A Mapped View of Our History

As we approach our 25th anniversary, it a great time to reflect on just how far things have changed in terms of the way we access and use location-based data and maps.

For those that have been working alongside Landmark and our Envirocheck or Promap tools for many years, you may have journeyed with us on the path to digitisation. We feel we are pioneers of transforming maps into critical data for commercial usage; over two decades ago we took the first vital steps to digitising a vast number of OS maps of various scales and dates.

Before, you may recall times where you would obtain OS paper maps from your local bookshops or libraries, and then use lightboxes, sticky tape, scale rulers and highlighter pens when overlaying maps to analyse different layers or historical periods. Of course, this was prone to error, took a great deal of time and is now safely confined to the history books.

As one of the first to digitise OS maps, the initial step focused on delivering mapped data on to CDs. Of course, now things have advanced further still, and historical mapped data is easily accessible online. For those recently graduated, paper-based assessments will be an almost alien-concept and using tools such as our Envirocheck Analysis will be the natural choice.

Today, the extent of the data is extensive to say the least. As well as digitising all of OS maps, we offer access to less common data, for example we are the only organisation to have access to digitised Russian Military Maps. These were produced between 1950-1997 and the level of detail in these maps is impressive; detailing transport and energy infrastructure features, such as gas pipelines, road widths or electricity pylons, which don’t necessarily feature on OS maps produced around the same timeframe.

They also include detailed information relating to military installations, such as barracks or ‘look out points’, as well as sea and river depths, flow information, and even sensitive industrial site data, and in total cover 103 areas, including 80 towns and cities.

We also have a fully digitised library of historical Goad fire insurance maps, which were first produced by Charles E. Goad for key urban areas in the UK during the late 1800s. They provide highly detailed information on the construction methods of properties, in addition to their usage, height, street widths and information relating to location of internal features such as a boiler house, oil tank etc or whether asbestos was present within the building fabric.

In all, Landmark today holds one of the most extensive digital collections of historical mapping in Great Britain, comprising of well over one million historical maps, covering England, Wales and Scotland, dating as far back as 1841.

Of course, this data is now routinely used as part of our environmental reports business, as well as being used for accurate site assessments and land, property and environmental due diligence, among many other uses.

It provides a clear insight into the lay of the land, including historical land uses. For example, you can quickly see if a location was used as a landfill site, gas works, or any significant past industrial use.

This data is key when working on any new project or planning application for example, as the location data gives developers, conveyancers, land owners and planners the ability to understand if the land may need to be remediated from contamination. Developers can also cross analyse digital mapping with other related data, such as access to utilities intelligence, flood risk information or ground stability risks.

Transforming maps into critical data like this means today we are armed with far more data at the start of any new projects than ever before. This ultimately means faster decision making, with greater ability to interrogate the data, resulting in more certainty and improved risk mitigations.

Whilst there is no denying that we will continue to love paper maps – we are true mapping fans after all – digitised location data and historical maps gives us better insights than ever before.