National Federation of Bridleway Associations

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Research Sources

The following is a list of books and other material that may be useful for historical research. Most books should be available through inter-library loan, or from your local bookshop if still in print.  Out of print volumes can usually be obtained — often very cheaply — from the AbeBooks website (

Original records are held in The National Archives, County Records Offices, District Archives or Local Studies Libraries.

Historic evidence of a highway is covered by the Highways Act, 1980, s. 32:

‘A court or other tribunal, before determining whether a way has or has not been dedicated as a highway, or the date on which such dedication, if any, took place, shall take into consideration any map, plan or history of the locality or other relevant document which is tendered in evidence, and shall give such weight thereto as the court or tribunal considers justified by the circumstances, including the antiquity of the tendered document, the status of the person by whom and the purpose for which it was made or compiled, and the custody in which it has been kept and from which it is produced.’

In other words, the more information you can give about when and why a particular record was created, the reputation or status of its compiler, where it has been held (e.g. by a government department, open to public inspection), the more authoritative the evidence will be.

Introductory Books

John Riddall and John Trevelyan, Rights of Way: A Guide to Law and Practice, Open Spaces Society and Ramblers Association, 3rd edition, 2001
ISBN 1-901184-45-5, £4.70 p&p, obtainable from the Ramblers.

Universally know as the Blue Book,  this is an indispensable reference source on rights of way law.

John Riddall is a retired Senior Law Lecturer and Land Law author, active in the Open Spaces Society and Ramblers Association. John Trevelyan worked for the Ramblers Association from 1976 to 1998 and is now a rights of way consultant. 

John Sugden, On the Right Track,  British Horse Society, 2000
ISBN 1-899016-25-2, £15 + £1.50 p&p, obtainable from the BHS
John Sugden was formerly BHS Regional Bridleways Officer for Yorkshire and Humberside and has been a speaker at NFBA seminars. This book is based on BHS training material and contains a general description of the legal background and information on various types of historical evidence. 

Books about maps

David Archer, Indexes to the 1/2500 and 6-Inch Scale Maps: England and Wales, reprint of c. 1905-06; OS publication, 2002
ISBN 0-9517579-6-2, £19.50, obtainable from David Archer, tel: 01686 670382
Useful to identify which map is needed for a particular area. It contains a history of the development of the two scales and a reproduction of the ‘Conventional signs and writing’ (i.e. key) to the two scales.

Charles Close, The Early Years of the Ordnance Survey, Institution of Royal Engineers, 1926; reprinted with new introduction by J. B. Harley, David & Charles, 1969

Colonel Sir Charles Close was Director General of the Ordnance Survey from 1911 to 1922.  The book covers the hundred years between 1746 and 1846, and includes letters and documents collected by Major-General Thomas Colby, FRS, Director General  from 1820 to 1846.


Catherine Delano Smith, Roger J.P. Kain, Catherine Delano-Smith, English Maps: A History,  British Library, 1999
ISBN 0-7123-4609-0.  Copies can be obtained from the AbeBooks website.
A serious book on the subject. 


William Foot, Maps for Family History: A Guide to the Records of the Tithe, Valuation Office and National Farm Surveys of England and Wales, Public Record Office Readers Guide,  PRO Publications, 1994
ISBN 1-873162-17-0 85. Copies can be obtained from the AbeBooks website.
William Foot was employed in the Public Record Office for many years. This book is a guide to the records of the Tithe Surveys 1836-c.1850 (under the Tithe Commutation Act 1836); the Valuation Office (under the Finance (1909-10) Act 1910); and the National Farm Survey 1941-43. It describes the records made, where they are held, all with examples and much useful background. As it is prepared by the PRO it is considered authoritative. Well worth tracking down a copy for any work on Finance Act material.


J. B. Harley, Ordnance Survey Maps: A Descriptive Manual, Ordnance Survey, 1975.  Copies can be obtained from the AbeBooks website.
Dr J. B. Harley was the historian of the Ordnance Survey.


Rachel Hewitt, Map of a Nation: a biography of the Ordnance Survey, Granta, 2010

ISBN 978-1-84708-098-1, £25.00

This is actually the biography of the first OS 1-inch map, the Old Series. A fantastically readable, engaging and informative book on how the first map of the country was made.  It makes an ideal present for Christmas or birthday.


Paul Hindle, Maps for Historians, Phillimore, 1998

ISBN 0-85033-934-0, £14.99 (hardback). Copies available on the AbeBooks website.

An indispensable and extremely readable introduction to the subject.


A. G. Hodgkiss, Discovering Antique MapsShire Publications, 1998
ISBN 0-7478-0307-2, £5.99
A useful introduction with a good bibliography and a section on county maps.


