Don’t Lose Your Way

An estimated 10,000 miles of footpaths across England and Wales are under threat of being lost forever, but today marks the beginning of a new digital project to identify them all before it is too late.

We’re supporting the Ramblers’ new campaign ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ to help map these paths and it uses the footpath information that was gathered during our GB1900 project to help identify possible locations.Square find map save twotone 2

While our paths are often taken for granted, they allow everyone to enjoy the countryside  and connect us to our history within the landscape. However, many footpaths are not recorded on the definitive map of rights of way. If they are not found and added by the cut-off date in 2026 when the final map must be completed, they could be lost forever.

To meet the deadline, the Ramblers are asking people to help. They have launched a new online tool that splits the country into 150,000 1km squares and makes it easy to compare current and historic maps side by side. You can start using it now by joining the search at:


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Issues with website

Apologies if you have had trouble accessing our main website A Vision of Britain through Time in the last few days. We’ve been making some technical changes and it seems to have had unexpected consequences.

We hope to get normal service resumed as soon as possible.

*update 31/01/2020* We believe the majority of these problems are now fixed. However, there remains an issue with computers that have not been updated recently that we’re still looking into.

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New department name

At the beginning of this month the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences was merged with the Department of Geography, where the GBHGIS project team has been based since the start of 2000 when it moved to the University of Portsmouth. There are no current plans to physically move us so all contact information remains the same except for the departmental name. We will be updating our websites to reflect this in due course.

Please update any contact information you hold for the Great Britain Historical GIS project team members to say we are now based in the:

School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences. 



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Hot off the press – new articles published

Twice in the space of two days we have been able to celebrate the successful publication of an article. On Monday we arrived back in the office to discover the Historical Methods theme issue on crowd-sourcing and citizen science had been fully published while we were on leave. It contains our GB1900 article about volunteer motivations (the article itself has been available through the publishers early online system for some time):

Paula Aucott, Humphrey Southall & Carol Ekinsmyth (2019) ‘Citizen science through old maps: Volunteer motivations in the GB1900 gazetteer-building project’ in Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 52:3, 150-163, DOI: 10.1080/01615440.2018.1559779


Then yesterday we were notified that another article has also been published. A very quick turnaround considering we only went through the proofs the previous afternoon! This one is about the architecture of our administrative unit ontology which, among other things, we use to help structure information on our website A Vision of Britain through Time. The article gives two case study examples of how this works in practice, firstly the Poor Law Unions and Registration Districts of nineteenth century England and Wales and secondly international nation-states.  This one is published open access so you can read it straight away:

Humphrey Southall & Paula Aucott (2019) ‘Expressing History through a Geo-Spatial Ontology’ in ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 8:8, 362,

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Digital Humanities 2019

Humphrey Southall is presenting an update of our work on the GB1900 gazetteer at the Digital Humanities 2019 conference in Utrecht, Netherlands, in the session “Space Territory GeoHumanities” from 11 to 12.30 on July 9th, 2019. This includes a comparison between the final GB1900 data and several other “open”, free-to-use gazetteers of Britain: Geonames, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) gazetteer,  the Ordnance Survey’s Open Names and 50K gazetteers, and the computerised version of the Survey of English Place Names created by the DEEP project.

Utrecht, as shown on map in our International Map of the World server

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Download problem for protected data resolved

We think we’ve resolved the issues that registered UK Federation users were having with downloading our protected data from A Vision of Britain through Time.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

N.B. For the time being you may find it requires two attempts to receive the first requested data set.


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Problem with protected download data from Vision of Britain

Apologies if you are having problems with downloading our protected data from A Vision of Britain through Time.

We are aware of the problem, and are working on finding the cause. However, our current capacity to sort this kind of issue is very limited so it may take some time to resolve.

The rest of A Vision of Britain through Time is working normally. This includes downloads for all data we make freely available that is not under the protected system – i.e. statistics, most raster maps, county boundaries and GB1900 data.

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GB1900 volunteer motivations article published

Last week saw the online publication of our latest GB1900 offering, an article about volunteer motivations. It is based on in-depth interviews with six of our most committed volunteers together with an online survey of wider opinions which was open to all volunteers who registered to participate in the project. The article is published by the Historical Methods Journal, and the abstract can be found here:

Citizen science through old maps: Volunteer motivations in the GB1900 gazetteer-building project

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Historical GIS in Japan

The GBHGIS team have just returned from a productive trip to Japan. We were very pleased to be invited to visit Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to give a intensive short course on Historical GIS to the postgraduate students there. The course material gave both a theoretical and a practical introduction on how to use Geographical Information Systems for historical research. The students learnt about and successfully utilized a variety of open-source geo-spatial software components culminating in the creation of their own mini historical GIS projects based on Japanese data.


We were also each invited to give a guest lecture at the Human Geographical Society of Japan Annual Meeting at Nara University. Humphrey spoke about using British Census statistics to study long running trends for individual localities and Paula spoke about her PhD research on the spatial distribution of historical tax assessments. Professor Keiji Yano (Ritsumeikan University) then presented some observations on the development of historical GIS and the resources available for it in the United Kingdom. This led into a discussion on how the Society could best move forward towards creating a similar network of resources for Japanese scholars to use in their own historical GIS projects.

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GB1900 in use – GB1900 Works

CaptureGB1900WorksThe first example of someone doing something interesting with the GB1900 gazetteer data was published this last week. Jim Clifford based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada has used the abridged data to identify all locations associated with “works”, looking particularly at sites relating to the building and timber industries. This is a work in progress, but a good example of something we would not have thought of. You can search by location, toggle the dot layers on and off and filter for particular words, try “gas”. You can see the site as he develops it here: GB1900 Works Website

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