A sad addiction
I have developed a sickness, or rather, my condition has worsened since I last mentioned it.
I have once again started to get into the last three hundred years worth of local history around my village, reading A History of the County of Oxford, from 1964 (which pre-dates the most recent expansion of the village). It describes an awful lot of rubbish, including the exact feudalistic makeup of the area during the 1200s and the amount that the land was taxed, etc., but there’s some interesting information in there. I’ve also managed to collect three maps from between 1850 and 1910 which have helped me to piece together the old roads in the area.
Things like Kidmore Way, now the bridle path at the end of Donkey Lane; Burgidge Way, formerly a road out of the village and now a track to one of the nearby hamlets; The Mill Way, an old road connecting where “the stream” (identified on 19th century maps as Kingston Brook) crosses the Lower Icknield Way and Sydenham…
I don’t know quite why I get a buzz out of noticing that certain tree lines then match up with discoloration in fields, revealing where a road used to go (see “Old Thame Road” on that map), but there’s something fun about it. Just as writing innovative software is the new way to be “an inventor”, perhaps armchair archaeology using satellite images and old maps is the new way to be “an explorer”.
Still, it’s a nice addition to my worldview. Knowing that roads like Doveleat and Elderdene were built on old orchards, and named after the houses that were pulled down, for instance. Or that the entire area in which I live used to be called Rannal Field, and that it’s after that that the road Rannal Drive is named. Knowing the locations of the old school houses and playing fields, or that the number and name of pubs hasn’t changed in 150 years.
I’ve managed to collect a set of a dozen or so pictures of the village dating from 50 to 100 years old. It’s not hard to work out where each one was taken from, and head over there to take a corresponding modern picture for comparison. I’m not sure entirely why I want to do it, except that I’m fairly sure that nobody else has, just as nobody has ever mentioned on the Internet (that I can find) that Rannal Drive is named after the old field on which the estate is built.
I’m sure that I might manage to move on and find some other fleeting pet project to which I can apply my geeky enthusiasm for the inconsequential. What I’d like in the meantime is to be able to use my information gathering skills collate disparate accounts and consolidate them in some way that might prove helpful and/or useful further down the line. The Internet is almost entirely bereft of historical accounts of my local area, and I want to fix that. And I’ll have fun doing it too.