Mapping the Nation: Highlights from Carto-Cymru — The Wales Map Symposium 2023
The recent Carto-Cymru—Wales Map Symposium, organised by the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission brought together cartographers, amateur and professional, to explore the theme of “Mapping the Nation”. The focus was on the work of the Ordnance Survey from its C18th military origins and their painstaking work undertaken in physically surveying the nation to the organisation’s present-day role in providing an extensive range of digital mapping information as well as the paper maps we are all familiar with. Their task of mapping the UK is ongoing with the OS re-surveying the whole of the UK every three years!
The symposium showcased an engaging array of presentations that delved into Britain’s rich mapping heritage, innovative surveying techniques, and the power of maps in representing national identity. The focus on Wales’ cartographic legacy revealed fascinating details about historical landmarks, territorial boundaries, and cultural shifts, shedding light on Wales’ evolving identity.
The symposium also celebrated the craftsmanship and artistry of mapmaking. I recommend a visit to the National Library’s Map Collection where you can see items as diverse as the first map in the Welsh language (1677) to a gorgeous design for the cover of the 1936 OS tourist map of Snowdon.
In a fascinating example of how digital mapping and historic archive material can inform present day research Scott Lloyd from the Royal Commission spoke about ‘The Meresmen and the Parish Boundaries of Wales’. A ‘meresman’ is the term for a person who decided on parish boundaries, usually the parish clerk or churchwarden. During the research undertaken for the Deep Mapping Estate Archives project https://deep-mapping-estate-archives-rcahmw.hub.arcgis.com/ the question of the origin of the boundaries depicted on the first edition 25-inch (1:2,500) County series mapping was explored.
Scott showed how the unpublished surveyors’ notebooks for a selection of parishes in north-east Wales provide an invaluable insight into the processes for determining these boundaries. This research enabled reconstruction of old township boundaries, which in turn helped to unlock many archive documents from the period before 1800. Evidence of medieval township boundaries delineated on the 1st edition often disappeared on subsequent editions. The township information helped in understanding estate archives and allowed, for the first time, a detailed dataset of reconstructed township boundaries for this area of Wales.
Sarah Perons, Commissioner