This map was almost certainly commissioned by Ralph Sheldon (1537-1613), the [son of the] founder of the tapestry worksop at Barcheston, as it bears his [family] coat of arms. It can be dated to the period 1580 to 1613.
Aesthetics Or Function?
The map’s unusual decorative finish indicates that it was intended for display rather than for practical use, although it appears to be accurate in detail. There is no terrier, written description, with the map, but demesne lands appear to be picked out with a red line. The points of compass are given in the maps’ border: north is on the right. The hamlets of Upper and Lower Brailes are depicted just to the left of centre: the buildings are shown in elevation with red roofs (save the church, which has a blue roof), and roads are left uncoloured. Arable fields are depicted in a brown and cream chequer-work showing the strip pattern, meadows and open grazing land in green with little bushy trees to indicate hedges and woods, brooks in blue: rabbit warrens are carefully labelled. Winderton, which did not belong to the Sheldons, is not shown in detail (apart from the village itself). it is noticeable that the line of the roads and boundaries becomes much less accurate outside Brailes and Chelmscote manors.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms at the bottom left corner of the map displays the arms of the Sheldon family quartered with the arms of families into which they had married. Clockwise from the top left are the Sheldon, the Ruding (great gradmother), Grove (great gradmother), Sheldon, Willington (wife), Heath (grandmother).
Besides Ralph Sheldon’s family arms, the decoration includes an elaborate cartouche with a strapwork surround containing a description of what the map shows, and a scale with a pair of dividers. The scale is 1 inch to 40 perches (1 inch to 660 feet, or 1:7,920).
The Manor of Brailes
The manor of Brailes was bought in 1547 by William Sheldon, and remained in the family until Henry James Sheldon died in 1901. The manor of Chelmscote (within the parish of Brailes) was held by Ralph Sheldon at the date the map was made, but the manor of Winderton (also part of Brailes parish) was held by Francis Throckmorton at this time.