On Saturday 12 June, the Bodleian Library cricket team and a group of Library spectators travelled to Laxton, Nottinghamshire, as guests of the Laxton History Group.
For over sixty years the Bodleian has had in its possession the manuscript map made in 1635 by Mark Pierce of the village of Laxton showing the layout of the open field system surrounding the village, and its accompanying terrier, describing each of the thousands strips of land and the identity of their occupying tenants:
In 2010, much of the three-field system remains in place, as do the individual strips so clearly demarcated on Pierce’s map. In recent years, the Library has forged close links with the Laxton History Group, whose members travel to Oxford on an annual basis to view both the map and the book. In 2008 the Laxton visitors invited a group of librarians to the village, and suggested a cricket match, an invitation the Library was enthusiatically able to accept.
The day was not just about the cricket. Library staff were treated to some generous hospitality. First a talk and walking tour through the village, followed by a stroll up to the site of Laxton’s motte and bailey castle, from where we were afforded views of the open field system still in place. Then came a visit to the church, with its copy of the map on the nave wall. At the church, the Oxford contingent were able to feed something back to our hosts by offering expert knowledge concerning some of the finer details inside the building, and identifying gravestones in the churchyard, which had long baffled local historians. We continued to the pub for a lunch and general chat between people from the village and the Library, followed by the game itself, won by the Library team with two balls to spare.
After the game, one last treat involved a tea laid on at the village hall with both teams and a large number of villagers in attendance as well, giving everyone a chance to mingle and converse about our common link. For Library staff, this was a chance to place two of the collection’s key manuscripts into their natural environment, and for the people of Laxton, here was an opportunity to learn how both map and terrier have become part of the fabric of the University, both in terms of how the material is preserved, but also how it is incorporated into Oxford’s teaching activities.