Updates to Two Digital Collections

Good news for Pembrokeshire historians: there have been two significant additions in the last week to the amount of digital material available on the web.

Firstly, with the project to digitise its hard-copy newspaper collections still in full flow, the National Library of Wales (NLW) has added copies of six newspapers to the site in the last couple of days. From a local perspective, the most important of these is The Cambrian, a regional newspaper that was first published in 1804. This pre-dates the first county newspaper, the Pembrokeshire Herald, already on the NLW site, by 40 years. Access to this excellent site is free.

Secondly, Findmypast.co.uk have posted a note on their site to confirm they have recently added 1.2 million new parish records to their Welsh collection. Unfortunately I can’t find any detailed information to tell us what is new but I have emailed the company asking for this. You need a subscription to view the transcripts or scans of these records.

UPDATE (2nd July 2013):

Please note that the online publication of the Cambrian on the Welsh Newspaper Archive site means that the Swansea Library ‘Cambrian Index Online’ which covers this newspaper is now largely superseded. It does still serve a key purpose. The NLW’s collection does not include a full run of the Cambrian so the Index, while itself incomplete, may refer you to articles which have not been digitised but which you can access elsewhere (e.g. the British Library).

An early Ordnance Survey map of the Saundersfoot area

One of the joys of researching history is serendipitously finding new sources of information. I only recently came across the British Library’s Online Gallery and, in particular, its collection of early Ordnance Survey (OS) preliminary plans. The Library has digitised the surviving 351 drawings made between 1780 and 1840 and these are available to view online for free.

Catalogued under ‘Tenby’, the plan of our area is one of them.  It often took several years for these drafts to be published. For example, the Tenby plan was surveyed in 1809 but not published for at least another ten years. The final version, part of what is known as the ‘Old Series’, is available through Cassini Publishing.

Click here to view the plan.

With the “Interactive zoomable image” option, you can look in detail at the plan although there’s no option to download it.

Bearing in mind that our area of Pembrokeshire is surprisingly well covered by late 18th and 19th century estate plans, how useful is this map? I think it is, if only for the fact that it is the first one to allow detailed study of the dispersed settlement pattern. There are problems of course. Inaccurate placename spellings  (e.g. compare the wonderfully phonetic spellings for today’s Coppet Hall and Errox Hill) suggest worrying inaccuracies. Moreover, historians of the coal industry would no doubt wish for more information about the local pits. We know from other sources that several were in operation around 1809 but you can’t tell this from the draft. In fact the location of the steam engine on Kingsmoor, recently installed, provides the only indication that there was any industry in the area at all.