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Digitising the 1925 Rating Valuation Maps

  Ickwell Rating Valuation Map
Excerpt from the 1925 Rating Valuation map for Ickwell

Bedfordshire is very fortunate to have a set of rating valuation maps and notebooks prepared by the Inland Revenue in the 1920s. These give excellent details of properties in the county at the time including: the number and type of rooms in each house, the state of the plumbing (if there was any), the amount of beer pubs were selling, and even, occasionally, a comment on the temperament of the home owner. They are a fantastic starting point for anyone researching the history of a property. We have used them extensively to research buildings included in the Community Archives Section of our website.

The maps are Ordnance Survey maps coloured in a range of pigments and inks by the valuers. They act as index sheets to the valuers' notebooks; in order to identify which notebook contains the description of a property you first need to find the property on the map and make a note of the reference number written on it. This means that the maps get a great deal of use. Unfortunately, the maps are in a very poor condition due to the way they were originally constructed and stored – each linen-backed paper map is attached at one end to a wooden slat and the map is then folded around the slat. Every time a map is unrolled the paper around the edge of the slat becomes stressed and eventually cracks and pieces become detached from the linen backing. In addition drawing the maps in and out of their shelving can cause damage as edges get caught on the shelves and each other.

In order to prevent further damage to the maps we have decided to have them digitised. The maps are being taken in batches to a company that will photograph each map in very high resolution and supply these images to us. We will then make the digital files available via the searchroom computers so that the original maps no longer need to be ordered from the stacks. Digitisation is considerably less expensive than conservation treatment would be, and having the digital files will not only allow access to the information without needing to handle the maps but will also create files that we can use in other ways such as on our website. It will take several weeks for all 500 maps to be photographed and during that time about 100 maps may be unavailable for use at any one time, we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.   Pamela Birch