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Ordnance Survey Maps

Using Ordance Survey maps for research

Ordnance Survey maps are very useful to the local historian as they trace the development of buildings, settlements and landscapes across the 19th and 20th centuries. This continuous series of maps, surveyed at varying dates, makes it possible to pinpoint the dates of significant alterations to a specific area and may reflect a changing community. OS maps can identify modifications to the ground outline of buildings and changes in boundaries. They cannot, however, distinguish between buildings erected at different dates on the same site nor can they provide detailed evidence of physical appearance.

The basics

The Ordnance Survey was founded in 1791 and authorised to carry out the first national mapping survey two years later. In the 1850s, basic scales were set at 25 inches to the mile (1:2500) for rural areas and 126 inches (1:500) for urban areas. Earlier maps showed larger areas of the county at smaller scales, initially 1 inch to the mile. The Stafford Castle Edition, surveyed 1861-1863 and issued in the 25 inch scale, covered only a small part of the county between Rugeley and Lichfield.

County Series maps

The County Series, introduced in the second half of the 19th century, divided Staffordshire into 75 full sheets at a scale of 6 inches to the mile (1:10560), covering an area of 6 miles by 4 miles, and arranged numerically, with sheet 1 covering the very north of the county and sheet 75 covering the most southerly point. Each sheet was then divided into quarter sheets, referred to by compass points – North East, North West, South East and South West.

At the 25 inches to the mile scale (1:2500), each full sheet was divided into sixteen sheets (or four per quarter-sheet), each covering an area of 1.5 miles by 1 mile.

A further set of maps at 126 inches to the mile (1:500) was initially introduced for urban areas with a population above 4000. The 6 inch and 25 inch County Series maps were printed in four main editions dating between 1875 and 1938, although the last edition was provisional and only partly revised.

National Grid maps

The National Grid system replaced the County Series in the 1940, and covered the whole country. The references are more complex, and are based upon a combination of letters and numbers – e.g. SJ4994. The old 6 inch scale was still used, being replaced with the metric scale (1:10000) in 1970. Each sheet covers an area of 5km by 5km, and is sub-divided into further sheets at 1:2500 scale covering an area 1km by 1 km.

For urban areas, these maps are further sub-divided into four sheets at the 1:1250 scale, known as ‘Town Plans’. National Grid maps were not published as editions, but sheets were revised when redevelopment has occurred. Since 1995, Ordnance Survey maps at 1:2500 and 1:1250 scales have only been produced in digital format.

What we hold

Staffordshire Record Office:

1 inch scale County Maps – copies of these early editions are available

Stafford Castle Edition – a selection of these sheets is available

County Series, 6 inch editions – most sheets available for each edition

County Series, 25 inch editions – 40 % coverage for the 1st edition, most sheets held for later ones

County Series, 126 inch editions – incomplete holdings, 1874-1888

National Grid Maps 1:10000 scale – all sheets, with at least one revision

National Grip Maps 1:2500 scale – 80% coverage with at least one revision

National Grid Town Plans – all sheets except areas now in the West Midlands administrative area

Key grids are available for County Series and National Grid maps at 6 inch and 25 inch scales.

Formerly held at Lichfield Record Office, now available at Staffordshire Record Office:

County Series 25 inch editions – 2nd edition sheets covering the area of the former Lichfield Rural District (LD65)

Stoke on Trent City Archives:

County Series 6 inch editions – complete set of the Third Edition (1920-1925) for the whole county

County Series 25 inch editions – all four editions of sheets covering the City and immediate surrounding area

County Series 126 inch edition – Set of sheets for the six towns forming the City

National Grid 1:1250 scale – Hanley Library has a complete set of modern maps covering Stoke City printed out from the 1996 CD ROM.

We also have information about Town Plans.

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