Pace your Place

Pace Your Place

This project idea ‘Pace Your Place’ goes hand-in-hand with the project ideas ‘Map your Study’ + ‘Study Your Map’ assuming your study area is limited to a relatively small area, such as a village parish or township. Below we show some examples of what may be found by ‘pacing your place’.

Click on the pdf link below to save or print this project idea for future reference.

Pace Your Place

Have you ‘paced your place’?

If you live within easy travelling distance of your study area, and assuming it covers a small area comprising just a village and a few surrounding hamlets, rather than a whole region, it’s great if you are able to ‘pace your place’.

Essentially this means exploring every street, lane, alleyway etc. of your study place looking at the buildings etc. for clues of their age, past uses etc. Also looking at the physical terrain and considering how the features and resources of the local landscape would have dictated the use of the land in years gone by. Try and put yourself in the shoes of those who walked there a century or two before!

Some one-placers try to follow the route taken by past census enumerators. However, this is not as easy as it sounds when many households were identified only by a schedule number and had no street number or name!
Take as many photos and notes as you can on your tour – they are sure to come in useful at a future date, for example if someone questions you about a specific building. Taking a closer look at photos back at home may even reveal things you didn’t spot when doing your walkabout.

If you are able to print out a large-scale map of the streets etc. before you set out, so much the better. This would allow you to mark the location of each building and annotate notes as you go. It would also help ensure you don’t miss out any key areas.

Look out for date stones set in buildings and possible changes of use. To the right we set out just some examples of the type of thing you may come across while pacing your place.

Some examples of what may be found …

Door arch retained

A redundant chapel of ease now – but it includes clues to former places of worship on the site – this door archway from the previous building, demolished in 1837, is suggested by some to have come from an unfinished chapel started by Saint Aldhelm nearby.

Steps to nowhere

By pacing the place (and clambering over high graveyard walls) these steps were spotted leading up to the old church. Were they to make access easier for villagers living at the bottom of the hill? No! On making further enquiries it transpired they lead down to a private family mausoleum built into the hillside.

House with no windows

This building, with only a door facing the street, was built as a Poor House where elderly or infirm villagers could be looked after. All the windows were on the far (east) side of the building.

Cottage in hillside

Pacing your place can reveal some unusual features – this cottage dating from the very early 1800s is actually built into the hillside with the access lane passing behind

Considerate builders

How thoughtful some builders were in times gone by to leave us with clear information of when buildings were constructed. Be careful though, somtimes the dates may be when additional works were carried out, for example an extension or even the conversion of a single storey building into two storeys.

Not any more

Clues to a bygone era – the village post office has long since closed and the telephone box has no phone but the original sign remained!

Still standing? – Just!

Heading up a grassy track revealed derelict farm buildings – confirmed as Elm Tree Farm on old maps. Perhaps one day they may be restored to their former glory?

Sometimes you may be prevented from pacing all of your place – especially if land is owned by private estates with no public footpaths nearby. In some cases whole villages and hamlets may be inaccessible as they now form part of military firing ranges.

Please do not venture on to private land or military land without express permission.

Unable to pace your place?

If for any reason you are unable to pace your place, look at other ways of being able to get a feel of the place. We give a few suggestions below and overleaf.

Local Contacts

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. If you’ve set up a facebook group for your study you may have some very willing volunteers! Or can can place an appeal for help in the local parish magazine etc.


If your study place is in the British Isles, check out the millions of photographs at Geograph. The project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland. As at 28 August 2020, 13,237 contributors had submitted over 6.5 million images covering 280,616 grid squares, or 84.5% of the total. You can publish the photographs on your study website or blog, etc. under a Creative Commons Licence.

Satellite / Streetview

Explore your place using Streetview or satellite images e.g. Google. – see Map Resources 2

Also check for historical aerial views, for example at Britain from Above.  

This image shows derelict buildings near the coast just south of North Walls in the Orkneys

Old Postcards

Old postcard views can reveal buildings no longer in existence, or being used for different purposes than today. Check out internet auction sites. Ancestry also have images of thousands of old postcards.

…spot the difference!

Yes, a lychgate has been added and the trees have grown – but did you notice anything else?

The clock may give you a clue to the missing story (storey!)

Listed Buildings

Check out the British Listed Buildings website which provides information about listed buildings in England, Scotland and Wales, for example:

SY 8280, SY 8279, SY 8179, SY 8379


Nos 1 to 8 Coastguard Cottages

Grade II  Coastguard cottages. Early C19 – on 1839 Tithe Map. Plastered walls, slate roofs, plastered stacks. Two storeys. Most doors in later porches. Ground floor has casement windows with glazing bars. First floor has double-hung sash windows with glazing bars. Listing NGR: SY8228879984

Although age is usually stated, it is often only a matter of opinion rather than hard fact.