The aims of the project

The British Atlas of Historic Towns project was established in 1963 as part of a pan-European project to produce atlases of consistent scale and content for the easy comparison of the growth and development of European cities.  The aim is to enhance appreciation and understanding of the history and character of European towns by providing information and facilitating comparative study.  The principles behind the atlases are to provide maps and text in a way which fills a gap both in knowledge and in tools for urban studies. 


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 industrialisation began to alter the urban form for ever.

The maps in each British volume include:

  • A ‘Main Map’, based on a redigitising of a mid 19th-century large-scale map (such as an Ordnance Survey 1:2500) summarising the growth of the town, and showing the site of its principal medieval and post-medieval buildings and structures in the context of the early Victorian period.
  • A series of maps showing the extent of the town at critical periods in its development.
  • Maps of parishes and civil wards
  • Maps showing the town in its regional and local context
  • In future volumes, a reproduction of an Ordnance Survey 1” (1:63,360) map showing the town’s location at the start of the railway age.


The purpose of the text is to provide a well-researched but readable summary of the 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 the mid 19th century.
  • A gazetteer listing all buildings, streets and other features shown on the Main Map


Illustrations in each future volume will include:

  • Aerial photographs of the town
  • Reproductions of old maps of the town
  • Topographical views of the town