Whereabouts Wednesday: old-maps.co.uk

24 Nov

Old-maps.co.uk is one of my favourite websites and an essential tool for family historian. It provides access to digital copies of a large number of UK Ordnance Survey maps (and now some KGB created Russian ones as well). Although the site is meant to be a portal for buying copies of the maps, it has been many years since I used it as such. Instead I use it is a great way to browse old maps, comparing how locations have changed over time and locating buildings long since gone.

The website received a major makeover earlier this year, and it wasn’t just the appearance to was updated, the entire system of view to maps was updated as well. To be honest it was desperately in need of an update, so much so that I used to try to avoid using it, now that it is a much faster and much easier system to use it is hard to stay away.

Searching the maps is simple, on the middle of the left-hand side of the home page is a search box where you enter the place name you are after and after possibly having to narrow this down if there are multiple places of the same name, you are taken to a modern Ordnance Survey map of the area. Here you can scroll around the map, zoom in and out before finally moving the marker to the place you are interested in.

Over on the right-hand side of the screen you will see a range of maps that cover the selected area, for a variety of time periods and map scales. Click on the one that interests you and the main window changes to the old map, it does take a while to load up but it is worth the wait. Once loaded you can do some basic scrolling and zooming in, but to really make the most of the image you will want to click the orange ‘enhanced zoom’ button, which uses Adobe Flash to provide more options.

This is the best bit, once in enhanced zoom mode you can really zoom in close and see some great detail, you can even see the section of map full screen (for the bigger picture). Obviously the sections of map are quite small and they are watermarked to prevent copying, but you can still learn an awful lot about a place from just looking at the maps.

The website is not perfect, some of the joins in the maps are rather obvious and it would be nice to know the full reference (sheet number) of the map you are looking at. The maps are quite expensive to buy, but they are at least cheaper for a digital version than a printed version, also watch their twitter feed and facebook page for discount codes and offers.

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