Geo-referencing historic tithe maps

Clare Montgomery
Survey Case Study by Clare Montgomery Head of Operations 05/04/2017

West Yorkshire Archive Services' Tracks in Time project was to create a valuable digital resource of historic maps dating back to 1836


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Geo-referencing historic tithe maps for West Yorkshire Archive Service

Geo-referencing historic tithe maps for "Tracks in Time" project

CADS was appointed by West Yorkshire Archive Service to undertake georeferencing of historic tithe maps for use in Leeds Tracks in Time project.

The Tithe maps date back to 1836 and the accompanying schedule recorded the names of the owners and occupiers of each plot of land in each parish. This included the plot name and details of the land use.

Image: West Yorkshire Archive Service

The Tracks in Time project was to create a powerful digital resource available to the public where they could:

  • Compare Leeds’ tithe maps to modern and historic Ordnance Survey mapping data and detailed aerial photography.
  • Search the apportionment data for ancestors and other people who lived and worked in Leeds in the mid-nineteenth century.
  • View the land they owned and occupied, discover the use to which it was being put, and find out who lived in your neighbourhood, street or even house.
  • Download apportionment data according to customised criteria, print full-colour excerpts from the mapping and photography datasets, and much more.

Digitising and geo-referencing ancient, delicate tithe maps

The tithe maps were very large, ancient, delicate and in a poor condition. They were scanned on the largest scanner in the UK owned by the National Coal Board.

We received the enormous data files and our experienced cartographers then took the maps without location coordinates, image stitched them together in a digital format.

The cartographers used features such as historic buildings and landmarks – watercourses and the road networks, that were identifiable on both sets of mapping, and then “warped” the historic maps together. These could then be geo-referenced to OSGB data.

Where the historic maps contained no data, these were coloured to enable data from current maps to be visible.

Outline polygons of the title land parcels were also created on the base map, and associated with the apportionment data.

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CADS helped create a valuable digital resource by geo-referencing historic tithe maps dating back to 1836 for the West Yorkshire Archive Services' Tracks in Time project

Simon Ruddick Senior Geospatial Technician, CADS

Digital catalogue of geotiff images

We delivered a digital catalogue of geotiff images to the client. This is now accessible on the Tracks in Time website where the two maps can be viewed side by side – zooming in to see current and historic detail.

The database can be searched using family names and the plots of land associated with that name can then be identified with their details.

Website image: West Yorkshire Archive Service

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