Open Historical Map/Projects/London

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This page intends to detail the efforts to map London, England, and outline some of the resources available to mappers.


A few different mappers have mapped parts of London in OpenHistoricalMap.

(outline work done so far here)

There are a number of different features which can be mapped, here are some suggestions:

  • Roads - it would be good to have a comprehensive map of the road network throughout London and beyond, showing how it has changed over time. The 1893-6 1:1056 OS map is a good base map to use for tracing many of the roads and then you can use older maps to identify whether the road existed at that earlier date.
  • Buildings - buildings make the map much more interesting, especially adding the key buildings in an area.
    • Churches and other places of worship - these are key features of the historic townscape, and many have a long history though they have often been rebuilt over the years. Where they have been rebuilt it may be easier to add a node for the amenity=place_of_worship and name tag including the earlier start date, and a separate way for the building if this is more recent.
    • Pubs - many have long histories, though again they have often been rebuilt. There were far more pubs in the past so it might be a bit of a challenge to map them all!
    • Public buildings.
    • Factories/industrial buildings.
  • Parks/gardens - much has been done already, it would be good to add all the parks!
  • Railways - there has been much work done on this already, it would be great to have a full map of the changing railway network in and around London.


These are just a few suggestions for tagging the features you're mapping in London in OpenHistoricalMap. Please also refer to the tagging guidance elsewhere in the OHM pages on the Wiki. Please add any further suggestions you have!

  • Please always ensure there is a start_date tag on everything you add, so that we don't have for example motorways and railway lines appearing on the map in Roman times!
  • Currently the renderer only recognizes dates in the format yyyy or yyyy-mm-dd so these must be used in start_date and end_date. Often however you will only know an approximate date and it is important to record this uncertainty using a start_date:edtf or end_date:edtf tag.
  • When exact dates are not known it's probably best to take a conservative approach to setting the start and end dates - use what seems to be the latest possible date for start_date and and earliest possible date for end_date.
  • Names of streets etc have often changed in London over the years, and it can be difficult to determine exactly when that name has changed. At the moment it doesn't appear that a solution for this has been decided on, but we should try and get all the different names recorded somewhere. One possible idea as a temporary workaround (until a tagging methodology is established which will also render on the map) is to put both names in the name tag separated by a semicolon, though minor differences in spelling are added to an alt_name tag instead.

Resources available

There are lots of resources for mapping the history of London. Here are just a few.

  • The National Library of Scotland has made available a number of maps to OpenStreetMap and OpenHistoricalMap mappers. These are available as tiles for tracing in the editors. The 1:1056 Ordnance Survey 'town plan' dated 1893-6 is particularly useful, as a detailed and accurate map. They also have a 1950s map on their website but it is understood this cannot currently be used for tracing until agreements with the scanning company have expired (this is due to happen at the end of 2022).
  • Ordnance Survey maps become out-of-copyright after 50 years. Though if you are using an old Ordnance Survey map published on a website you need to ensure the website's terms of use allow the use of those maps.
  • Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons have a number of useful resources including old maps and articles referring to the history of buildings and streets. The 1746 John Rocque map [1] for example is quite useful as a detailed early map of central London.
  • Layers of London [2] provides many different resources including maps, photos and articles. It appears this is mostly under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence, so it should be possible to use this as long as attribution is provided.