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Making digital maps at home
Re-creating the Liberty of St Edmund


One area of most interest to local historians is attempting to map past landscapes. In doing this we are to some extent entering into the realms of speculation. However, some tasks seem more straightforward than others.

For example the structure of parish boundaries as they existed at the time of the Ordnance Survey 1st edition mapping is available online from the UK data Services. (Previously this data was available through the ESDS website of the University of Essex, and may still be referred to in this way.)

The data for Suffolk contains a few gaps, but these can be repaired manually by the user.

The file name required from UK Data Services is 4828. You will have to register, and describe your usage to access the downloads.

Introduction to these Maps

This example of a map produced within QGIS shows the area of the Liberty of St Edmund as it was in the mid 19th century. The individual parishes are coloured in such a way that, using the minimum of colours, no adjacent parishes bear the same colour.

This is achieved within QGIS by the use of a plug-in known as "Map Coloring". This is easily loaded into QGIS from its store of such plug-ins, created for specialised uses by a variety of contributors. It adds a new column to the layer's attribute table called "Color_ID", and gives each feature, (a parish in our case) a number, usually from 0 to 5. This number is used to 'style' the parish from a palette of colours.

The colours have no other purpose than to make the map more restful to view.

Use the Select tool to define Hundreds

By consulting the Historical Atlas of Suffolk, it is possible to pick out those parishes within the various Hundreds as they existed in the 19th century. The Liberty area persisted as West Suffolk County Council until 1974.

The garish colours illustrates some of the random allocations which QGIS will make if you fail to select your own colour palette.

Sources: All maps prepared using Ordnance Survey Opendata, and parish data from UK Data Services.

Go to DIY digital mapping Homepage This page created 10th September 2015
Last updated 10th September 2015.
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