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Sawston Village History Society

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About SVHS
The Sawston Village History Society normally meets on the second Thursday of every month (see diary for upcoming meetings). There's a wide range of speakers and subjects related to the history of Sawston and Cambridgeshire. Interested?

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SVHS notices:
Special note about the September meeting

The next meeting on 12th September will include a short AGM, and then a talk from the Revd Alan Partridge on the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Subscriptions of 10 for the next year will be due at this meeting and we shall also be asking members to fill in a new membership form to comply with GDPR regulations.


Tony Moss

Tony, who had been a member of the committee for over ten years, died on 29 March. He wrote some careful reports about meetings and notably gave a talk about the model Australian gold rush ship he had constructed and brought the large model on a trolley from his house to the meeting. We send our sympathy to Pam and the family. Several members of the society were able to attend his funeral service on 22 April.


An archive of former notices is available.

Latest Meeting Reports
Historical Maps of Cambridge, by Dr Sarah Bendall

Dr Sarah Bendall from Emmanuel College gave the talk at the June meeting on Estate Maps from 1570 to 1830. She illustrated her talk with a plethora of estate maps, many from Cambridgeshire.

One of these was from Chippenham in 1711 made for Edward Russell MP for Cambridge and later Lord Lieutenant. Chippenham was the first estate village in England and he wanted the map to show his prestige and his authority over his tenants. He later planted trees to reflect the manoeuvres of the ships at the battle of La Hogue in 1692 where he had fought.

Estate maps began in the sixteenth century at a time when land was changing hands after the dissolution of the monasteries and new owners wanted a record of their holdings. By the eighteenth century they had become very ornate with a title cartouche, a compass rose and the acreage of each field shown. The nineteenth century saw more restrained maps but also plenty of topographical detail with inns, dovecotes and windmills drawn in perspective. Fenland maps showed duck decoys and boats on the rivers.

Another example came from Long Melford where Sir William Cordell acquired the manor and in 1580 had a vast map made on nine sheets of parchment to show off his wealth. His rise in importance was reflected when he entertained Elizabeth I at Long Melford in 1578.

Aristocrats, gentry and even more humble landowners all commissioned maps by the 1800s, while in Cambridge the colleges were the main employers of surveyors to map their often extensive lands. The enclosure movement created a huge demand for maps as the layout of villages changed so much.

Maps could be hung on walls to show off the extent of the estate, or bound in books and kept in the library. They were also used by stewards for practical purposes. In some, the features of the manor house and church were accurately drawn, but others used stock images and one would-be gentleman even had a self-composed coat of arms on his map. Of the surveyors, two who worked in Cambridge were Alexander Watford and Joseph Freeman.

This talk was very well received and stimulated questions and discussion.

Mary Dicken

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