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Historic Maps

Part of Isaac Taylor's map of Wolverhampton 1750, reproduced by kind permission of Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies.A set of historic maps is an essential as it can tell you the story of your area and indicate further topics for research. Maps can also be used to compare a locality in the past with the present.

The earliest printed maps date from the sixteenth century and are generally county based showing churches, large estates, villages and towns but no roads and few individual buildings.

Many towns were mapped in detail at an early date and the maps were then printed.

Ordnance Survey maps were published for all areas in the nineteenth century. The three most useful scales for showing the development of places and buildings are the 6 inches to 1 mile [1:10,560]; the 25 inches to 1 mile [1:2500], and [for urban centres only] the 10 feet to 1 mile [1:500]. Maps at these scales were published in the second half of the nineteenth century with further editions around 1900, the 1920s, the late 1930s and the 1950s/60s.

You will be able to see old Ordnance Survey maps locally and. It will generally be possible to photocopy portions of them, although there may be copyright restrictions. You can also purchase reprints from Ordnance Survey and via web sites including Getmapping. Your local council should be able to supply you with an up to date map at any of these scales, based around your school, although there is likely to be a charge.

Street maps were usually published to accompany trade directories and are similar to a modern A-Z type of map.

Hand Drawn Maps

Maps were drawn of estates and adjoining fields dating mainly from the eighteenth century and will generally be found in archive collections relating to a landed family or estate agent.

Enclosure maps dating generally from 1750 to 1850 exist for most parishes. They were drawn up to show the reallocation of common land in a parish when the strip system of farming was changed to one based on fields.


Extract from the tithe map of Penn, Staffordshire,  1840, by kind permission of Wolverhampton Archives & Local StudiesTithe Maps were also parish based and were drawn up as a result of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 which replaced the outmoded tithe system for supporting the church with a more straightforward rental charge. These maps exist for most parishes although some areas, particularly town centres, had already had their tithes commuted.

They involved very detailed surveys showing every field and property and a schedule accompanied each map listing the owner, occupier, use, name, size and value of every field and property. Three copies were made of each. The National Archives [formerly PR0] has a copy of every map. Diocesan Record Offices hold sets for their diocese and the rest are either in the relevant parish church or, more usually, in the local record office. Printed editions were produced for some places and may be in local studies collections.

Hand drawn maps can be very large and photocopying may not be permitted. There may be alternatives such as ordering a digital copy or taking in a digital camera to photograph part of the map.


Historic Ordance Survey maps can be found in Local Studies libraries or archive repositories. Reprints can be ordered from some large bookshops or direct from Ordnance Survey. Some commercial companies are also reprinting old maps and these may be found in local bookshops or via their websites. Click here for an example.

Estate, Enclosure and Tithe maps will be in archive repositories.

Ideas for use
  • To show the development of a locality over time.
  • To compare a locality in the Victorian period or in the 1930s with the same locality today.
  • Use Estate, Enclosure and Tithe maps to trace the origin of place names, compare land use and research local families.

See also the section on Find Sources

Follow any of the links below for more information on basic sources and ideas on how to use them

Studying Your Locality : Trade Directories : Newspapers and Magazines : Government Commissions and Reports : Photographs : Census : Official Guides : Estate Agent Records : Plans : Taxes and Rating Records : Probate Inventories : Church Registers

Please note that the inclusion of a listed building on this website does not mean it is open to the public.