Reform Act Surveys of England by Robert K Dawson
This collection has been reproduced from the original plans contained in three volumes being the reports from commissioners on the proposed division of counties and boundaries of boroughs, ordered by The House of Commons to be printed, 20th January 1832. Substantial work has been carried out in producing high resolution prints that contain no creases, staining, ghosting or foxing inherent in the originals.
A total of 178 City and Borough Plans were produced that appear in the published volumes. In addition Robert Dawson produced a separate plan for the London Metropolitan Boroughs that was not contained within the published volumes.
Parliamentary Reform Surveys of England & Wales - This months featured items
The Reform Bill of 1832
The Brink of Revolution
In 1832 many believed England had come as close to revolution as at any stage in her history. As the Reform Bill of 1832 and the Chartists riots and agitation of the 1830's swept away the idea of the graded, hierarchical agricultural community as the microcosm of the nation, England entered a new industrial age of change and uncertainty.
The Reform Bill led to a redistribution of parliamentary seats, disenfranchising the antiquated system of pocket and rotten boroughs and recognising the emergence of the new urban towns.
The first of a series of three, the main purpose of this Act was to permit a fairer representation of the people in the House of Commons. Up until this time, Government had been overwhelmingly controlled by the Crown and a relatively few privileged aristocratic landowners. Much of the land they owned was sparsely populated open countryside whilst the expanding towns like Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield, with their growing industry and populations were seriously under-represented. The Reform Act was the first movement towards redressing the balance.
Parliamentary constituencies were reorganised so that new towns got an MP for the first time. Any man who owned or occupied a house valued at £10 per year was given the vote. This extended the vote to many more people than before.
As an integral part of this political change, Robert Dawson was commissioned to create detailed plans, produce survey's and report back to HM Government on any changes to City and Borough boundaries that might be considered necessary in order to complete the successful introduction of the Reform Act. These plans showed the extent of the Borough in question in the form of the existing Parish and Borough boundaries along with his proposals for expansion, as the survey team considered necessary. The accompanying survey reports contained in three volumes followed the same basic format throughout although they varied in the amount of specific detail they contained depending on which area was being discussed at the time. Common considerations were:
- The number of inhabitants and dwellings
- Amount and use of land
- Taxes raised from the area
- Industrial activity (if any)
- Some idea of how many people were thereafter entitled to vote based on the changes introduced in the Reform Act.
The plans generally follow the same basic format in that most are black and white with limited colour applied to them, with parish boundaries being outlined in brown, and the proposed borough boundaries alterations (if any) in red, streets are usually shown but only named on a small proportion of the maps. Voting districts (wards) are also sometimes included.
A more detailed account of the lead up to the eventual passing of the Reform Act, avoiding revolution can be accessed at -: www.jquarter.members.beeb.net/walk8.htm
Robert. K. Dawson
Acknowledgement - The following short biography of Robert Dawson has been researched and compiled by Stuart Moverley, to whom we are grateful.
Born in 1798, the son of Robert Thomas Dawson (1776 - 1860) & Jane, he was baptised on 22nd December of that year at the church of St.Mary the Virgin, Dover, Kent. Having entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Dawson obtained his first commission in the Royal Engineers in 1818 but after a long and distinguished career, he eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. First employed under Captain (afterwards General) Colby on the Scots and Irish surveys, he later superintended the preparation of the plans of cities and boroughs issued by government about the time of the introduction of the first Reform Bill of 1832. The resulting maps and surveys are entered under the name of 'Lt.R.K.Dawson, R.E.' in the British Museum Catalogue of Printed Books. He was attached to the Tithe Commutation Commission from its first formation, and was afterwards appointed an assistant-commissioner and head of the survey department of the Commons Enclosure & Copyhold Commission. For his services in this capacity he was made C.B., civil division (February 1836). He first married Anna Maria Nicholl-Carne of Dimlands House, Llantwit Major in the Vale of Glamorgan on 17th April 1833 but is believed to have married twice after. Robert Kearsley Dawson died at Blackheath, London on 28th March 1861.
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