Tag Archives: whereabouts wednesday

Whereabouts Wednesday: The Ordnance Survey Explorer Map

15 Dec

Whether it is for family history research or for finding my way around whilst out walking you will seldom find me without an Ordnance Survey Explorer map close at hand. I find these maps are so versatile and useful that for me they are a vital piece of kit.

The picture on the left is of my well used Explorer 123 – South Downs Way (Newhaven to Eastbourne) dating from 1996, with a nice picture of the Seven Sister and the coast guard cottages at Seaford Head adorning the cover.

A Brief History of the Explorer Map

On the Ordnance Survey Blog you can find two posts describing the origins of the Explorer map and the various incarnations over the years:

The history of the iconic OS Explorer Map

The history of the iconic OS Explorer Map – part 2

If you want to see some of the different map covers over the years then I would recommend taking a look here (but be warned it is only for the real map addict).

A Question of Scale

Of course their usefulness is down to their scale and the level of detail that they show. The scale of an Explorer map is 1: 25 000 which is the equivalent of 2½ inches to 1 mile (or 4cm to 1km if you prefer). All of England, Scotland and Wales is covered by the 403 maps in the series.

As with any map there has to be a compromise between the level of detail featured and the size of the map. Large scale maps (perhaps better described as plans) show an awful lot of detail but the size of the map needed to cover a few miles on the ground makes them impractical for slipping into a rucksack or opening out on a desk without several pairs of hands.

Exploring the Explorer

The level of detail on an Explorer map is just right, you can cover quite a large area on one map, but with a decent amount of detail. All those little symbols on the map are described on the Ordnance Survey website as well as on the edges of the maps themselves.

Along with showing all the important things like paths and roads, churches and schools and contour lines, some of the most important things for me are that it shows:

  1. Field boundaries and ditches.
  2. Parish and other administrative boundaries.
  3. Paths, tracks and roads (whether public rights of way or not).

Not only does it show a lot of detail but a lot of those features are named, a lot of the larger rural properties (houses and farms) are named, as are some parcels of woodland, a lot of roads are named or numbered also most hills are also identified.

I could go on but probably the best way is to take a look at the map yourself.

Where can you find them online?

Two of my favourite places to find Explorer maps online are:

Ordnance Survey Get-a-map – Zoom in to the maximum level to see the scale at 1:25 000, the only drawback is that the area of map available to view at any one time is only about 1¼ miles (2km). Click on the round purple button to launch the map viewer.

Bing Maps – To view a much larger area you can use Bing Maps, there are several different styles that you can use to view the maps including a couple of different Ordnance Survey scales, although a lot of the zoom levels are just enlargements of the same underlying data.

There are of course many places online and offline to buy copies of the paper maps, and if like me you often find the place you are interested in is split over two paper maps then check out the OS Select service, which allows you to have a map printed to your requirements, centred on the location you want (except Channel Islands and Isle of Man).

Whereabouts Wednesday: Printed Maps of Sussex 1575-1900

8 Dec

The book Printed Maps of Sussex, 1575-1900 by David Kingsley was published by the Sussex Record Society in 1982 and is a catalogue to maps of the county of Sussex, England printed between 1575 and 1900.

The bad news is that this volume is now out of print, but the good news is that as well as being able to find it in second-hand bookshops and libraries, it is also available to view online on the Sussex Record Society website (along with many other useful books and databases).

As the book is essentially just a catalogue there is only a small section of illustrations featuring examples of some of the maps. Due to the limitations of the book format they are not particularly detailed (they can be enlarged on the website), but they do provide a good example of the style of the maps available and level of detail included.

These maps are not the sort of maps that I use a great deal, in general the level of detail is not good enough to be able to pick out individual properties (like you can on some Ordnance Survey maps), but these maps are great for getting an overall picture of the landscape and its development.

Most of these maps show main roads, rivers and settlements, which are great for understanding the landscape and connections of ancestral locations. It is also interesting to see the variations in spelling of place names, which may have changed over the centuries.

The catalogue also serves as a finding aid, providing details of where you can find copies of the 154 maps listed, as well as providing background on the creation of each map and the individuals and businesses involved in the publication.

Whereabouts Wednesday: The new One Place Studies website

1 Dec

Family history is predominantly about people, but to look at those people without taking into account the place where they lived would lead to a very narrow view. So much more can be understood about our ancestors by studying the place they lived, the people they lived with, how they worked and how they played.

The one place study is a hybrid of family history and local history, rather than considering just one family line, the whole community is studied. Like family history the emphasis is on people, but in a one place study the common link between them is place rather than just family ties.

November saw the launch of the new One Place Studies website, which is administered by Alex Coles (who must have a time machine to find the time for many projects she is involved in).

The website appears to have two distinct functions, to provide information on which one place studies are being undertaken (in the form of an index) and resources for those undertaking a one place study (in the form of articles and a discussion forum).

The index provides a list of all the studies and is dominated by England (not that I’m complaining). Selecting a county will take you to a map showing all the one place studies in that county, plus neighbouring counties.

One place studiers (is that the right name?) seem to be a little shy about using the discussion forum or perhaps they are just too busy. The resources are an interesting selection of articles on the ins and outs of one place studies. Well worth a read even if you are not engaged in a one place study or considering one. I look forward to reading more in the future.

The website is well designed and has some great content, which has brought me another stage closer to launching my own one place study.

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