Bored? Here are some century-old maps of Britain to play with

Edwardian London. Image: Ordnance Survey 1-inch, 1885-1900, courtesy of National Library of Scotland.

Do you like history?  Do you like maps? Then today is your lucky day.

Those nice people at the National Library of Scotland's map department have been spending their days scanning in historic maps of the UK, dating from the late 19th century onwards. (H/T: Lisa Riemers.)

I'm fact, it's not just one set of maps: it's a whole series of different ones, which you can access via a drop down.

So you can see that, around the turn of the 20th century, Edinburgh was a fraction of the size it was now, not extending all the way to the Forth, or beyond Arthur's Seat. (Like all the maps in this post, it'll expand if you click it.)

Image: Ordnance Survey Six Inch, 1888-1913.

Manchester used to have a lot more stations than it does now:

Image: Ordnance Survey Six Inch, 1888-1913.

While we're on tour, here's Liverpool:

Image: Ordnance Survey Six Inch, 1888-1913.

But it’s in London where there’s the widest variety of maps to play with. Interestingly this old Ordnance Survey map eschews the district names that are familiar today (Bankside, Borough, etc.), and uses parish names instead.

Image: Ordnance Survey 25 inch, 1890s-1920s.

The website also allows you to see how things have changed, by comparing the maps with modern street maps or satellite images. (Thanks, Bing!)

So you can explore ye olde Essex village of Walthamstow

Image: unidentified 1:1056 map, dating from 1893-1895, plus Bing streetmap.

Or you can see how at the turn of the 20th century Hampstead Heath led out onto open fields.

Image: Ordnance Survey Six Inch, 1888-1913, plus Bing streetmap.

You can see the streets destroyed to build that much loved urban motorway, the Westway:

Image: unidentified 1:1056 map, dating from 1893-1895, plus Bing satellite image.

Or the streets of terraced houses that were destroyed in the blitz. After the war these streets were demolished to create Shoreditch Park.

Image: OS Six inch, 1888-1913, plus Bing streetmap.

You can explore the lot here. Enjoy. 

Like maps? Like us on Facebook. Trust us, it'll be worth it. 

All maps courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.


Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.