About the maps

This page contains information about the maps in Digimap for Schools. Here you will find information about who makes the maps, what scale the maps are and what features can be found on the maps.

Who makes the maps?

The maps used in Digimap for Schools are made by Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey create and update maps of the whole of Great Britain from cities and towns, to villages, mountains, forests and the coasts. They use a combination of ground and air surveys to measure and record all the features they find to map.

The historic maps were originally produced by Ordnance Survey, the paper maps have been scanned to create digital formats and kindly provided by the National Library of Scotland.

Aerial photography has been flown, captured and georeferenced by Getmapping Plc.

What date are the maps?

Modern OS maps:
The table below show the dates of the digital maps used in Digimap for Schools.

The maps are revised and kept up to date by Ordnance Survey. The map data is updated to reflect changes in the real world. Things which change quickly and often (such as housing and commercial buildings) are revised and updated most frequently. Things that do not change quickly and often (such as field boundaries and forests) are updated every 5 to 10 years. More information about Ordnance Survey's map revision policy can be found on their website: Ordnance Survey.

Historic maps:
1890s maps: The revision and publishing dates vary across the country, but they are all from the 1890s period, representing Victorian Britian. The historic maps used are made up from two different series of maps:

  • England and Wales maps - the 'OS One-Inch Revised New Series' published 1895-1899.
  • Scotland - the 'One-Inch Map of Scotland, 2nd edition' published 1896-1898.

1950s maps: The revision and publishing dates vary across the country, but they are all from the 1950s period, representing post-war Britain. The maps are from the One-inch to the mile 'Seventh Series'.

What do I need to know when comparing historical maps?
Both the 1890s and 1950s maps have been scanned from original paper copies of the maps. The digital scans have then been georeferenced to match them the correct location in Britain. This process of creating the digital historic maps can introduce some inaccuracies with the maps that users should be aware of. Sometimes the historic paper maps were very delicate or damaged which made them difficult to scan. Georeferencing, the matching of scanned maps to their real world location, is accurate but sometimes may not be precise enough for features to match up with the modern maps entirely. In addition, the high quality resolution of the scanned maps means they are able to be viewed at a magnification far greater than they were ever intended for. Beware when looking at change over times, because a difference in location does not necessarily mean a physical change (e.g. with coastlines) but could be a result of the digitisation process.

Aerial Photography
Aerial Photography is high resolution aerial photography for all of Great Britain provided by Getmapping Plc . To create a seamless aerial photography coverage a number of capture programmes have been stitched together hence the patchwork nature of the aerial photography map key legend. When new capture programmes are complete, Getmapping will provide updated photography to replace the oldest aerial photography in the service. The AerialXtra layer is aerial photography with a little bit of contextual information added to assist with recognising features on the aerial photography so it has place names, road names and classifications and train and underground stations marked. The contextual information provided in the AerialXtra layer comes from Ordnance Survey's Vector Map District product.

What scale are the maps?

Each view level in Digimap for Schools is at a different scale. Some of the maps will look the same, but will be displayed at a smaller or larger scale. The scale used to display the map on screen is slightly different from the printed map scale.

The approximate screen and print scales for each map view, from smallest scale (GB outline) to largest scale (very detailed), are as follows:

Note that the screen scale of the maps will vary slightly depending on your monitor resolution. The scales given above are only approximate scales.

Historic maps have an original scale of One-Inch to the Mile which equates to 1:63,360. This means it is closest to the modern 1:50,000 scale raster for mapping. In Digimap for Schools, historic maps are only available at certain zoom levels as they are the best scales for displaying these digital versions of the historic maps. Historic maps area available at zoom levels 6 - 10.

Aerial photography is available at levels 6-13.

What do the map symbols mean?

Each of the maps (except the Great Britain outline view) contain map symbols which represent features of the real world. Different symbols represent different features. Each map has a key which is a list of all the symbols used and what they mean. We can use keys to understand what features are present in an area, such as a footpath, church, forest or airport. A map key is available for all the modern maps used in Digimap for Schools. Click the Display a map key button beside the map to open a key.
A key for the historical maps is available when viewing only historic maps (i.e. not combined with a current map).
A key for the aerial photography is available when viewing only aerial photography or AerialXtra. The key for AerialXtra explains the colouring used for the road and rail networks.