Various past messages to this list have publicised the work the Great
Britain Historical GIS project has been doing computerising Youngs' "Local
Administrative Units of England".
Even national lottery funding is not bottomless, and our coverage of
ecclesiastical units is not all we would wish. I am now investigating how
it can be enhanced through a relatively modest project for which I am
hoping to get new funding, and need advice on what our priorities should be:
(1) As the information we take from Youngs forms the absolute heart of a
system that also holds information on historic boundaries, census data and
so on, an exact on-screen reproduction of the pages from Youngs has never
been a goal: we are building a new database for which Youngs is a major
source (but which has also, for example, been very extensively
cross-checked against lists of parishes in all the census reports since 1851).
(2) Although Youngs combines information for typical rural ancient,
ecclesiastical and civil parishes into a single entry, one basic principle
of our system is that no unit can have more than one set of boundaries at
the same time (they can of course have a whole sequence of boundaries over
time). This means we have to treat civil and ecclesiastical parishes as
two distinct units, although the database includes links between them.
(3) We have been including all the ecclesiastical parishes listed by Youngs
-- the system currently holds 15,310, with 4 counties still being worked on
(and none for Wales as Melville Richards does not list them). However,
higher-level ecclesiastical units -- dioceses, deaneries and so on -- have
not been included.
(4) A project to MAP ecclesiastical parish boundaries would be very
expensive. What is currently being contemplated is a simpler project to
extend our sort-of thesaurus to include higher level ecclesiastical units
and their relationships with parishes. So long as we obtain funding soon I
have an experienced team to work on it, and our system is a good deal more
sophisticated than the place-name authorities we know about constructed by
individual archives; for example, it has no problem with exceptions to
usual hierarchies, such as bishop's peculiars. The project would probably
follow our existing work on civil units in cross-checking against lists in
census reports -- the 1911 census includes a good one -- and this would
enable us to include a little information on population and variant names,
and add units for Wales.
(5) Does anyone know of a systematic source on boundary changes for
ecclesiastical parishes? Youngs mainly cites the London Gazette, but the
kind of project I am currently think about would not have time to work
systematically through these. Ideally, has anyone computerised lists of
ecclesiastical boundary changes?
(6) Any other comments on the value of such a project, and the nature of
user needs, would be very helpful.
Reader in Geography/Director,
Great Britain Historical GIS Project
Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth
Buckingham Building, Lion Terrace, Portsmouth PO1 3HE
GIS Project Office: (023) 9284 2500
Home office: (020) 8853 0396
Web site: http://www.VisionOfBritain.org.uk
About us: http://www.gbhgis.org