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Norfolk Parishes prior to 1850

Today the smallest division of local government is the Civil Parish. Each Civil Parish can be known as a town, village, neighbourhood or community, the local parish council having the power to choose which term will be used.

The parish gradually evolved over the centuries, from the area looked after by a priest to become a civil unit of governement. The local government act of 1894 established parishes in their modern sense. A number of parishes were amalgamated and a number of boundaries were moved.

In 1850, there were many more parishes in Norfolk. There were still a large number of detached areas - land areas which belonged to a parish, the main part of which might be a mile or two away. Such anomalies were gradually addressed in the 19th century, with others being transferred in the 1890s and in 1931. Likewise extra -parochial areas were gradually absorbed into the system.

For the books 'Exploring the Norfolk Market Town' and 'Exploring the Norfolk Village', a number of maps were prepared using the old parish boundaries rather than the current ones. We're therefore taken the opportunity to produce a map of the boundaries as at 1850, which may prove helpful to others in their historical researches. It will, for instance, match up reasonably with data for the 1841 census and with White's Directory of Norfolk for 1840. It is hoped that in due course some of these data sources can be linked directly into this map


The map is based on the UK Ordnance Survey OS Data, specifically the Boundary Line data issued in May 2011. For further details on this scheme see OS OpenData and that source is acknowledged as required.. This was amalgamated with the information from 'Historic Parishes of England and Wales: An Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850' Roger Kain and Richard Oliver, Historic Data Service, University of Essex. The methodology was to use the modern OpenData boundary line where it was evidently the same line as in the pre-1850 data and to make alterations and sub-divisions where the historic data was clearly different. The limitation is that the Kain/Oliver mapping is on relatively small scale maps and the Opendata mapping is of a more detailed nature. Where the lay of the land and field boundaries indicated that the historic data could be interpreted with reasonable assurance, those lines have been followed. There is however scope for error at various points so a degree of care should be taken if using the data for detailed analysis; should any historian or geographer have detailed knowledge which corrects an error we have made, Poppyland Publishing will be pleased to be informed of the necessary correction. The data is intended for general historic use and should certainly not be used for detailed legal analysis.

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