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Frequently Asked Questions about producing historical maps & atlases with the Trust

  • How do you choose which towns or cities to map?
    We are both proactive and responsive when it comes to deciding which towns and cities to map. We aim for nationwide coverage, and would like to include a wide range of urban types - from smaller towns to regional metropolises, from cathedral cities to industrial conurbations. We have a number of towns, cities or regions in our sights, but we also welcome approaches from local groups who would like to produce a map of their own town. In either case, a key criterion is the existence of an enthusiastic and knowledgeable local group who will drive the project forward.
  • Would my town / city be suitable for a historic map?
    Almost any British town or city where a map can bring out the influence of the past on the present, and sum up changes over time, would be a suitable candidate. Small towns may be best treated as part of a nearby pair or functional group – as for example Alnwick and Alnmouth. In most cases we recommend starting with a map project, and then deciding on the basis of the knowledge gained from that whether to proceed to the more substantial project of a bound atlas volume.
  • How much does it cost to produce a map and who pays for it?
    Currently, a map will cost about £15,000 to produce. Most of these costs are for the expert cartography that the Trust will provide, on top of the digitisation of the base map for the town, and for the printing, publication, and distribution of the map. This total also includes some administrative costs. The Trust makes an initial contribution to getting a project going, and where relevant may contribute funds from grants it has obtained for specific purposes. The majority of the funds needed will be raised by the local group, who are best placed to foster enthusiasm and interest and tap local sources.
  • How long will it take?
    About 18 months to two years is the norm, following discussions and the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement. The better organised the local group, the more efficient the process!
  • How much local input do you need?
    A good deal – both fundraising and the contribution of knowledge and information in an organised way. But local groups are best placed for advertising the map to the local people and groups who will be interested in it and for drumming up support.
  • What sort of local input do you need?
    We need local expertise - historians, archaeologists, geographers – to agree what should be shown on the map, and to research individual buildings or features, place-names, and activities. Someone will need to step up as local lead, to channel this information to the cartographer who will incorporate it in the map. Drafts will be discussed and corrected before the map is finalised. The local group will also need to gather information to create the gazetteer or street directory on the reverse of the map, write explanatory text, and source illustrations.
  • What period should the map cover?
    Mostly, our maps are multi-period – that is, they show past, present, and lost features from different periods. We use a 19th/early 20th-century Ordnance Survey map as the base, superimposing colours and symbols to identify dates or types of building and land-use, and to make it clear whether the information is vague or precise.
  • Who owns copyright of the map?
    The copyright remains with the Historic Towns Trust, unless agreed otherwise, but we will share map and other data widely – for example, with local school projects - to ensure the maximum impact.
  • Who should I contact about creating a map?
    Email the Chair of the Trust, chair@, who will forward your enquiry to the Trustee with responsibility for your geographical region and to the Trustee who chairs the Projects and Programmes Sub-committee. Together they will take your enquiry forward.
  • Full information on how our maps and atlases are produced
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