Victorian London in Incredible Detail

Pin It


[Update – Links fixed to repoint to the correct version of the high resolution maps.]

Here’s a real treat. The National Library of Scotland’s Map Department, supported by David Rumsey, have taken some very high-resolution scans of the Ordnance Survey 1893-6 1:1056 (that’s 60 inches to the mile!) set of 500+ maps of London and, crucially, reorientated and stitched them together, so that they can be presented seamlessly (using OpenLayers) on top of a “standard” Google web map or OpenStreetMap, with the base map acting as a modern context.

The detail in these maps is breathtaking. In the above extract (direct link) of the eastern end of Fleet Street, you can see each individual alleyway. Much of London has of course changed in the intervening 120 years. In the extract, the printing works have been replaced with banks and other offices, the pub and several of the alleyways (“courts” here) themselves have disappeared, as has the tiny fire station, and the urinals are long derelict and locked shut.

Here’s University College London’s main building – with internal stairways, rooms and even wall thicknesses visible. The room in the very centre of the university is called the “Octagon”, and the map (direct link) reveals why:


Interesting to note from the map above that the alley that is now known as Gower Court used to be called Little Gower Place.

The maps are available at this resolution for the whole of Victorian London. The detail is, in some cases, on a par or occasionally even more detailed than the modern gold standard, Ordnance Survey MasterMap. In some places, individual trees are shown.

The area covered approximates to the area inside the North Circular and South Circular roads, with some extensions south to Croydon, south-west to Teddington and west to Ealing:


View the map interactively here.

Thanks to Go-Geo!, specifically their Twitter account, for tweeting this.

The high-quality scans of the maps are Copyright National Library of Scotland, even though the source material itself is out of copyright. The coverage map includes data from Ordnance Survey Open Data which retains its Crown Copyright.