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Maps provide a good starting point when we ask how old something might be. Is it shown on an official map, and what date is the map? In the UK our Ordnance Survey maps are excellent, and the Nine Standards are shown on the First Edition of the 6 inch maps of Westmorland, published in 1862, and as fieldwork dates from 1858 that provides our first firm date for the existence of the cairns.

Thomas Hodgson's 1828 Map of Westmorland also shows them, and we can see that they lie close to the disputed lands claimed by both Westmorland and North Riding Yorkshire. This county boundary is still disputed, as the two township markers overlap by a good distance beside the Tailbrigg road from Nateby to Reeth. Hodgson also gives the correct local names in several places where the OS map is in error.

Cary's 1794 and 1787 New and Correct Atlas maps of Cumberland, Westmorland, Yorkshire and Durham both show the Nine Standards, though they are not shown on his 1789 map of the same areas.


However the earliest official map that shows the cairns is the Thomas Jefferys 1770 Historic Map of Westmorland. Jefferys produced what are the first detailed and correct maps of the individual counties (the 1771 map of Yorkshire also shows Nine Standards) as part of a national mapping competition which absorbed all his time and money, eventually bankrupting him. His maps are the first recognisably modern depictions of our area at a relatively large scale, correct in proportions and distances, and with surprisingly few errors.


In contrast, the sketch map of Swaledale dated 1738 (below) but probably based on a much earlier estate or manorial map is quite different. It shows the catchment boundary of Upper Swaledale and includes Lord Wharton's lead mines in the lower valley. It shows the Nine Standards as a waypoint on the perambulation around the watershed, but this is more a working diagram than an accurately proportioned map, and the symbols used to indicate settlements closely resemble those used by Christopher Saxton for his First Atlas of County Maps 1576-79. Upper Swaledale parchment by kind permission of Northallerton NYCRO Collection, YRO MIC 2062 327 1738

So we know from these maps that the Nine Standards have been there on Nine Standards Rigg for at least 273 years. However, maps of the 17th and 16th centuries that predate Jefferys are mostly small scale maps of very large areas, too large to depict all the tiny local features. Major rivers, some - but not all - towns, significant boundaries such as Hollow Mill Cross on Tailbrigg, and important passes like Stainmore, are shown, along with important castles and forests. The content depends on the purpose of the map, many being drawn for military or strategic purposes. The earliest of these is the so-called Gough map, named after the antiquarian Richard Gough who had found it. Approximately dated to 1340 it is the first known map of the British mainland, and has astonishing detail (there is an interactive online version; see Belfast University project website). "Steynmore" is shown, and the major rivers, but not the Nine Standards! But while there are no detailed pre-Jefferys maps, written documents that list place names have survived from earlier periods.

Richard Gough map in "British Topography" 1780 edition; original in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Also shows Appleby and Brough (but not KS though it undoubtedly existed then!)

For first report of work completed in the summer see: August 2012

For the second report of work completed in the autumn see: December 2012

We already have quite a few friends who are helping with the project but more needed - please see the friends page for more information about becoming a friend or helping with the project.

To see copies of the original documents mentioned on the History page, see the documents page.

To read an exploration of the linguistic background of Nine Standards, see the what's in a name page.

There are quite a few old maps which mention Nine Standards and these can be found on the page above.

Nine Standards is a wonderfully photogenic place from any angle and we have added photographs to many of the pages of this website.


    Copyright © Friends of Nine Standards, 2011