Pathways to History


Historical Research

A key part of the project has been researching the history of footpaths and green lanes using historic maps and archival documents.

There are a number of original documents which can help us to understand the history of footpaths and green lanes.

Ordnance Survey Maps (c.1880s onwards)

Ordnance Survey maps from the 19th and early 20th centuries show the footpath network in detail. The best place to start is with the 6 inch and 25 inch to the mile maps, which were published in the 1880s. The project team has access to digital copies of historic Ordnance Survey maps, and they can also be accessed online.

Parliamentary Enclosure Maps and Awards (c.1750-1860)

Documents associated with the process of enclosing commons and common fields within a parish by parliamentary act. The map and award will usually record any new rights of way to be laid out after enclosure and whether these are to be public or private. They may also record paths and roads to be closed. For some enclosures additional documents such as Commissioners Minutes may survive.

 Tithe Award Maps and Apportionments (c.1836-1850)

Documents drawn up following the Tithe Commutation Act (1836) which led to Tithes in kind being replaced by money payments. The level of detail concerning roads and footpaths can vary from parish to parish. The Apportionment which accompanies the map records the owner, occupier, name, acreage and land-use for each parcel of land. Some roads may be numbered and given an entry in the apportionment.

Road Closure Orders (1773-1835)

The Highways Act (1773) made it possible for roads and footpaths to be closed or diverted by  order of two Justices of the Peace. As these were usually other landowners most closures were approved. RCOs will often include a map of the routes affected showing the old and new courses, accompanied by a written statement of the changes. A revised Highways Act in 1835 took the power to order a closure or diversion away from Justices and placed it with Parish Vestry Meetings.

Finance Act Documents (1910)

Drawn up in connection with a failed attempt to institute a new tax on land and property. The maps and accompanying documents record whose land footpaths or roads cross and whether they were public or private.

Highways Commissioners Minutes

Cover the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and include information about footpath obstructions, repairs and the wider road network.


Historic maps of Norfolk, including the 6 inch Ordnance Survey map, enclosure and tithe maps can  be viewed online using the Norfolk Historic Map Explorer.

The originals are held in the Norfolk Record Office, which also holds a wide range of archival material which relates to the footpath network.