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About the Atlas

What is a Historic Towns Atlas? We explain text, illustrations and format

The Historic Towns Trust has published seven volumes of the British Historic Towns Atlas. Volume I, Volume II and Volume III (printed between 1969-1989) are now out of print and obtainable only as second-hand copies. However the Trust has tried to make much of the content and material available from our archives on this website. You can access this content by clicking on the volume title shown below.

The volumes on Windsor and Eton (Vol IV), York (Vol V), Winchester (Vol VI), and Oxford (Vol VII) are published as high-quality board folders containing maps, illustrations, a text explaining the history of the town or city, and a gazetteer of the places named on the maps.

From Volume VIII onwards, we will be reverting to a large, bound volume in order to reduce printing and production costs. The volume will be flexibound allowing for the publication to be opened flat with the same high standards of production will be maintained,.

About the Maps

The purpose of the mapping is to provide maps which allow for a visual understanding of each town at critical stages in its development, and to provide a summary map which shows the town at the period just before twentieth-century re-building began to alter the urban form for ever.

Extract of Oxford maps
Part of the principal map of Oxford

The maps in each British volume include:

  • A principal map, mostly based on a redigitising of a large-scale map (such as an Ordnance Survey 1:2500) from the late 19th or early 20th century, summarising the growth of the town, and showing the site of its principal medieval and post-medieval buildings and structures . The map is always at a scale of 1:2500

  • A series of maps showing the extent of the town at critical periods in its development (town-development maps).

  • Maps of parishes and sometimes civil wards

  • Maps showing the town in its regional and local context

  • In current volumes, a reproduction of an Ordnance Survey 1” (1:63,360) map rescaled to 1:50,000 showing the town’s context at the start of the railway age.

About the text

The purpose of the text is to provide a well-researched and readable summary of the topographic history of the town, incorporating the latest scholarship. The text is designed to be read by the non-specialist but is supported with full references.

Text in each volume includes:

  • An introduction and summary of the history of the town from its inception to at least the late nineteenth century, usually with a brief summary of subsequent developments

  • A gazetteer listing all buildings, streets and other features shown on the principal Map.

About the Illustrations

Illustrations in each volume include:

  • Reproductions of outstanding historic maps of the town

  • Topographical views of the town and illustrations of its main buildings and streetscapes

  • Aerial photographs


About the British Historic Towns Atlas

What is a Historic Towns Atlas? We explain text, illustrations and format

What are the aims of the project?

Former Trust Chair Professor Caroline Barron writes about the history of the project and its connection with Oxford

What is a gazetteer? We explain its function and purpose and how you can view our London gazetteer online.

Former Trust Chair Professor Keith Lilley writes about the Trust's evolving approach to the British Historic Towns Atlas and the maps that it publishes

A published list of articles about and references to the British Towns Atlas and the European Project

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