SABRE Maps, the Discover section of the SABRE website, is a major project undertaken by SABRE to display out-of-copyright road mapping of Great Britain and Ireland, mostly concentrating on Ordnance Survey mapping. It is supported (though not financially) by external organisations such as the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and Cambridge University Library; as well as by the private collections of both members and non-members of SABRE, who have donated scans of maps to the project. It also acts as a front-end for modern on-line mapping such as OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey OpenData.
It is integrated with The Roaders' Digest: The SABRE Wiki and offers the use of in-article mapping on the Wiki; whilst also allowing individual Wiki articles to be searched for within the Maps interface. It has proven invaluable in tracking down changes to the road network, and is the only place on the Internet where the entire 1922-23 OS Ministry of Transport Road Maps showing the original road numbering system across Great Britain can be seen.
Included within its features is the ability to show map traces of current numbered routes; and in overlaying historic mapping over a modern OpenStreetMap layer via the Map Fader functionality, which shows up historic road realignments and changes; as well as other historical changes such as the railway closures associated with Beeching et al in the 1960s; the growth and development of New Towns such as Milton Keynes, Telford or Cumbernauld; and the changes in land usage within urban areas.
SABRE Maps is reliant on "crowd-sourcing" of mapping - if you have any maps that you would be willing to donate scans of, then please get in touch with us.
Terminology within SABRE Maps can be somewhat confusing. Individual maps are known as map layers, whilst collections of layers are known as layer groups.
- 1 Map Layer Groups
- 1.1 Modern mapping layers
- 1.2 OS One Inch
- 1.3 OS Ministry of Transport
- 1.4 OS Ten Mile Road Maps
- 1.5 OS Route Planning Maps
- 1.6 OS Miniscale
- 1.7 OS Quarter Inch
- 1.8 OS 1:250k OpenData
- 1.9 OS Half Inch
- 1.10 Northern Ireland Road Maps
- 1.11 Misc London Area maps
- 1.12 Bartholomew maps
- 1.13 Historic Counties
- 1.14 Other Historic Maps
- 1.15 Highway Plans
- 1.16 Maps hosted by NLS
- 2 FAQ
- 3 How you can help
- 4 History
- 5 Links
Map Layer Groups
Modern mapping layers
A number of modern mapping layers are available on SABRE Maps:
- Ordnance Survey
- Google Maps
These map layers are provided by organisations outside SABRE, and so they are as they provide to us. The Ordnance Survey layer, for example, hosts Landranger mapping, but not Explorer mapping, in accordance with our license to use the data.
In addition, there are specific modern Ordnance Survey OpenData layer groups, as detailed below.
OS One Inch
The Ordnance Survey One-Inch series was for nearly two centuries the main mapping series of the OS. This means that there is a wealth of mapping out there for SABRE Maps in this scale, but maps at this scale did not include road numbers until the 1930s, and then only sporadically across most of Great Britain.
There are currently a number of OS One Inch layers on SABRE Maps:
- Popular Edition, dating from approximately 1920. The layer is complete, although as the individual maps were donated outside SABRE, we do not hold exact sheet data.
- Fifth Edition, dating from the 1930s. Fifth Edition sheets were only produced for southern England, and then only in limited numbers.
- New Popular Edition, dating from the immediate post-war period. Sheets were only produced for England and Wales, and as with the Popular Edition, sheets were scanned outside SABRE and so we do not hold individual sheet information.
- Seventh Series, a nearly whole-GB layer dating from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
- Annual layers, dating from the 1940s to the 1970s which is hoped will be able to show complete coverage of every One Inch map revision ever produced that show road numbers, including those created by Ordnance Survey Ireland and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. These only show available maps from the years indicated, so will never be full coverage on each individual layer.
In addition to this, the following layers are also currently held on the One Inch layer group:
- 1:25,000, dating from the 1950s.
- OS Town Plans
OS Ministry of Transport
The OS Ministry of Transport Road Map (colloqually known as MoT Maps) series were the official maps to show classified roads, following their publication by the Ministry of Transport on 1st April, 1923. As such, they are possibly the most important resource documenting the early days of road numbering in Great Britain. Not surprisingly, these maps are sought-after coverage on SABRE Maps.
Currently there are seven MoT Maps layers on SABRE Maps, which is the minimum number needed to display every available revision:
- The original 1922-23 maps at a half-inch scale covering the whole of Great Britain. This layer is now complete.
- The original 1922-23 maps of London at a two-inch scale. This layer is now complete.
- A layer for maps dated 1924-25, which show the first sets of road number revisions.
- Three layers for intermediate revisions, being 1925-27; 1927-29 and 1929-32. Each of these layers is designed to hold mapping from two or three different years, though in all cases a maximum of one actual map per area was published in the timeframe.
- A layer for the final few 1935-36 maps, which show several differences from earlier maps, most obviously B roads being coloured purple rather than the earlier green.
