The earliest detailed map of the West Norfolk and Fenland area has been found by Tilney All Saints History Group.
Mounted on display at Tilney All Saints church, the map has been dated back to 1582.
In 1992, the British Library in London bought the original map at a Christie’s auction. An arts grant went towards the purchase price, and it has been on display at the Library ever since.
“I discovered it in an online catalogue” said History Group secretary June Mitchell. “I visited the British library in August to find out more about it”. What she found was a giant map of West Norfolk and the Fens. “I asked would it be possible to get a copy,” Mrs Mitchell added.
As a 433 year-old snapshot of the area, there is plenty that the map reveals about local history.
“What the map is giving us is a great illustration of how not only our village, but the other marshland villages looked in 1582. It will let us see, not just from documentation but from an illustrated map, what was there and when.”
These marshland villages are still standing in the Fenland around Lynn. Those villages on the original map are, among others, Clenchwarton and Walpole. Despite not figuring on the initial 1582 map, Tillney would appear as a marshland town in the area from a century later onwards.
The map also has a lot to reveal about other aspects of the region’s history, including that of the River Great Ouse.
Along the east of the map, a bend in the Ouse that does not exist today can be seen.
Mrs Mitchell said: “If you come down towards Wisbech on the A47, there’s a small roundabout where the old bed of the Ouse would have been”. This would have been prior to the Eau Brink Cut of 1821 diverting the river’s course to what we know it to be today.
A priceless artefact, the map is not the only such interesting article that the history group have unearthed. “Henry VIII brought in registration of baptisms, marriages and deaths.
“Wisbech Museum catalogues a lot of them and it was the history group that found the genuine documents of these for the All Saints parish area,” she said.
Mrs Mitchell and the history group would like to thank Minuteman Press of Hardwick for providing their copy of the map.