Focus on the collections: A Vision of Britain through Time

Friday, October 19, 2012

We thought we'd like to run a series of blog posts introducing some of the highlights in particular collections that we include in Old Maps Online as we run up to the end of the project funding and receive our final new contributions.

We are starting at home with the map collection from A Vision of Britain through Time. The collection mainly covers Great Britain, although there are a few smaller scale European maps as well. Within the map library the maps are grouped together by their type, which are divided into topographic, boundary and land use, and the collection ranges in date from the early nineteenth Century through to the mid twentieth Century. Particularly points of interest within this map collection include;

  • Maps from the first Land Utilisation Survey. Directed by Sir L. Dudley Stamp during the 1930s this survey involved school children going out and surveying their local areas, and their results were then compiled onto 1 inch maps by professional cartographers. When the maps went live on A Vision of Britain through Time it was the first time the whole series for Great Britain had been published (upland Scotland previously was only available as watercolour proofs and had never been printed).
  • Maps from the Boundary Commission reports of 1832 onwards. The early maps were created completely separately from the national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey, because their mapping was not available to the Boundary Commissioners. These maps therefore present an interesting contemporary parallel to the early Ordnance Survey mapping. They reflect different approaches to mapping, with the Ordnance Survey attempting completely coverage whilst the Boundary Commission mapped only areas it needed to because there were boundary changes.
  • Ordnance Survey Maps from the early nineteenth century, which have hand-drawn colour boundaries of parishes and Poor Law Unions overlaid on top of a first series black and white base map. We believe this series to be unique, but it is incomplete, containing only 80 maps which cover the southern part of the country. The inset example is from one of the earliest sheets shows a corner of Oxfordshire on the Banbury sheet which is dated 1803.

The map library in A Vision of Britain through time is entirely digital. The scanned images were brought together for the web site, but the original paper maps are located in several different map libraries. A download facility from A Vision of Britain through Time is available, but has to be limited to UK further and higher education institutions to abide by copyright laws and to limit server load. However, all the maps in A Vision of Britain through Time are available for everyone to view as entire map sheets, and they are all searchable through Old Maps Online.


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