The Bodley maps were the first to show townland boundaries. However, the boundaries are very inaccurate and approximate.
These maps were created in 1609 by a the team of around eight people. They completing the survey of almost 5,700 miles in just over 2 months! The project was led by Sir Josias Bodley, and the cartographer, Thomas Raven was also on the team. The maps were created so that the government could give out land during the Plantation of Ulster and therefore covered the counties of Fermanagh, Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Donegal and Coleraine, although those maps covering Donegal and Coleraine are missing.
The maps were created without triangulation. Instead, the men plotted the land from verbal information they obtained from knowledgeable local people. They did walk part of the land but large areas were not surveyed on the ground. This may explain why some townlands are absent from the maps, particularly near barony boundaries and where there was much mountain or bog. The townlands are represented on the maps as being of a uniform size and shape whereas the true size of townlands, as they reflect the quality of land, can vary widely. However the maps are reasonably accurate in terms of townland location, for example which townlands are joined to which. The names of the townlands are also said to be generally accurate, even more reliable than Petty’s maps and again this comes from the fact that the information came from local sources.
Orientation on these maps was generally poor and the quality of mapping, even within the Bodley maps, varies greatly. There are no tree symbols on four of the 28 maps, though this may be due to a mistake by a copyist rather than a surveyor. Overall, for such an early period and such a large area, the Bodley maps are not as poor as some have suggested and, allowing for such difficulties in interpretation, can provide much useful information on the extent of woodland in Ulster in 1609.
Copies of the Bodley maps can be examined at the Public Record Office, Northern Ireland and at the The Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Library and Archive.
Pages in category ‘Bodley Maps’
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