Page revised 21 August 2001




Edward J Law

Whilst maps and plans are extremely useful sources for the local historian they can at times be most misleading. The excellent portfolio of local maps issued by the Huddersfield Library in 1971 contains two maps which must be treated with some degree of caution.

The fact is that most early maps and plans were drawn up for use in the estate offices of landowners, to plan further developments or to display the various tenancies on an estate. In short they were working documents and were updated or amended as occasion required.

The plan of the town of Huddersfield dated 1778 has been updated in certain respects, but the amendments detract only marginally from the usefulness of the plan, as, by and large, we are able to recognise which features are original. Potentially the most misleading of the additions is the depiction of an intended Cloth Hall Street, a thoroughfare which was not promoted until the 1790s.

It is clear that quite a number of buildings or building plots of a later date have been superimposed upon the original plan, though most of them stand out because they lack the reference numbers of the original. In this category are several buildings and plots on either side of New Street, the two holdings superimposed on 334, and that upon 568. However, not all unnumbered buildings are later additions, which is where confusion may arise. I believe that the several unnumbered buildings at Shorehead in the vicinity of the bowling green are original features, as also the group of buildings at the bottom of Kirkgate, which though unnumbered do not have the straight-edged boundaries of the later additions.

The other map which I believe to be thoroughly misleading is the map presented as of 1797. What appears to be the title is in fact no more than an instruction to refer to the Huddersfield valuation of 1797, and the map must be treated as undated.

The first evidence that leads one to believe that it is some years prior to 1797 is the reverse of that noted in relation to the plan of 1778, namely a lack of any indication of Cloth Hall Street, or of the White Hart Inn which is known to have been in existence in 1795. A comparison with the plan of 1778 discloses few differences, apart from the obvious later additions of the latter. There are a couple of buildings, numbers 336 and 341, which only appear on the latter, but this is not necessarily an indication that the map is prior to 1778 for it is possible that the buildings were old property and were demolished some time after 1778. Comparison with another and very similar map held by the library, being a plan in connection with the book of reference of 1780 seems to give clear indication that the '1797' map is actually pre 1780, for whilst the '1797' map shows only a field in the angle of Ramsden Street and New Street, the 1780 map clearly shows a building. There is no possibility that this property was demolished for it was a new building as is indicated on the update of the 1778 plan.

The only firm conclusion to be drawn from these considerations is that the map of 1797 was in fact prepared some time prior to 1780. It would also seem that it is later than 1775, the date when Bank Chapel, shown at the top of Chapel Hill, was erected. It is possible that further dating evidence can be produced, through consideration of the freeholders who are named on the map, or by the identification of buildings of known date. Perhaps other interested parties will be able to provide a more precise dating from their own spheres of interest.

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