Earlier this year when Debenham Parish Council moved its meeting to the Leisure Centre to accommodate everyone who wanted to have their say about Taylor Wimpey’s free go, renewed application to build 300 houses there was only real topic of interest.
Yet before we got to the main topic we heard from some horse riders who were concerned about a “permissive” bridleway that they believed was an ancient right of way. They explained that it was an important issue because rights of way which have not been registered before 2026 would be lost for ever.
The ramblers organisation estimates that there are some 10,000 miles of “lost” paths in England which have not been included in the definitive rights of maps compiled by local authorities.
Something else made me interested. While digitising the Debenham tithe map of 1840 I noticed there were a lot of plot names including the word “drift”. Its meaning is the same as “drove” and means a route along which cattle were driven. In other words we were looking at evidence of ancient tracks which might be plotted through field names and and narrow plots.
After a meeting of the Suffolk Local History Council, Giles Goddart-Brown, the database wizard behind the digitising of Debenham History Society archives, and myself were invited to talk to volunteers at the County Records Office. They wanted to know more about using tithe maps to trace ancient routes.
As the lock-down started soon afterwards that is delayed but it should mean they have mover to the new archives building, the Hold, opposite the university in Ipswich.
In the meantime the digitising of historical records of Debenham so that they can be easily searched, advances. An interactive version of the tithe map is included if you visit the online Debenham archives. It is also a great resource if you think your ancestors lived in this part of the world.
So when after the lock-down began and many people started taking their daily exercise I was enthusiastic about the suggestion someone should be taking a closer look at the paths around Debenham.
A website was the obvious way of involving more people who would be able to share their walks and experiences.
And that it why I created this new website which incorporates all that I have written about Taylor Wimpey’s attempts to ruin the village. High Suffolk looks very different but the web address remains the same: Debenhamfuture.co.uk.