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Historical resources

Our mapping began back in the 1700s. Read all about our historical resources and where to find them.

Historic maps and archives

We held a large paper-based archive at our previous offices until 2008, distributing it to other custodians before we moved to smaller premises. Original historical maps now reside with local libraries around the country, so you may be able to find historical maps that you wish to view there.

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Instructions issued to our Surveyors

At Ordnance Survey, our instructions for surveyors have always focussed on precison and accuracy. When maps were painstakingly hand drawn, draftsmen, field examiners and plan examiners were given strict guidelines for quality assurance.

Step back in time

Ordnance Survey International Collection

The air photography, map and survey record archives of the Ordnance Survey International Collection were created over a period of 53 years from 1946. They are no longer needed for operational purposes and responsibility for the records has passed to the National Archives.

Contacts and history

Field parcel numbers and the RPA

Find out who can help if you need a field parcel number or measurement.

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Historic origins of placenames

Place names usually derive from landscape features, the nature of the settlement or the people who live there. Learn about the origins of place names in Scotland or Wales influenced by or directly attributable to Gaelic, Scandinavian, Scots and Welsh.

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Our history

Our story begins back in the time of the French Revolution, and we haven't stopped capturing Britain's landscape since.

OS through the years

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