Taking Steps Back in Time

Historic maps can tell you the story of your local area, help you discover little known nuggets of information about bygone times and be used to compare a locality in the past with the present.


Printed maps date from the sixteenth century and generally show churches, large estates, villages and towns; although roads and individual buildings are few. A 1671 map of Bristol was based on a measured survey, although it still used the familiar bird’s-eye view style of the period.

The start of modern mapping began in the eighteenth century when more accurate surveys began to appear in the style of the flat ground plan we recognise today as a map, although significant buildings were still represented in elevation.

The 1747 Military Survey of Scotland was the forerunner of the Ordnance Survey, as a State-produced series of high-standard modern maps. Launched in response to the Jacobite rebellion it was completed in 1755. Drawn up at a scale of 1 inch to 1,000 yards, the Military Survey provides the first detailed maps of Scotland.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, maps continued to be produced by independent surveyors, but local authorities increasingly commissioned their own official surveys.

The Ordnance Survey was established in 1791 and eventually mapped Great Britain at a scale of one inch to the mile. Drawn on a larger scale than the final printed maps – two inches or six inches to the mile – they show incredible detail.

Even more helpfully for those interested in the history of buildings, a scale of 25 inches to the mile was initiated in 1854. By the end of the century all cultivated areas were mapped at the 25-inch scale, which showed every building in outline ground plan to a high standard of accuracy.

Memory-Map has a complete selection of historical Ordnance Survey maps available for use across multi-platforms, either in singular packages or combined.

England & Wales 1800s
Explore the landscape of the 1800s using data from the surveys of England and Wales between 1805 and 1874. These black and white maps were engraved by hand and show a largely rural landscape still reliant on horse and cart, and drovers trails rather than roads.

England & Wales 1900s
Explore the landscape of the 1900s and the late Victorian age. Taken from surveys conducted between 1896 and 1904 this title marks the growth of the railway, with over 18,000 miles of track covering England and Wales.

England & Wales 1920s
Explore the landscape of the 1920s. Using data from 1919 to 1926 and clearly showing the impact on the landscape of the age of the motor car. Roads cover the once rural landscape linking ever larger urban areas and colour is used for the first time to grade the suitability of roads for vehicles.

England & Wales 1940s
Explore the landscape of the 1940s where post-war urbanisation and changing land use is clear in the final title in the series. Using surveys made between 1945 and 1948, although the railway is at its peak, it is easy to see that the road has taken priority and the major cities of England and Wales are larger than ever before.

England & Wales 1800s-1940s Researcher’s Edition
You can explore the landscape of England and Wales over the last 200 years with all four Ordnance Survey collections in one. Ideal for anyone interested in the changing landscape or genealogy; this complete historical series provides you with up to 16,000km² from each era of historical mapping – 1800s, 1900s, 1920s and 1940s.

Historical OS Maps Scotland 1800s
Explore the landscape of Scotland in the 1800s using data from surveys of Scotland between 1856 and 1887. These black and white maps were engraved by hand and show a largely rural landscape.

Historic maps from Memory-Map make a great gift idea for the armchair historian in your life, and can prompt them to get out and about. While enjoying a walk through time you might even be sent off on a completely different course of interest and research.