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"By far the most valuable gift in historical terms "....


is how John Fowles in his Annual Report of 1985 describes the John Drayton's maps of 1824, donated by Mr H. J. Sowerby, of Roper and Roper's, Broad Street." It consists of a bound volume of sixteen 9" x 16" maps drawn on linen in 1824 by John Drayton, a prominent Regency and early Victorian merchant of Lyme. The maps are of all the ancient Borough freehold property in the town, and are accompanied by very detailed and complex valuations. They are also far more accurrate than any other survived plans of the period, and I make no excuse for devoting most of my space here to discussing them. We shall never be able to walk round the Lyme of 1824; but the large scale, accuracy and detail of Mr Sowerby's gift offer the nearest appproach to that impossible experience. In 1824 most of the Borough property here was leased by a method already old-fashioned: that of copyhold or lifehold, whereby a property was held for the duration of three lives (which could be re-newed) against often absurdly uneconomic annual rents. The free-holder (or Borough) had to depend on the fines (lump sums) and other old manorial taxes that could be charged the life-holders when they entered possession. True values fluctuated hugely according to the age and circumstances of the lifeholders. The ancient Borough was hopelessly inefficient, in other words; an accountant's nightmare. Why did Drayton carry out what I propose to call his Survey? It seems clear it was to try to establish a freehold value for the whole, quite simply because that was also a mortgage value- in plain English, his job was to estimate what the Borough could borrow on the town. We know that it desperately needed to do this at the time, because of the damage caused by the Great Storm in November 1824. The Borough had to raise £3,000 towards repairs……"


” Refer to ‘Annual Report 1985, Lyme Regis Museum’, in this website’s archive, for John Fowles’ full description of the survey.

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