Historical Maps

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Topographic map series

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    Boundary map series

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      Land Use map series

        This "historical maps" page lets you view our historical map layers, and to access all our other information about places just by clicking somewhere on the map.

        What is in our collection

        We present two general types of map, which you choose between by selecting one of the thematic tabs:

        • Topographic maps: These are general purpose maps showing the physical landscape: hills and valleys, rivers and coast, plus man-made features like settlements, roads and railways. We hold these maps for different periods and at different scales. In particular, the collection includes two complete editions of Ordnance Survey one inch to one mile maps of Great Britain, the original nineteenth century First Series and the New Popular Edition from the 1940s.

        • Land Use maps: Our collection includes a complete set of the one mile to the inch and ten miles to the inch maps published by the Land Utilisation Survey of Great Britain. They record what each plot of land was being used for on the day it was surveyed, in the 1930s.

        Using our map collection

        Our maps are held as SEAMLESS layers, created by:

        • Removing the margins of each individual map sheet;
        • Re-projecting the map to a standard coordinate system (ETRS-89);
        • Digitally assembling the separate sheets into a single coverage.
        The end result is a single electronic map covering the whole of Britain, or even Europe.

        Most of our seamless maps are grouped into one of three layers, each one including coverages at two or three different scales. Our seamless map viewer gives you direct access to these layers, and you begin by seeing the least detailed series in the layer. As you zoom in, by using the slider or by double-clicking on the map, the viewer automatically switches to a more detailed map. The viewer begins by showing you the twentieth century topographic map layer, but use the drop-down menu above the map to switch to nineteenth century maps, or to land use maps. Three tips:

        • For more about a place, click on the information button below the zoom slider, then click on the place. This takes you to a location page, with links to information about nearby places and about the historical administrative areas that covered that point.

        • Click on "Bigger Map" to see more map.

        • Pan right to see Europe. Although the initial view of the twentieth century maps is centered on Britain, their top two layers cover the whole of Europe so there is plenty more to see.

        The maps the viewer shows are not changed by the tabs. That is because the seamless map viewer is also how you search for individual map sheets, especially the boundary maps for which we have no seamless views.

        To the left of the viewer — when not using the "Bigger Map" option — we list the available map series for the current theme. If you select one of these and we have a seamless view, we take you straight to it. If we do not have a seamless view, the viewer just shows you a modern map which you can use to find relevant map sheets, as explained below.

        Our seamless map viewer uses the OpenLayers toolkit (http://www.openlayers.org), which should work with any javascript enabled web browser, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome.