Historical maps treasure trove

I’ve found an historical maps treasure trove. There’s a lovely page at:

A Vision of Britain through Time

History of Combe Down in Bath and North East Somerset.

which tells us that in 1870 – 72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Combe Down like this:

“COMBE-DOWN, a chapelry in Combe-Monckton parish, Somerset; near the Great Western railway and the river Avon, 2 miles S of Bath. It has a post office‡ under Bath. Pop., 940. A hill, giving name to the place, is 550 feet high; commands an extensive prospect; yields Bath stone in large quarries; is pierced and cut with caverns and passages; and bears on its slope a pleasant little town, with villas, an inn, and the church. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Bath and Wells. Value, not reported.* Patron, the Vicar of South Stoke.

Historical maps

There’s also a link to historical maps that you can see, often, as a seamless map overlaying the modern equivalent and/or download the original free.

Historical map of Combe Down
Historical map of Combe Down

There are general purpose topographic historical maps:

as well as boundary historical maps showing administrative boundaries, for counties, districts, parishes etc.:

as well as land use historical maps recording what each plot of land was being used for on the day it was surveyed, in the 1930s:

Historical land utilization map
Historical land utilization map

1817 Ordnance Survey map including Combe Down

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.

Anglo French survey of 1784-1790 proposed mesh
Anglo French survey of 1784-1790 proposed mesh by William Roy – Scanned from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London vol77: 188–226 1787

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.

Combe Down Ordnance Survey first series 1817
Combe Down Ordnance Survey first series 1817

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.