Yolande Hodson, Popular Maps: The Ordnance Survey Popular Edition One-Inch Map of England and Wales 1919-1926, Charles Close Society, 1999
ISBN 1-870598-15-6, 30, obtainable from the Charles Close Society

Yolande Hodson has written extensively on OS matters and this book was based on her PhD thesis. As the title suggests, it relates specifically to one single series of the one-inch map, but is useful in that it goes into the subject very thoroughly as well as giving historical insights. In particular it illustrates the inconsistency between the OS disclaimer (that depiction of roads and footpaths on OS maps is not evidence of a public right of way) and the fact that (a) surveyors’ instructions at various times were only to record routes of utility to the public and (b) marketing efforts for the map were strongly directed at ramblers and other tourists. 


Roger J. P. Kain and Richard Oliver, The Tithe Maps of England and Wales: A Cartographic Analysis and County-by-County Catalogue,  Cambridge University Press, 1995
ISBN 0-521-44191-9
This massive book is useful to identify tithe records, where they are located and the process that was followed. Copy available in The National Archives map room. 


Richard Oliver, Ordnance Survey Maps: A Concise Guide for Historians,
Charles Close Society, 1993; 2nd edn, 2005
ISBN 1-870598-24-5, £12.95 inc p&p

Richard Oliver has written extensively on Ordnance Survey maps. 


Roger P. Kain and Richard R. Oliver, Historic Parishes of England and Wales, History Data Service, University Of Essex, Colchester, 2001

An electronic map of boundaries before 1850 with a gazetteer and metadata,consisting of CD-ROMS (3 or 9 depending on format selected) plus book.
One of the difficulties in doing historical research is being easily able to determine the parish/township/tithing, etc., boundary prevailing at the time of the creation of the record. Most records will be based on the ‘historic’ boundary in existence before 1850. Kain and Oliver have researched ancient boundaries from a number of sources and put the information on 115 maps stored on CD-ROMs. The book provides a gazetteer and description of the development of boundaries. The CD-ROMs are viewable using Adobe software. 

To find out more contact: History Data Service, UK Data Archive, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ. Tel: 01206 872326. e-mail: Website: (NB. Do not insert www!).

Cheques payable to University of Essex. 2001 prices: 3 CD-ROM set (Adobe Acrobat PDF format – software supplied) £15 plus £2 p&p; gazetteer book £12.95; 9 CD-ROM set (Acrobat Illustrator v.6 format to provide layers/edit facility – software not supplied) £45 plus £2 p&p.


David Smith, Antique Maps of the British Isles, B. T. Batsford, 1982
ISBN 0-7134-1694-7.  Copies available on the AbeBooks website.
Again, a serious book that contains a useful section on the various map-makers.


T. Pilkington White, The Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom, William Blackwood & Sons, 1886; reprint published by Meridian Publishing Co., Amsterdam, 1975

Lieutenant-Colonel T. Pilkington was Executive Officer of the Survey in 1886. His aim was ‘to convey to the general reader an intelligible idea of the National Survey, without overburdening them with technical details. . . .’ For example, he explains ‘the representation of footpaths across fields . . . on the large-scale maps, and of roads on the one-inch map’, and the use of the annotations F.P. and B.R., the latter used to distinguish bridle-roads from footways and carriage-roads.


Brigadier H. St J. L. Winterbotham, The National Plans:  The Ten-foot, Five-foot, Twenty-five inch and Six-inch Scales, HMSO, 1934 (Ordnance Survey Professional Papers, New Series, No. 16).

Director General of the Ordnance Survey, 1930-34, Winterbotham chronicles the development of the large-scale cadastral maps used for land registration, land valuation, tithe apportionment, etc.  Illustrations include examples from object  and parish name books and lots of maps.








Books about local history

Philip Riden, Local History: A Handbook for Beginners,  Merton Priory Press, second edition,1998
ISBN 1-898937-27-3,  £9.95
As a knowledge of local history underpins all research, a ‘starter’ book is useful. This is wide ranging, concisely written and has an excellent reading list.

David Hey, The Oxford Dictionary of Local and Family History, Oxford University Press, 1997
ISBN 0-19-860080-1
A compact reference book is very useful to provide regnal years (because Acts of Parliament for many years were not identified by name of monarch and the year of their reign) and explanations for all the various strange expressions you will come across in your research.

David Hey (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, OUP, 1998

0-19-860215-4, £12.99

‘The complete guide to uncovering the past.’ David Hey is Emeritus Professor of Local and Family History. 



Books on specific subjects

A Domesday of English Enclosure Acts and Awards
W. E. Tate
University of Reading, 1978
ISBN 0-7049-0486-1
Tate has written extensively on enclosure. This book describes the inclosure process, contains a detailed bibliography and, most usefully, gives a county-by-county description of inclosure acts and awards and where the records relating to them may be found.

