Unveiling the historic maps and boundaries of the towns of Britain

Article dated: 15 December 2010

In the new year, keep your eyes open for the History Data Service (HDS) launch of the 'Historic Town Maps of Great Britain'. boundary map of Wivenhoe

Created by Professor Roger Kain and Richard Oliver, this will be an extension to their much valued Enclosure Maps resource that HDS has hosted for many years.

As those familiar with the HDS collection know, Roger Kain has been in the forefront in recording and analysing pre-Ordnance Survey large-scale maps. Notwithstanding the number of existing town maps, their wide dispersal, and their utility to historians, researchers have unfortunately had few descriptive and analytical finding aids to identify and locate maps of a particular place.

The Historic Town Maps resource answers this gap by locating, cataloguing and describing all available town maps. This research has also Inspired the first book-length narrative history of urban cartography in the history of any country, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.

The Town Maps online resource will provide detailed listings for almost 10,000 maps. All the important cartographical and other features, including typographical characteristics and the host archive, are clearly listed for each map.

A visual improvement over the earlier Enclosure Maps resource is the inclusion of PDF images clearly outlining the historical boundaries for each urban settlement. This valuable historical information will be available from a straightforward and easily searchable user interface. The maps are also searchable via Google maps. After identifying a place of interest users can open the Google maps feature which will indicate with hyperlink red pointers all the available map entries for a particular county.