UK Data Service data catalogue record for:

Historic Parishes of England and Wales : an Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata

Title details

SN: 4348
Title: Historic Parishes of England and Wales : an Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata
Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-4348-1
Depositor: Kain, R.J.P., University of Exeter. School of Geography and Archaeology
Principal investigator(s): Kain, R.J.P., University of Exeter. School of Geography and Archaeology
Oliver, R.R., University of Exeter. School of Geography and Archaeology
Sponsor(s): Economic and Social Research Council
Grant number: R000222312
Other acknowledgements: H. Jones and S. Rouillard, School of Geography and Archaeology, University of Exeter, helped with cartography.


The citation for this study is:

Kain, R.J.P., Oliver, R.R. (2001). Historic Parishes of England and Wales : an Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata. [data collection]. UK Data Service. SN: 4348,

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Subject Categories

Historical geography - History
Land use and planning - Environment, conservation and land use
Population history - History
Reference sources - Reference and instructional resources


Abstract copyright UK Data Service and data collection copyright owner.

This research project aimed to fill a major lacuna militating against the effective exploitation of many post-medieval to mid-Victorian historical sources collected by local administrative areas: the lack of information on the boundaries of those administrative areas, the so-called 'historic' or 'ancient' parishes of England and Wales. It is known that these districts came into being during the Middle Ages, that the map of these ecclesiastical parishes was essentially complete by the fifteenth century, that these ecclesiastical boundaries were adopted during the early modern period for secular and judicial purposes, and that boundaries remained essentially unchanged until a number of reforms from the mid-nineteenth century onwards reorganised the local administrative geography of the country. The project aimed to reconstruct those boundaries as they were before the post-nineteenth century changes.
Main Topics:
The digitised maps cover the whole of England and Wales, and are organised by Ordnance Survey Sheet number. The maps contain a scanned bitmap image of the Ordnance Survey one inch to one mile (1:63,360) New Popular Edition maps (1945-8) with National Grid. They contain the boundaries of some 18,233 places, and are arranged as three electronic 'layers'. The first is a scan of the Ordnance Survey maps stored as grey tone sheet images. This enables Ordnance Survey physical, cultural and place-name content to be readily visible in the background for orientation and general location purposes, while not obscuring the added boundary and reference number material. The second layer consists of the boundaries, stored as solid red lines; and the third layer contains the reference numbers that link places on the map to the gazetteer/metadata dataset that accompanies the maps.

The maps are available on CD-ROM in Adobe Illustrator (ISBN:0-9540032-2-5) or Adobe Acrobat (ISBN:0-9540032-1-7) PDF formats. We recommend using the Adobe Illustrator format if you already have the software (as it enables you to edit the maps and select the layers to view). However, the Adobe Acrobat PDF format is perfectly suitable for viewing the maps, and we will supply the necessary reader software.

An accompanying book Historic Parishes of England and Wales: An Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata by Roger Kain and Richard Oliver (ISBN:0-9540032-0-9) provides an introduction to the provenance of the maps. It also includes an abbreviated version of the gazetteer/metadata dataset, and a discussion of historical boundaries.

This unique combination publication is set to become a standard reference resource and is an invaluable tool for all those interested in plotting local area-based data from the past (population, agricultural, statistics, tax data etc.) from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Please note: this study does not include information on named individuals and would therefore not be useful for personal family history research.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period: 1500 - 1850 - The boundaries were collected for the first half of the nineteenth century, however, since there is little evidence of either new parishes being created or existing ones being divided after circa 1500, a map of parish boundaries for the first half of the nineteenth century should be of value for at least the whole of the modern period . Given the presumption of continuity rather than change in boundary alignments, such a map should also form a useful starting point for the reconstruction of earlier boundaries.
Dates of fieldwork: 1998 - 2001
Country: England and Wales
Spatial units: Parishes (Civil)
Observation units: Administrative units (geographical/political)
Kind of data: Image
Universe: National
Pre-1850 parishes of England and Wales.
Time dimensions: No information recorded
Sampling procedures: No sampling (total universe)
Number of units: 18233 (obtained)
Method of data collection: Compilation or synthesis of existing material
Weighting: No information recorded
Data sources: Tithe maps; enclosure maps; published returns of the 1851 Census; drainage maps; estate maps; Ordnance Survey 1:63,360 New Series (1895-9,and 1903-13 editions); Ordnance Survey Seventh Series (1953-74); Ordnance Survey 1:10,560 First Edition; parochial assessment maps; and county mapping by A. Bryant, and Christopher and John Greenwood.

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Administrative and access information

Date of release:
First edition: 17 May 2001
Copyright: Copyright R.J.P. Kain and R.R. Oliver
Access conditions: The depositor has specified that registration is required and standard conditions of use apply. The depositor may be informed about usage. See terms and conditions of access for further information.
Available to all users based in HE/FE institutions, for not-for-profit educational and research purposes only.
Availability: UK Data Service
Contact: Get in touch


Title File Name Size (KB)
documentation file instr.pdf 2605
documentation file instrgaz.pdf 2545
Study information and citation UKDA_Study_4348_Information.htm 22
READ File read4348.txt 2
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By principal investigator(s):
Kain, R.J.P. and Oliver, R.R. (2001) The historic parishes of England and Wales: an electronic map of boundaries before 1850 with a gazetteer and metadata, History Data Service, UK Data Archive, Colchester

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