Obtaining Historical Maps


One of the easiest ways to obtain a set of old Ordnance Survey maps of a location, covering the 20th century and late 19th century, is to use the historic mapping - MapInsight option using www.emapsite.com though if only a single map for a specific date is required, you may be able to obtain a copy more cheaply from www.old-maps.co.uk Ordnance Survey themselves only supply current maps but their website contains a list of suppliers of old maps: www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/resources/historical-map-resources/archive-info.html

Sometimes the plan attached to a conveyance or transfer of part will be a black and white copy of a Ordnance Survey map with the area being sold shaded in, or outlined, in colour. It can sometimes be useful to find out, by comparison with old Ordnance Survey maps, which OS edition was used. Sometimes the verbal description of the land in the conveyance will refer to OS numbers (field parcel numbers) without the plan being based on a OS map (or with the plan using a different OS map). If the conveyance does not itself state what OS edition the field parcel numbers are from, it is usually possible to work this out by looking at different 20th Century OS maps, because different OS editions produced in the 20th Century generally used different field parcel numbers.

County Record Offices hold copies of other historical maps including Tithe Maps made in the mid Nineteenth Century, Turnpike Maps and Enclosure Maps.

Local authorities which are Highway Authorities (e.g. County Councils) maintain a map of Adopted Highways under the Highways Act 1980. These may provide useful information about the land you are concerned with if it borders a highway or has a highway passing through it. The same local authority will also have a Definitive Map of Public Paths maintained under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Town and Country Planning records

The Planning Acts - currently the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - impose restrictions on new buildings and certain extensions and alterations to existing buildings, and on change of use of a building or land (e.g. from business to residential). An application has to be made to the local planning authority which can grant the application completely or with conditions, or refuse permission. If permission is refused an appeal can be made to the Secretary of State who normally delegates the decision on the appeal to a planning inspector from the Planning Inspectorate. Planning applications can be viewed and downloaded using www.gov.uk/search-register-planning-decisions and appeals can be found at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/planning-inspectorate though for older documents, only held in paper form, it may be necessary to visit the council offices to obtain copies. A planning permission application is  an application for permissison to change the use of land and/or build on it, so (unless it is retrospective application to regularise what already exists) it is prospective in that it seeks permission to do something in the future. Nevertheless planning applications may also reveal information about the then current use, and accompanying plans, though they may concentrate of future building for which permission is sought, may also indicate some features already present on the ground. Thus planning records, if used carefully, can sometimes help to supplement information obtained from large-scale maps. 


This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

The information on this page about specific computer techniques is provided for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date at the time it was written but no responsibility for its accuracy, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by me. You should satisfy yourself, before using any of the techniques, software or services described, that the techniques are appropriate for your purposes and that the software or service is reliable.

This page was lasted updated in July 2017 Disclaimer