Cartographic and Documentary Evidence and Its Use in Rights of Way Legal Disputes

Breen, Thomas (2021) Cartographic and Documentary Evidence and Its Use in Rights of Way Legal Disputes. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The status of roads, bridleways, and footpaths has formed the subject of countless legal inquiries. From the faintest desire path to the newest motorway, the right of way network is omnipresent and overlooked unless use or maintenance is thrown into question. When disputes occur, evidence is sought to ascertain the precise legal status of the right of way.

This thesis is concerned with historical evidence which draws its value from the maxim once a highway always a highway which means highways will continue to exist unless a statutory enactment has been made. This research examines the three sources used most often to determine the historic status of rights of way: the Parliamentary enclosure Acts, awards, and maps; the Tithe Act 1836 apportionments and maps; and the Finance Act 1910 documents and maps. Such documentary and cartographic evidence is rarely viewed within the context in which it was made, and too much focus is placed on how individual rights of way appear. This thesis seeks to rectify this by examining how roads, bridleways, and footpaths are described and depicted across all these sources. Such a comprehensive analysis has elucidated several notable patterns which clarify how rights of way were viewed in the past and suggest more appropriate methodology for using these sources in legal inquiries.

This research is increasingly important as upcoming legislative changes, introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, are due to be implemented on 1 January 2026. After this cut-off date, unrecorded rights of way created before 1949 will be extinguished and historic evidence will no longer provide proof of public rights. These legislative changes have brought renewed attention to rights of way and it is hoped that this research will throw greater light on how historic sources are valued, aiding future legal disputes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2022 17:03
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 17:03

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