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Historical Maps & Aerial Photographs

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

{Updated 17th April 2022}

If you are interested in old maps and aerial photos, there are many useful free resources available on the internet in addition to Google Maps. I thought it might be useful to provide a summary here.

National Library of Scotland Link:

This site has a host of free maps and resources including military maps, coastal maps and admiralty charts, town plans, ordnance survey maps and more.

One tool on this site that is a really handy is the Side by Side viewer that allows you to compare modern and historical maps next to each other.

The site also provides "Lidar" images (Light Detection and Ranging) which shows ground elevations with all the buildings, trees and obstructions removed. This is very useful for viewing historical lumps and bumps in the ground that can reveal otherwise unknown historical sites.

For example, the maps below clearly show the ridge and furrow pattern of medieval field systems near Brompton Mill (just where the text of Brompton Mill is).

ARCHI - Archaeological & Historic Maps Link:

Another site that has a lot of free content with old maps. Membership gives more access (£4/month). There is a nice "slider" feature that lets you see a modern map overlaid on the old one and the slider lets you fade each one in and out.

This site has a lot of old maps for non-commercial use and to get the highest resolution you need to subscribe (£10/month), but even without a subscription the levels of zoom available for free are pretty good - example below.

Bing Maps are provided by Microsoft and some view it as a poor rival to Google Maps (I'd tend to agree), but it does include free Ordnance Survey maps which can be useful (fifth item in the drop down menu at the top right of the map area)

Old Maps Online Link:

This is really a gateway to other sites that have maps to view. It could lead you anywhere from a German University site or to some of the other sites mentioned here. There are a lot of maps but it can take a lot of digging to find something you want.

House Prices Link:

Slightly unexpected this one - this site has a lot of "lidar" data and although coverage isn't always complete it has some nice map data. Here is Brompton-on-Swale (just look at all those old ridge and furrow field systems).

Try the cool 3D tool as well - perhaps you can guess where this is

National Collection of Aerial Photography Link:

This site contains a large number of aerial photographs and although an annual subscription of £25 per year is needed to access the most detailed levels of zoom, you can still view them at lower levels of zoom,

Britain from Above Link:

Just sign up for a free account and be able to browse and zoom in on many aerial photographs. As an example, I found the following aerial picture of my great Uncle Septimus Paxton's ironmonger and petrol filling station on Stokesley high street in 1929 !!

Cambridge Air Photos Link:

Almost 500,000 aerial photos including those focussing on archaeology, geology and social history. The collection was begun in 1947 by pioneering aerial photographer JK St Joseph. Browse using a map, counties or subject.

Church Of England Research (added 17th April 2022)

The Church of England provides an interactive Church of England parish map, with summary deprivation and census statistics mapped onto parish boundaries. The map also shows parish, benefice, deanery, archdeaconry, diocese, and lower super output area (LSOA) boundaries, and school locations.

More Info Needed!

If you know of any more useful historic map or aerial photographic sites, please let me know (leave a comment below).

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