British history, county boundaries, and detached parts

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Some links of interest to me and possibly no one else within a 500 mile radius:

(Remember, "blog" is short for "weblog," a log of things found on the World Wide Web.)

Scottish historic counties game: See the name, click on Clackmannanshire.

1859 Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Ross and Cromarty: "two shires of Scotland, so curiously mixed up in geographical position, and so closely united politically, as to render their description under one head a matter not merely of convenience, but even of necessity." So the article begins. The county of Cromarty "is divided into eleven portions, which are whimsically inserted into various parts of the larger county of Ross, like fragments of a more ancient rock in some newer geological formation." When the George Mackenzie, Viscount Tarbat, acquired the original county of Cromarty (mainly the port of that name and environs), he convinced the government of Scotland to annex to the county all of the other bits of land he owned, between 1685 and 1698. The article goes on to say that Mackenzie's Royston House (later called Caroline Park), near Edinburgh, was annexed to Cromartyshire, and that "many of the houses in the Canongate of Edinburgh belong to different counties in Scotland, from their having been the town residences of Scottish noblemen whose estates lay in those different shires. The total land area of Cromartyshire was estimated at 345 sq. mi.

To deal with the impracticalities of this sort of situation, the Parliamentary Boundaries Act 1832 reassigned detached parts of English and Welsh counties to the constituencies of the counties in which they were geographically located. A companion bill, the Reform Act of 1832 also eliminated representation (for "rotten boroughs") or halved it for some boroughs while creating new constituencies where there had been no representation. (Prior to the act, Old Sarum, an uninhabited hill in Wiltshire, elected two members of parliament.) In 1839, law enforcement and courts were reassigned to the county in which the detached part was locally situate. The Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844 formally made these odd bits part of the counties which surrounded them, leaving only seven counties in England and Wales with exclaves.

County-Wise is the new website for the Association of British Counties, which "exists to promote the use of the historic counties as a standard geography for the UK." The historic counties movement is a reaction to the frequent reorganization of local government in Britain over the last half-century. Historic counties provide a permanent geographical framework and "fixed popular geography," even as local government boundaries continue to shift at the whim of the national government of the day.The site has a page for each historic county in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The National Library of Scotland's Georeferenced Maps allows you to overlay historic maps going back to the 18th century onto a choice of modern satellite imagery and maps. It covers Britain, Ireland, and Belgium. A slider control allows you to make the historic layer more or less transparent for comparing present-day features to historic maps.

The map at Wikishire overlays historic county boundaries on OpenStreetMap data. It shows the 20-odd exclaves of Cromarty. The map is based on the work of the Historic County Borders Project, which is creating a digital database for use in mapping and GIS. The current boundaries available are based on including small detached parts in the county in which they are situate, but a future dataset will provide boundaries including small detached parts as they existed prior to the 1844 act.

RELATED:

In 1986, the BBC attempted to create a new digital version of the Domesday Book on the 900th anniversary of William the Conqueror's comprehensive survey of his new realm. Participants submitted photographs and descriptive text to document everyday life. The collected materials, which were organized by 4 km x 3 km grid cells, called D-Blocks, were archived on a special type of Laser Disc which required special computer equipment. The data was rescued from digital oblivion, and in 2011, the BBC solicited updated information from around the country. The National Archives now curates the collected BBC Domesday material. In the story of the project, there is a cautionary tale -- make provision for your digital legacy!

In a private venture in 2001, Adrian Pearce set out to 'reverse engineer' the original Domesday data and make it available to any Windows PC - instead of emulating it. In 2004 he succeeded and published the data online, the first instance of a Domesday website. However, on January 27th 2008, Adrian Pearce sadly died and the website was taken off line.

("Sadly died" is an odd formulation. "Sadly" doesn't really modify "died," as it isn't meant to tell us of Mr. Pearce's countenance upon his own demise. It's sloppy shorthand for "we are sad to say" or "we sadly report." Americans use "happily" or "fortunately" in this way, but this misuse of "sadly" seems peculiarly British.)

And then there's this, in the "Frequently Asked Questions" for the 2011 project. It's no longer enough to cringe at the nouns and adjectives used by Mark Twain or Rudyard Kipling; behold the speed of Newspeak's evolution:

The language in 1986 is inappropriate these days

The articles were submitted in 1986 and the language used may differ from what we feel is acceptable today. However, this is now a historic record and therefore we have republished it intact.

ALSO SORT OF RELATED:

Voices from the Dawn has an interactive map of Ireland's ancient monuments. Click a hotspot and read an article about the folklore surrounding standing stones, dolmens, and the like, and view a virtual reality photo of the monument and its surroundings. It turns out a place we stayed 20 years ago this June, Holestone House, near Doagh, Antrim, Northern Ireland, was named for a famed 4 1/2 foot-high slab of rock with a hole through it. Engaged couples clasp hands through the waist-high hole as a symbol of betrothal, a custom that goes back for centuries.

We saw another of the monuments on the next year's trip, the Kilclooney Dolmen near Portnoo, County Donegal. I remember my wife's consternation when I told her we were going to see a dolmen, but couldn't (wouldn't, she thought) tell her what it was. No one really knows, although they're also called "portal tombs."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 17, 2014 7:09 PM.

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