Parsons' Gough Map settlement data

The work of E. J. S. Parsons, first published in 1958, has been influential in framing perceptions of the Gough Map. He was the first observer to state that “its purpose was to serve as a map for travellers”.48Parsons and Stenton, The Map of Great Britian circa A.D. 1360 known as The Gough Map, p. 15. He asserted that the same distances could be found in the work of John Ogilby in the 1670s, and that the geographical accuracy of the settlements was due to the roads. “There was in existence at this time a network of roads which formed an ideal framework to which the towns could be related.”49Parsons and Stenton, The Map of Great Britain circa A.D. 1360 known as The Gough Map, p. 10.

The settlement information is taken from the 1970 version of his publication, in which he took the opportunity to make some corrections to his earlier version. For a long time, Parsons’ work has been considered the major source of information on the Gough Map, largely because he was able to study the map before further deterioration obscured some details. Recently, historians with expertise in particular English counties and localities, have started to question his identification of some settlements.50Catherine Delano-Smith and others, 'New Light on the Medieval Gough Map of Britain' in Imago Mundi, 69.1 (2017), p. 10. For the purposes of this study, Parson’s work has been accepted for all but two locations on the grounds that he was able to see information now denied to current researchers, and that the reasoning for alternative places has not yet been published. The two exceptions are ‘stratford’ between Dunstable and Towcester, and ‘waltham’ between London and Barkway.

There are two ‘stratfords’ approximately six miles apart on the old Roman Watling Street – Stony Stratford and Fenny Stratford – and the Gough Map settlement could be either of them. Parsons labelled it as Fenny Stratford but Stony Stratford is preferred here because of evidence of a causeway and bridge over the River Ouse, and its siting of one of the crosses of Queen Eleanor.51'Parishes: Stony Stratford', British History Online <> [accessed 28 May 2019].

Like ‘stratford’, there are two ‘waltham’s in close proximity - Waltham Cross and Waltham Abbey. Waltham Cross is preferred to Parsons’ Waltham Abbey because on the Gough Map, the settlement is clearly on the west side of the river where Waltham Cross is located, as opposed to Waltham Abbey, which is on the east side. The icon is for a single building, rather than a church, which also suggests the town rather than the abbey (Figure 13).

For the purposes of providing a country-wide data set for comparison, this study has accepted all, bar one, of Parsons' suggestions for settlements that he was unable to identify with certainty. This includes thirteen settlements in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall so caution is required when interpreting statistics in the south west of England. Leeds Castle in Kent has been rejected on the grounds that evidence for its existence is too slim.52Parsons and Stenton, The Map of Great Britian circa A.D. 1360 known as The Gough Map, p. 24.

List of all settlements considered in the comparison (pdf) More

Waltham on the Gough Map

Section of the Gough Map showing Waltham
Figure 13.