Map of the Little Gidding Estate of Sir Gervase Clifton by John Hexham of January 1596/7

Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies has acquired for Huntingdonshire Archives a map of the Little Gidding Estate of Sir Gervase Clifton by John Hexham of January 1596/7. The map was has purchased with equal funding from Central Government (the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund) and the Huntingdonshire Local History Society,


This map is a magnificent addition to our local archives and the society’s committee was easily persuaded to support its purchase for a number of reasons:

a. It is one of the earliest maps of a Huntingdonshire village, the earliest of a whole parish within the ancient county in local repositories.

b. It is by the one surveyor of the Elizabethan ‘golden age’ of English map-making, John Hexham, who elsewhere calls himself ‘of Huntingdon’, who plainly deserves further research which this map may stimulate.

c. It provides clear cartographic evidence of what existed of Little Gidding village, a shrunken settlement that has been categorised by landscape historians as a ‘deserted medieval village (DMV)’ in 1597.

d. It shows the village, and the manor house itself in elevation, as it existed during the lifetime of Nicholas Ferrar, just 27 years before Ferrar purchased the estate and arrived to make it the centre of his extraordinary if short-lived religious community.

e. Little Gidding has iconic status in our national history thanks to the visit of the poet T.S. Eliot, who made it the subject of the best-known of his Four Quartets.

To celebrate the acquisition Huntingdonshire Archives has mounted a display about the map in Huntingdon Library which lasts until the end of September. I encourage you to go. The society’s assistance is prominently and properly acknowledged there. There will also be a privileged opportunity for members to see the original map at close quarters when it will be brought to a society meeting, probably the society’s AGM next May. Further details will be circulated in due course.

Philip Saunders
Chairman, Huntingdonshire Local History Society