Original Ordnance Survey map drawings available online

The British Library posted a link on Twitter today to the maps section on their website.  They have just launched a new project which aims to get the public to help georeference (match to a modern map) their collection of digital maps.  Of interest is the first set of maps chosen for the project – a set of 351 original Ordnance Survey surveyors’ maps which were drawn in advance of the first one-inch series of maps.  They cover most of England south of a line between Liverpool and Hull, and were compiled between the 1780’s and 1840.  The preliminary drawings are at a larger scale than that of the printed maps, and therefore show much more detail, including field boundaries.  An extract is shown below for Ringwood.

There is a search page allowing you to search the collection here, where there is also some background information about the collection.  Each map has a simple user interface allowing zooming and dragging.  Some maps that cover the area of the Avon Valley include:

Christchurch – Bournemouth in the south-west corner, Ringwood to the north west, Lyndhurst north-east, Hurst Castle to the south-east.  Covers the southern part of the New Forest.  This is what the website says about this map:

This coastal plan is drawn to a scale of 3 inches to the mile, unlike most inland drawings, which are two inches to the mile. The larger scale reflects greater concern for the vulnerability of this area. The Solent gives access to the ports of Portsmouth and Southampton, making it a particularly attractive avenue for naval invasion. Hurst Castle is marked in black and red at the narrow entrance to the Solent. Built by Henry VIII as part of a defensive chain of fortresses, it is sited where the ebb and flow of the tides create particularly strong currents, providing an excellent natural defence against would-be invaders. The castle was modernised during the Napoleonic Wars. To the right of the castle, salt marshes extend towards Lymington. The saltworks, shown by blue squares, once supplied most of the west of England. A signal house is noted on Christchurch Head.

Poole – Worth Matravers to the south-west, Wimborne to the north, Boscombe to the east.

Cranborne – Blashford to the south-east, Breamore and Wick to the east, the Tarrant Valley to the north west, Corfe Mullen to the south-west.

Salisbury – Blashford to the south-west, Stonehenge to the north-west, Danebury to the north-east, Southampton (Redbridge) to the east, Lyndhurst to the south.  Covers the northern part of the New Forest.

Berwick St John – Wick (near Downton) to the south-east, Salisbury to the north-east, Tisbury to the north-west, Tollard Royal to the south-west.

As mentioned above, the British Library hope the public will help in georeferencing the maps.  Those that have been georeferenced have a ‘View in Google Earth’ button.  This will drape the map over the Google Earth imagery and allow you to tilt the terrain and fade the map in and out, as shown below for the Salisbury map.

It should be noted that some of the public georeferencing isn’t too accurate!  Despite this, the collection of OS map drawings provides an important online resource, as it represents the earliest set of mapping for England at this detailed scale.

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