Old Ordnance Survey maps

If you’ve ever wondered what was previously on the site of your house, or wanted to find out where your ancestors lived, then historic Ordnance Survey (OS) maps are often a good place to start.

Thanks to the freely available maps of England & Wales on the National Library of Scotland (NLS) website, it’s now possible to see some of the old OS maps overlaid onto a modern satellite image, making it much easier to get your bearings.

All librarians, archivists and researchers know that it seems to be a rule that the area someone wants to find out about is almost always on the edge of two maps, if not four. With digitised and georeferenced maps, this is no longer a problem and the NLS site allows you to move around an area seamlessly, whether as an overlaid image (as at the top of this page) or side-by-side image (as below). If your images are overlaid, just drag the blue dot you see on the screen to change the transparency of the map image to see the satellite image below.

OS map 1902 side-by-side with 2020 satellite image (click to enlarge)

The NLS site includes the second edition 25-inch and 6-inch OS county series maps, dating from around 1902 for the Solihull area. If you look at the bottom right of the screen, you should see the number and date of the map. Knowing the sheet number may help you to identify what other sheets are available on the site, as there are additional maps that are viewable as individual sheets rather than as the zoomable overlay layers.

To view individual maps – see the list by county (Solihull is listed under Warwickshire) or the graphical list where you enter the place name you are looking for and can then see a grid of where the sheet boundaries area. Once you select the part of the grid you are interested in, you will see a list of available maps on the right of the screen.

If you can’t find the map you are looking for, the Core Library, Solihull does have 25-inch (1:2500) or 50-inch (1:1250) paper OS maps for all areas in the present Borough of Solihull from the first edition (late 1880s) to the present day.

The first edition local OS maps are available free of charge as PDFs downloadable via our online catalogue entry – just click on the relevant area link to go to the map entry and then open the PDF by double-clicking on the CD icon. We are aiming to add the other county series maps to our catalogue in due course, but if there is a map you’re interested in, please email heritage@solihull.gov.uk and we’ll do our best to help (copyright permitting, of course).

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

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