Step back in time with a unique survey of St Ives compiled in 1728

Museum curator Sarah Russell with the Pettis survey from 1728.

Museum curator Sarah Russell with the Pettis survey from 1728. - Credit: Archant

Here at The Norris Museum work continues apace designing the new gallery for our redevelopment.

Part of my job is to extract the objects and stories from our collection which will help visitors understand and engage with the diverse and rich history of Huntingdonshire.

One of the most interesting objects I have been working with recently, – that will hopefully feature in the new displays – is a survey of St Ives compiled in 1728 by Edmund Pettis.

The survey is a leather-bound volume, handwritten with a quill pen with hand-drawn diagrams, illustrations and maps. There are also three large maps which were once folded inside the front cover. These are the earliest known plans of the town.

These maps and diagrams show in detail how land in and around St Ives was divided, who owned each section and how big each plot was. The drawings of the centre of St Ives show the streets with unique details of building frontages, yards and even the locations of the town pump, a cherry orchard and a bowling green.

Pettis also records what he terms “matters and occurrences very informing to the curious... with some other remarkable things of late not very common”. These include the only known written record of the fire that swept through St Ives in 1689, copies of letters written by Oliver Cromwell and details of St Ives experiencing ‘a great frost and froz’, ‘abundance of snow’ and ‘a violent wind which blew extrem all night’.

It is by using Pettis’ work that we can help visitors step back in time and imagine what life was like when Pettis walked the streets as we do now. He can show us what the town and surrounding area looked like, what buildings and shops he would have seen and who were the people with influence and power.

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