Layers of London: Mapping the City’s Heritage

Project partner: 
Institute of Historical Research
Date: 
2016-2018

Layers of London is a ground-breaking interactive online mapping project led by the Institute of Historical Research’s Centre for Metropolitan History, part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Virtual visitors to London can peel back layers of the city’s history to discover information about the landmarks, events memories and stories of London’s diverse people and places, going as far back as Roman times. Contributions so far range from conscientious objector historical accounts from Haringey, to Windrush stories from Lewisham.

Using expertise honed through two previous mapping projects with the Institute of Historical Research - Locating London’s Past and Mapping London - our geomaticians have georectified and digitised a framework sequence of significant historic maps of London from the late 17th-century onwards, so that contributions can be placed in their context.

The process has involved pulling the maps around in a Geographic Information System (GIS), and anchoring them to hundreds of known calibration points like old churches and street junctions, so that they can be layered on top of an Ordnance Survey map. The team has also recorded historic roads, places, ward boundaries and parish boundaries in GIS datasets, and built complex ArcGIS models to allow huge volumes of data to be processed quickly.

The resulting maps and searchable, downloadable GIS datasets will be invaluable resources for historians and archaeologists wishing to explore London’s development for years to come.

Other contributors to the Layers of London project include a wide range of individuals and groups, ranging from members of the public engaged through social media, online tools, workshops and training events, to bodies such as The British Library, Historic England, London Metropolitan Archives, The National Archives, and Birkbeck, University of London

The project is generously supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Ford Britain Trust, and the IHR Trust.