An extraordinary 1838 map of Leighton Buzzard was saved from going into a skip after handlers noticed its historic significance in the nick of time.
The unique map shows the division of plots of land in the town and surrounding area before the Enclosure Act – when smallholdings and common land were swallowed up by landowners.
A group ‘LB Historic Map Trust’ has lobbied to raise funds for the map’s restoration – estimated at around £6,000 – and it has successfully secured £500 from Leighton Linslade Town Council as well as £1,000 from other fundraising.
The group’s spokesman Bernard Jones said: “It’s a unique map of Leighton Buzzard as it predates the Enclosure Act of 1843. All the parcels of land had numbers on them, unfortunately we don’t have the register of numbers to tell us who each plot belonged to.
“The amount of detail in the map will be a source of research for us for many years to come.”
As well as showing the lay-out of Leighton Buzzard town, including minute details such as the gardens and courtyards of houses, the map also covers the surrounding countryside.
Mr Jones added: “It was an open field system where the manor controlled all the countryside around Leighton Buzzard. There were probably around four or five fields where the townsfolk had the right to raise their crops.
“When the Enclosure came in, all that changed. They had commissioners who came into Leighton Buzzard and saw what rights the townsfolk had to graze their cattle.
“Some of that land allocated to the people was sold at auction. The lords of the manor were very clever people and probably got a much better deal than they should.”
The Enclosure saw common land sold and then fenced off from public use. A large plot off Plantation Road was among the land sold at auction.
The 1838 map is around two metres by four metres in size and was in a bad state of repair when initially found. Once it is restored, plans are for the map to appear at selected public exhibitions in the town.
Anyone seeking further information can email Bernard Jones of the LB Historic Map Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org.