The Althorp maps are a collection of 48 volumes containing some 550 maps, which are part of the larger collection of Spencer family Althorp papers. The dates of maps in the collection range from 1624 to 1970, and the geographical coverage is centred on the Midlands and South of England. They were acquired from the 7th Lord Spencer in 1984-85, and are viewable in the Manuscripts Reading Room of the British Library.
The collection focuses mainly upon areas of England, where the landholdings of the Spencer family were extensive. In counties such as Northamptonshire and Surrey for example, particular parishes or locations are given their own volumes. Northamptonshire has 19 volumes of maps.
In other areas where coverage is not so substantial, a single volume will contain all maps for that county.
A total of 20 counties, as well as London, are covered to some degree, and there is even a printed map of Kandahar in Afghanistan, though the reason for its inclusion is not known.
Estate in Chillworth St Martha and the adjoining parishes... 1728 by John Peter Desmaretz . Althorp MS 78150 A. Copyright © The British Library Board
Types of Maps
- Estate maps (forming the bulk of the collection)
- Development and sale plans
- Administrative and tax maps
- Maps showing the routes of new railways and water supplies
- Architectural plans relating to Spencer House, Althorp House, and other properties
- Rough sketch maps, drafts, working maps
- Presentation maps
- Related papers including letters, notebooks, writs and leases
- Terriers (written lists of leaseholders to accompany estate maps)
- Watercolours and ink drawings of Spencer family properties
- The collection is mostly on paper, but vellum and waxed linen maps also occur
Maps by John Corris, who was employed by the 1st and 2nd Earls Spencer in the late 18th century.
A map by J.P. Desmaretz dating to the 1720s is particularly noteworthy, as Desmaretz was better known as a military engineer and cartographer. His use of military mapping conventions, such as his depictions of relief and land use, are not typical of English cartography in this period.
Finding Aids/Further Reading
The Althorp maps are located at the shelfmarks Add MS 78108 to Add MS 78155 inclusively.
Extensive descriptions of individual maps can be found on the Manuscripts online catalogue.
Related estate papers are held by the Northamptonshire Record Office.