Packmen, Carriers and Packhorse Roads
David Hey
Leicester University Press, 1980; new edition Landmark Publishing, 2001
Trade and communications in North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. A detailed account of the pre-turnpike network of packhorse trails. An academic study filled with fascinating details.

Railway Records – A Guide to Sources
Cliff Edwards
Public Record Office, 2001
ISBN 1-903365-10-4
As its title suggests, this identifies the very wide range of railway records.

Seen on the Packhorse Tracks
Titus Thornber
South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust, 2002
ISBN 0-95305-33-X
128 pages, paperback, 105 illustrations
The historic network of packhorse tracks, the precursors of the modern road network, can still be found today in upland areas, particularly the South Pennines. The author describes how they were constructed, and the features found along them and includes chapters on the inclosure process and packhorse vocabulary.

What Is a Cross Road?
Susan Taylor
South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust, 1997
ISBN 0-9530573-0-5
48 pages
£7 inc p&p from the South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust, The Barn, Mankinholes, Todmorden, OL14 6HR
Invaluable in providing authoritative evidence of the status of routes described as ‘cross road’ on maps from 1675 to 1854.

The Old Roads of Britain – Alston Moor, Hartside and Geltsdale
Alan Kind
Hodology Ltd, 1999
ISBN 0 9533987-1-6
89 pages, softback
£7.50 inc&p (cheques payable to Hodology Ltd) from Alston Book, Hodology Ltd, PO Box 117, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 5YT
A study of an area in the North Pennines that shows just how much information can be found about ancient highways if you really look.

English Local Government: The Story of the King’s Highway
Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1913
279 pages
The Webbs were noted Fabians and social reformers who wrote a series of books on English local government. The Story of the King’s Highway gives the history of highways going back to before the first Highways Act of 1555.

Phillimore publications

Phillimore is a prolific publisher of local and family history with a good printed catalogue


The following Phillimore books are particularly readable and relevant, and contain good bibliographies:

Enclosure Records for Historians
Steven Hollowell
Phillimore, 2000
ISBN 1-86077-128-9
175 pages, 252 mm x 191 mm, hardback

Tithe Surveys for Historians
Roger P. Kain and Hugh C. Prince
Phillimore, 2000
ISBN 1-86077-125-4
146 pages, 252 mm x 191 mm, hardback

Roads and Tracks for Historians
Paul Hindle
Phillimore, 2001
ISBN 1-86077-182-3
146 pages, 252 mm x 191 mm, hardback

Maps for Historians
Paul Hindle
Phillimore, 2002
160 pages, hardback

Other useful sources

British Library
British Library: 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
tel: 020 7412 7332, website:

Parliamentary Archives
House of Lords Records Office (more properly called The Parliamentary Archives)
tel: 020 7219 3074, e-mail:, website:

Apart from various descriptive leaflets there is a comprehensive guide to the records of Parliament available:

Guide to the Records of Parliament
Maurice F. Bond
HMSO, 1971
ISBN 11-700351-4
352 pages, hardback
Contains some useful details of how bills were progressed (e.g. railways, turnpikes), although the majority of the book is not of direct relevance.

The National Archives
Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU

Customer service 020 8876 3444

The National Archives produces a large number of information leaflets which are also accessible on their website. Subjects covered include Ordnance Survey Records, Inclosure Awards, Tithe Records, Finance Act Records and Maps.

Useful websites

Access to Archives:

The A2A database contains catalogues describing archives held throughout England and dating from the 900s to the present day


Bodleian Library:

World’s 7th largest collection of maps: over 1 million sheet maps and 20,000 atlases; comprehensive collection of OS maps


British Library:
Access to the main British Library catalogues


Access to catalogues of twenty-four of the largest university research libraries in UK and Ireland plus the British Library and the National Library of Scotland


Historical Manuscripts Commission

The Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) has been part of The National Archives since 2003.  It maintaining databases of archives, including the National Register of Archives, the Manorial Documents Register and ARCHON


Historical maps on-line county by county, including those on county record office sites 


Old Maps:
OS first edition 6-inch maps on line


Royal Society:
Catalogue of the 6-inch and 25-inch county maps and town plans of England and Wales and the Isle of Man, and of the one-inch and smaller scale maps, and other publications of the Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom, to 1 January 1907


The National Archives


The National Archives produces a large number of information leaflets which are accessible on their website. Subjects covered include Ordnance Survey Records, Inclosure Awards, Tithe Records, Finance Act Records and Maps


Victoria County History:
The new VCH, which is currently being compiled, will record the authentic factual history of every city, town and village in England

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