1. Why use this guide?
Use this guide if you think your ancestor was an owner, occupier or lessee of land or property affected by the building of a road, railway or canal from 1794 onward, or if they were a subscriber of capital.
You might also find this guide useful if you have any other interest in plans.
2. What are the records?
Since the medieval period, permission to construct roads and undertake other public works has been given by acts of Parliament. In the eighteenth century, permission to build canals and later railways was also granted in this way. From 1794, promoters of these projects were required to submit plans of the proposed work in support of their application. Many of these survive in the Archives.
3. What information do the records contain?
As well as showing the route of the road, railway or canal, the plans may include other supporting documents such as Books of Reference and Estimates of Expenses. These can list the names of owners, occupiers and lessees of land, or property affected, along with the subscribers of capital.
4. How to get started?
Search our online catalogue by entering the name of a road, railway or canal in the search box at the top of this page.
Next, select ‘Plans for railways, road, canals and other public works‘ from the left hand menu.
You can narrow your results by using the ‘sort by’ fields of year and title. these are also in the left hand menu.
5. How to access the records?
You can access the documents in our search room, but first you will need to identify the document(s) of interest to you and make a note of their catalogue reference. Use the instructions above to get started.
Once you have catalogue references, you’ll need to follow the instructions on our Plan Your Visit page.
We can produce copies of most documents in our care. For more information please see our Ordering Copies page.
6. What records are held elsewhere?
Deposited plans may also survive locally so it may be worth contacting the local record office for the railway, road or canal you are interested in.
We do not hold any plans or awards relating to enclosures, only the Acts of Parliament. Contact the local record office for the area of the enclosure you are interested in to see if they have any surviving enclosure documents.
Some may also be held in The National Archives.
You may also find it helpful to consult the following publication: ‘A Domesday of English enclosure acts and awards’, by W. E. Tate (University of Reading, 1978). This book is not available online but might be in a local history library near where you live.