Some of the earliest available maps will be estate maps dating to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They tend to be quite stylised and can be inaccurate. They can, however, be useful for recording the antiquity of place- and field-names and sometimes earthworks that have since been destroyed. A great deal of interpretation is needed when looking at estate maps, though.
Later maps were more accurately surveyed. The first edition Ordnance Survey maps date from the early nineteenth century. They are very useful as a source of information about older field patterns, identifying the historic core of settlements, isolated farmsteads that have since disappeared and original road systems, amongst other things. Many clay, sand and gravel pits and coprolite workings were also recorded, identifying areas of industry.
The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies has a very good collection of historic maps of Buckinghamshire and has an online guide to their map collection. These mainly date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but there may be some earlier maps for your area. They also have guides on how to use them in local studies.
Some historic maps are available from the Historic Environment Record. There are first edition Ordnance Survey maps dating to the late nineteenth century, Bryant’s and Jefferys’ county maps dating from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Modern Ordnance Survey maps are also available online as well as the Historic Landscape Characterization layers.
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