Paul Holden, Peter Herring and Oliver Padel, The Lanhydrock Atlas (2010), 400pp.

Winner of the Holyer an Gof trophy for the best Cornish title of 2011

Few publications in Cornwall have been anticipated with as much excitement as the Lanhydrock Atlas. This reproduction includes full colour versions of all 258 maps and is a worthy companion to Gascoyne’s 1699 map of Cornwall and Richard Carew’s 1602 Survey of Cornwall, both published by the Devon and Cornwall Record Society. Together they offer us ‘a door into the lost world of life in the seventeenth century’ in Cornwall and beyond, though from opposite ends of that century.

Generally agreed to be the work of Joel Gascoyne and his team of surveyors, these estate maps were commissioned c.1693 by the Robartes family of Lanhydrock. One of Cornwall’s newer gentry families, they held ‘the most scattered estate of any in the county’. The maps, reproduced at about half life-size, cover a staggering 111 different parishes or more than half of all Cornish parishes. From Jacobstow to Land’s End, there is a marked concentration in mid and west Cornwall including Lanhydrock House.

The publication comprises two important chapters of original research on the Robartes family, and the Cornish landscape of the maps – a ‘countryside riddled with discontinuities and taut with dynamism’. Prehistoric brick-shaped fields, and open field strips or stitches farmed intensively for four out of every ten to twelve years counter the notion of Cornwallas a pastoral county. On the other hand, we learn, that moorland was essential terrain to grow hay for overwintering stock away from the farmyard. Buildings are rarely shown in detail but include churches, dovecotes, mills, fish cellars, a market house, holy well and even a ‘cage’ or prison. Chapel fields are rare because the maps show tenant farms not freeholds. Roses, marigolds, carnations, tulips and strawberries, reflective of late 17th century horticultural interests, form the centres of compass roses, while exquisite vignettes of social life include tin miners, and a milkmaid.

This book is a visual delight which should be welcomed by all those interested in early maps, archaeology, farming, estate management, parliamentary and industrial history, fishing etc. Lists of neighbouring landowners and individual field names had to be omitted for lack of space, but the volume is otherwise well indexed and easy to use. A swift check on cross and well field names revealed that the former were located by roads and the latter near farmsteads. A major achievement for all concerned, the Lanhydrock Atlas should inspire and be the starting point for much new and original research.

Dr Jo Mattingley FSA


About paul holden

Architectural historian working as a House and Collections Manager for the National Trust at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall. Author of 'The Lanhydrock Atlas' (Cornwall Editions,2010) and 'The London Letters of Samuel Molyneux, 1712-13' (London Topographical Society, 2011). Contributor to many scholarly journals and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
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