OS Ten Mile Road Maps
The Ten-Mile Road Map of Great Britain were conceptually similar to the earlier MoT Maps in that they displayed as many classified roads as were practical, although their larger scale meant that shorter link roads were less well marked. Starting on the 1946 maps, Trunk Roads were also marked. They were issued from 1932 onwards, with the last maps being published in 1956. Whilst the map itself has two sheets, both sheets were not necessarily issued at the same time.
SABRE Maps has several map layers of this type from the 1930s to the 1950s.
OS Route Planning Maps
The Ordnance Survey Route Planning Map is a younger sibling of the Ten-Mile Road Map, though they tend to be less detailed. They were first issued in 1964, and annually thereafter until the 1990s. As with the Ten-Mile Road Maps, whilst the map itself has two sheets, both sheets were not necessarily issued at the same time; whilst very occasionally a second revision was issued within a single year. Where possible when this happens, SABRE Maps holds both revisions.
SABRE Maps has several map layers of this type from the first revision in 1964 through to the 1970s.
OS Miniscale is a modern map series, released as OpenData since 2010. Again they are similar to the Ten-Mile Road Map and Route Planning Map series in that they aimed to show an overview of Great Britain at the point of publication. Whilst they aren't particularly detailed, they are excellent for looking for major changes and for use as a "target" for smaller scale mapping.
We believe that SABRE Maps has the largest repository of Miniscale mapping available on the Internet; although we do not have copies of all revisions. Please contact us if you have copies of any of the missing releases.
OS Quarter Inch
The Ordnance Survey Quarter Inch series covered Great Britain, showing less detail than the One-Inch series but more detail than the Ten-Mile Road Map of Great Britain. Aside from the specifically planned MoT Maps and Ten Mile Road Maps, the Quarter Inch was the first "standard" OS series to display road numbers.
SABRE Maps currently has the following map layers:
- Third Series ("A" revisions) - 1930s
- Fourth Series - 1940s
- Fifth Series - late 1950s and early 1960s. This layer contains the initial "A" sheet revisions.
- Annual layers from the late 1950s, the 1960s, and into the 1970s which is hoped will be able to show complete coverage of every Quarter Inch Fifth Series map revision ever produced. These only show available maps from the years indicated, so will never be full coverage of GB on each individual layer.
OS 1:250k OpenData
After 2010, the OS released 1:250,000 mapping (the modern equivalent of Quarter Inch) as OpenData, so these modern map releases can also be placed on SABRE Maps.
As with the Miniscale mapping, it is believed that SABRE Maps holds the largest freely available repository of 1:250,000 OpenData mapping in the world. Unfortunately we do not have copies of all revisions. Please contact us if you have copies of any of the missing releases.
OS Half Inch
Whilst maps at the Half Inch scale are rare for Ordnance Survey GB since World War 1, they are much more common for Ordnance Survey Ireland and Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland. That makes them an extremely valuable resource across Ireland to show the old T and L road system, as well as to see the massive changes across the island in the intervening years.
Maps at present are available from the mid-1930s until 1972, although this coverage will be expanded over time.
Northern Ireland Road Maps
The Northern Ireland Road Map is conceptually similar to the Ministry of Transport maps within Great Britain, but obviously produced by Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. Due to the area covered, they are at Quarter Inch scale. They are also the earliest maps available on SABRE Maps to show T and L roads within the surrounding parts of the Republic of Ireland.
Maps are available for various years between the 1930s and 1960s.
Misc London Area maps
The London Area layer group combines a number of maps specifically of the London area from various sources:
- 1923 Ministry of Transport Two Inch map - which is actually the same map as that within the Ministry of Transport layer group
- 1935 OS Half Inch
- 1926 Daily Mail map
- 1937 Highway Development Survey (Bressey - Lutyens)
- Times map of London from early 1930s
The Bartholomew layer group contains a number of maps by the well-known publisher:
- 1920s Half Inch - includes a number of "draft" road numbers, including the A7 to Berwick.
- 1938 Scotland
- 1940 Northern Ireland
The Historic Counties layer group is straightforward - it shows the boundaries of the historic counties (though it does not generally show detached parts) of Great Britain and Ireland on a modern OpenStreetMap base map.
- Colour (detached parts not shown)
- Outline (detached parts not shown)
- Colour (pre-Detached Parts Act 1844)
- Outline (pre-Detached Parts Act 1844)
Other Historic Maps
Other Historic Maps is a catch-all "miscellaneous" mapping layer group.
Currently it contains:
- 1920s Bacon - Bacon's Road Map of England and Wales from the c.1929 at 15 miles to the inch scale
- Philips Ten Sheet - From the early 1920s, this is one of the earliest non-MoT maps to show many of the road numbers in use at the time. It can be thought of as a commercial MoT map.
