Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System (GBHGIS)

Historical land use

This section covers the work we have been doing on historical land use surveys. It represents a combination of several small grants mainly for work on feasibility studies and pilot projects.

Summer 2010 (The Frederick Soddy Trust)

Long-run land use change in Britain 1869-2000

A project focused on generating substantive findings from Farm Census data and the maps of the Land Utilisation Surveys to provide a national overview plus local case studies. Includes work using satellite mapping to calibrate histroical data and bring study upto the present day.

Spring 2009 (The Frederick Soddy Trust)

Presenting Changing Landscapes: A demonstration GIS and web site

A project to create a demonstration web-based system showing just how much information is available on historical land use and how it can be integrated to create a resource for a wide vareity of audiences. It created a web site that is focused on a particular area, but also considered what would be involved to scale up to create a national coverage, improve positional accuracy, add modern data and how to cope with copyright issues. This pilot project has produced a web site focused on the Brighton area of Sussex which will be of immediate benefit as a teaching aid. This demonstration is available at:

Spring 2007 (Defra)

Developing June agricultural census historical data

The Farm Census has been taken annually since 1866 up to and including the present day. The forms collecting data for this census are distributed to farms across the country and the questions asked cover a range of farming issues, from number of acres of specific crops to number of species of animals. This investigation considered how far continuous runs of data can be compiled from the forms, assemble statistics into a single dataset, and looked at how easily the data can be mapped using a sample dataset.

June 2006

Land use mapping: past, present and future applications

A one-day conference concerning land use. Further information about the day available here.

Spring 2006 (Environment Agency)

An improved evidence base for land use policy – hindcasting the environmental impacts of 1930s land use.

Research into techniques of vectorising data from the Land Utilisation Maps of the 1930s. Data conversion was done in a targeted locality as a case study which included investigating the options for 'cleaning' the pre-existing scanned and geo-referenced images, for interpreting the inconsistent colour tones on the various printed Dudley Stamp maps and for interpreting the colour codes on the original maps. Where appropriate these were then linked to other identified contemporaneous agricultural statistics and land-use data to add value in the interpretation of the land classification described by the maps.

2005 (The Frederick Soddy Trust)

The records of the land utilisation surveys of Britain

An investigation of the unpublished records of the LUSGB and also later land use surveys. During this investigation, at the Royal Geographical Society we located, scanned and geo-referenced the 56 unpublished Stamp maps (all in Scotland). This completed our scanned image coverage of Great Britain available to all on the Vision of Britain website. An initial examination was carried out of Stamp's papers in the University of Sussex archives. They included instructions to schools and correspondence with County Education Committees etc. on how the survey was actually carried out. This material was central to establishing how the Stamp survey defined their land use categories. We also investigated the material held in the London School of Economics archives which includes the original colour separations which were used to create twenty of the published sheets.

2004 (Environment Agency and Defra)

Work to scan and geo-reference a full set of the published Land Utilisation Survey maps. The funding covered the maps of England and Wales, but we were also able to include the published maps of Scotland. However, this work excluded vectorisation. Copies of the completed digital maps are now held by DEFRA in Leeds and are also available to the general public via our Vision of Britain website.

2002-3 (Environment Agency)

Digitising the Inter-War Land Use Survey of Great Britain

A technical assessment of the maps published by the Land Utilisation Survey of Great Britain led by Professor Sir L. Dudley Stamp in the 1930s and 1940s which included researching techniques for scanning the maps to create digital images, geo-referencing the digital images to relate them to real world coordinates and vectorising the geo-referenced images to convert areas of the same colour into geometric objects, from which quantitative data could be generated. The other aspect was an investigation into the history of the maps and of the project which created them and, having established who held copyright in them, permission was obtained to computerise the maps for not-for-profit use without payment.

Funding bodies