Old maps are fascinating. Just seeing what an area looked like 100 or more years ago on and Ordnance Survey map can give real insights into the place.
Of course very old maps tend to be either somewhat inaccurate or have little detailed data because of their scale. Even so they can be interesting and the history of the maps themselves is almost as fascinating. As most people know the mapping of the British Isles has been led by the Ordnance Survey, which was, effectively, started after the Jacobite rising of 1745. The Duke of Cumberland (1721 -1765) realised the army did not have good maps of the Scottish Highlands. In 1747, Lieutenant Colonel David Watson proposed a map of the Highlands to subjugate the clans. King George II charged Watson with making a military survey of the Highlands under the command of the Duke of Cumberland. This eventually led to the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain (1783–1853), a project carried out between 1784 and about 1853 at the instigation of senior surveyor General William Roy (1726–1790) and to the creation of the Ordnance Survey.
In 1801, the first one-inch-to-the-mile (1:63,360 scale) map of Kent was published. During the next twenty years, roughly a third of England and Wales was mapped at the same scale under the direction of William Mudge (1762 – 1820). Somerset was mapped by 1817. It was tough work, Major Thomas Colby (1784 – 1852) walked 586 miles in 22 days in 1819.
The map of that covers Combe Down, that was published in 1817, shows surprisingly little change has occurred . Development of housing , yes, but the shape and the main features are very recognizable.
This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth.