had already started; indeed, the process of updating the information and publishing the results in a variety of formats has continued until the present day.

Almost every man-made feature of any significance is displayed on these maps which thus form a definitive record of the changing landscape of Britain since the middle of the 19th century. They are of considerable importance to historians (although this would have been inconceivable to their creators). The detail zooms in to house-level and offers a wealth of additional information concerning land usage, communications and boundaries. For genealogists they are of particular use and interest. Not only do they offer countless research clues which no other source can match but they also reveal every nuance of the landscape inhabited by past generations, so helping to explain many of the preoccupations and limitations that ruled their lives.

Ordnance Survey Revised New Series (Colour)

Surveyed 1842-1893 (New Series); revised 1893-1898 (Revised New Series)
Coloured Edition published 1897-1904
(available from http://www.cassinimaps.co.uk/shop/printed.asp)

In February 1804, some ten months before the publication of the first Old Series sheet, the Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick, in order to win a bet, built and successfully operated the first steam locomotive to run on rails. He was unable to capitalise on this achievement and it was left to others, notably George Stephenson, to refine and develop this new technology over the next 20 years. The result was a railway-building boom that was to transform the country.

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Less than 100 miles of track existed in 1830; this had grown to 1,500 miles by 1840, and to 10,400 miles by 1860. The effect on the areas through which the railways passed was often dramatic, particularly around large junctions and termini: an estimated 4,000 houses, for example, were demolished during the building of St Pancras station in London. This revolution helped drive Britain’s increasing prosperity and industrialisation during the rest of the century, and contributed to numerous social changes including the growth of trade unionism, the advent of tourism and the standardisation of national time.

The railways also enabled goods and people to be quickly transported to and from large towns and cities, so hastening the existing trend towards urbanisation. In 1800, around 75% of the population had lived in the countryside and the rest in the towns; by 1880, these proportions had been reversed. As a result, many long-familiar aspects of the landscape were changing for good – and changing far more quickly than they could be mapped. Within a few decades of the first appearance of the one-inch Old Series, it had become clear that the process of surveying, revising and re-publishing maps of Britain was to be a never-ending task, the more so as the maps were increasingly being put to a wide range of civilian, as well as military, uses.

The government and the Ordnance Survey took several measures to address this issue. From the 1840s surveys were carried out at increasingly detailed scales and were used for many purposes including railway construction, geological survey and sanitary reform. In order to ensure complete and accurate coverage, the 1841 Survey Act had already given surveyors the right to ‘enter into and upon any land’ in the course of their duties. Having moved into new premises in Southampton after a fire in 1841 had destroyed their overcrowded Tower of London headquarters, the Ordnance Survey, armed with its new powers and instructions, began work on re-surveying the country. The results, published at the one-inch scale between 1876 and 1896, were later to be known as the New Series. These used the same Cassini projection and origin of Delamere as the earlier Old Series maps. Indeed, the first New Series sheets were little more than reprints of the northernmost Old Series sheets but with a new numbering system.

In 1893 a more thorough revision was undertaken which resulted in the publication of 346 sheets, between 1895 and 1899, of what became known as the Revised New Series (later sheets were merely the same with hachured hills added). Improvements in reproduction and printing techniques helped these to be even clearer and more accurate than their predecessors. By this time, however, another change was being demanded; for from the early 1890s, the military was pressing for a one-inch map in colour. Financial, technical, aesthetic and political considerations as to how this could best be accomplished were hotly debated between the numerous interested parties. In late 1896, the Ordnance Survey concluded that sales of the new maps to civilians would help subsidise the costs, a consideration which helped drive forward production of the first colour one-inch map the following year. Even then, the debate continued, and some features, such as the use of green for woodland (which only appeared on sheets 1 to 73, north of the Preston to Hull line), were amended as the series progressed. Although the final results were something of a compromise between the often incompatible aims of the military, the Treasury and the Ordnance Survey, the Revised New Series in colour stands as an elegant portrait of late-Victorian Britain. As the first coloured one-inch map series, it was also the precursor of Ordnance Survey’s 20th-century mapping which, from the Popular Edition onwards, would be increasingly determined by the demands not of the military but rather of the civilian market. The Revised New Series captures Britain at the height of its imperial prosperity. All but the very largest cities still had clearly defined boundaries, but with little of the urban sprawl that has since overtaken so much of the landscape. The construction of over 16,000 miles of railway track (of which about half survives today) had made its mark on the physical landscape, both by its very presence and through  the social mobility that it helped encourage. Alongside and, increasingly, beneath these new developments, the maps still clearly show many of Britain’s more ancient features and settlements: but these are now dominated by the new Victorian urban society which in many ways forms the basis of our own.