Maps are a wonderful historical resource, as anyone who researches a place or a property appreciates. Having just finished writing about Prestbury Park, better known as Cheltenham race course, for the Gloucestershire Gardens & Landscape Trust, this was in my mind. The park is nearly 900 years old. Of course, there are no maps to show us its boundaries at that date, though we do know where the bishop’s Prestbury manor house was situated; parts of the moats which inclosed the house and its suporting buildings, gatehouse and so on, still exist and the site was excavated by Helen E. O’Neil in 1951 (see Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society vol 75).
A survey of the estate in 1623 (Glos. Arch. D184/M24) states that the park was 291 acres. In 1762 the Rt Hon William Craven added the manor house site to his Prestbury Park estate which had been separated from it in the early seventeenth century. Following this, he commissioned a survey of his Gloucestershire estates in Pamington [Ashchurch], Gotherington, Great Washbourne, Elkstone, Pirton and Elmbridge [Churchdown], Prestbury, Twyning, Withybridge [Boddington] and Tredington. The surveys were bound into a beautiful volume, each block of land accompanied by a map (Glos Arch. D184/P1). The Prestbury Park map is dated 1768. The accompanying survey suggests that the park was 299 acres, and the map shows a very distinctive oval boundary which also extended up to the old Prestbury manor house. Much of the boundary still exists, as Beryl Elliott has shown in her article in Cheltenham Local History Society Journal vol 16.