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Posted - 03-05-2018

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#LoveMaps – Bob Silvester

Dr Bob Silvester, FSA, Visiting Professor, University of Chester takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

A professional archaeologist for all of his working life, first in Devon and Somerset and later in Norfolk, he moved to Wales in 1989 when appointed deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. He retired from CPAT at the beginning of 2016, and for research purposes he is now affiliated to the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. His interest in all types of historic maps, but especially estate mapping, emerged during his time in the Norfolk fenlands where maps were a vital adjunct to the fieldwork that was unravelling the development of the historic landscape. Over the last twenty-five years his interest in mapping has grown, and now with retirement, he is able to spend more time immured in local record offices and, of course, the National Library, examining maps of east Wales and the adjacent border counties in England.

Thomas Badeslade

You’re perhaps wondering why this blog is accompanied not by a map but by a topographical drawing from 1740 of Hawarden castle in Flintshire. Simply put, it’s a surrogate image. The National Library as far as I’ve been able to establish holds no manuscript surveys by Thomas Badeslade – those that he prepared in Wales are to be found in the Flintshire, Cheshire and Bangor University archives, others remain in the muniments of the families that commissioned them nearly three hundred years ago.

Badeslade, probably from a Godalming (Surrey) family and subsequently relocated in London, was one of several gifted individuals who in the first half of the eighteenth century ventured into different projects to make a living. Initially a map copyist, he turned successively to architectural drawing (in Kent and then further afield), a land surveyor, a fen drainage specialist and a producer of county maps. William Williams, a slightly younger contemporary of Badeslade who I’ve already highlighted through his map of Denbighshire and Flintshire, also diversified his efforts into different fields, and more famous than either now is John Rocque, of Huguenot lineage and also established in London, the creator of some of the eighteenth-century’s most important and distinctive maps.

Why then select Badeslade for examination here? Firstly, I think, because we know a little more about him than many other surveyors of this time. Of William Williams the man and his career, we know virtually nothing other than any incidental details that can be deduced from his maps, an impediment that holds true for a significant number of land surveyors operating in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But with Badeslade we have his testament, compiled a month before he died in 1744 (at Llandinam in Montgomeryshire) which amongst other things reveals that after a major altercation with his first patron Sir Robert Walpole at Houghton Hall, Norfolk – no surprise to those who are aware that our first prime minister was a notoriously difficult character – he had to seek patronage elsewhere, distancing himself in north Wales well away from Walpole’s influence.

Then there is the fact that Badeslade’s mapping style developed over the quarter of a century that he was active, yet remains distinctively recognisable throughout this period. His testament refers to a commission that he undertook at Newmarket (now Trelawnyd) in Flintshire and for which he had yet to be paid. A draft of this map has been tracked down in the Bangor University archives, attributable not because it was autographed but because of Badeslade’s distinctive style.

And finally there are the maps themselves. For the Grosvenor family of Eaton Hall near Chester, Badeslade mapped the upland commons of the various lordships they held in north-east Wales in the years 1738 to 1740. These are massive maps, one of them nearly three metres long. They are clearly delineated, the boundaries of the common closely defined, the settlements around their edges are shown and – a plus for the archaeologist and landscape historian – the remains of mining and other industrial activities on the commons themselves. These maps are outstanding representations of the extensive upland landscapes in north-east Wales, and so vital to the running of the Grosvenor estates that a century or so later, a Mold mapmaker was well paid to make precise copies of them.

Thomas Badeslade is not in the same league as John Rocque, but I’d like to believe that his considerable achievements place him above the general run of eighteenth-century land surveyors. For further information about Thomas Badeslade see:

R. Silvester.Thomas Badeslade: his life and career from eastern England to north Wales, in S. Ashley and A. Marsden (eds) Landscapes and Artefacts: studies in East Anglian Archaeology presented to Andrew Rogerson. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology, 2014, pp. 217-229.

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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