- Geograph map of Ireland
- 1959 Europe - the US Army Service map of continental Europe
- OS Town Plans
The Highway Plans layer group puts together mapping showing unrealised Highways Plans for towns, cities and conurbations.
These come in two forms: scanned and georeferenced original documentation, such as the Highway Plan for Glasgow; and secondly redrawn plans pieced together from SABRE members' archival research.
Currently this group contains:
- Scanned Plans
- Redrawn Plans
Maps hosted by NLS
This layer group, similar to the modern mapping groups, is again outside SABRE's control and is hosted by the National Library of Scotland, and used by SABRE under licence. They also cannot be used at this time within the SABRE Wiki as it uses a different system to display the mapping.
- 1920s Bartholomew Half-inch
- "Ordnance Survey" layer, which contains various mapping at different scales from between 1920 and 1947
- OS One Inch Seventh Series. Whilst similar to the "in house" layer, it is made up of different map revisions.
- Bartholomew Ireland
- United Kingdom War Office Ireland
- OS Five feet to the mile, London - the most detailed London mapping from the 1890s at 1:1,056 scale
- OS Six Inch, covering all of Great Britain at the highest detail, from between 1888 and 1913
Q. How does the Find functionality work?
A. "Find" can be used to find items with articles on on The Roaders' Digest: The SABRE Wiki, so it will search for roads, junctions, services, bridges, tunnels as well as important places on the road network of Great Britain and Ireland. In addition, it will also search for OSGB Grid References and Irish Grid References. "Include pictures" can be selected to show pictures and diagrams that are relevant to the search term.
Q. If most of the mapping on SABRE Maps are out-of-copyright, can I download the original source files?
A. Unfortunately not. Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive, map scans themselves are subject to copyright; and whilst some source map scans have been released into the public domain, others (especially those from the legal deposit libraries) have not. We therefore cannot offer downloads of the original maps.
Q. Can I simply use your map tiles to display on my own website?
A. Given that there is a cost to web hosting, and the above issues around copyright and licensing, we do not simply allow tile leeching. If you wish to use our tiles within a separate application or website, then please contact us via the contact form to discuss licensing and re-use.
Q. What is the copyright status of Ordnance Survey mapping that is less than 50 years old?
A. Ordnance Survey copyright is a complex issue, and SABRE Maps is extremely careful to only use mapping in line with copyright laws. Further information can be found at SABRE Maps/OS Copyright.
Q. What are the exact sheet revisions in use on SABRE Maps?
A. Where we have that information, full details of the map including if relevant its revision code is shown at the top of the screen. Some map scans have been donated to SABRE Maps without the margin information, and so we do not always have the information; and sometimes the information is inferred where we can from other revisions of a known date.
Q. How can I offer my help to the project?
A. We're always looking for assistance, whether that is in donation of map scans, or in the preparation work needed to upload new maps. Please let us know on the SABRE Forums or via the contact form.
How you can help
If you love maps as much as we do, and would like to help SABRE Maps get ever better, then there are a number of ways in which you could help. These include:
- Donations of physical maps for us to scan - either permanently or temporarily
- Providing us with scans of maps in your collection
- Confirming exact map revisions where we are missing this information
- Writing map layer annotation files
- Website development
- Getting involved with the georeferencing process.
Please get in touch with us via the Forums or the contact form if you'd like to volunteer.
- SABRE Maps/Adding a map - the entire flow of the process in simple terms
- SABRE Maps/Pipeline - as it sounds, this is the current pipeline for maps that have entered the process to be available on SABRE Maps
- SABRE Maps/Calibrating - the technical explanation of calibration, where pixels on the scanned map image can be associated with particular co-ordinates (either latitude / longitude or grid references).
- SABRE Maps/Tracing - create your own traces on maps, save them, and re-use them.
At the January 2010 Awayday in Halifax, Ritchie333 was looking at a set of half inch Bartholomew Maps that Steven had bought along, and wondered if it was possible to put them online in a manner similar to a set of New Popular Edition maps that an OpenStreetMap project had set up.
A prototype was written over the weekend of 18-20 February 2010 and presented to the SABRE Committee to an enthusiastic response. After some architectural improvements to allow for a wider choice of mapping layers, the site went live in May 2010. The original system had a choice of contemporary Ordnance Survey maps, OpenStreetMap standard mapping, and Ordnance Survey One-Inch New Popular Edition coverage from the 1940s, all of which were available on existing web services.
Since that date, new features and map layers have been regularly added. The first "in house" set to go live was the 1932 Ten-Mile Road Map of Great Britain layer in June 2010, with coverage of the 1923 OS Ministry of Transport Road Map appearing towards the end of 2010, and One Inch Seventh Series in Spring 2011.
Since then, new maps and layers have been added regularly, and we believe that SABRE Maps is now the largest freely available online library for a number of map series of Great Britain and Ireland, and the largest of any kind outside the legal deposit library collections.