A new online project – GB1900 – is calling for volunteers to help make sure local place-names can live on rather than be lost for ever.
GB1900 aims to create a complete list of the estimated three million place-names on early Ordnance Survey maps of Britain. It will be a free, public resource, of particular use to local historians and genealogists.
The project partners include the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales, and the University of Portsmouth.
On their new GB1900 web site, www.gb1900.org, volunteers will work on digital images of all the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey County Series maps of the whole of Great Britain, at six inch to one mile scale. These maps show not just every town and village but every farm, hill and wood – and include names for most of them. The site’s software enables contributors to mark each name by clicking next to it, and then to type in the name itself. They can also add any personal memories they have of the place. To ensure correctness each name needs to be identically transcribed by two different volunteers.
The final list of place names will be not just the most detailed gazetteer ever created for Britain, it will be the world’s largest ever historical gazetteer. It will be released under a Creative Commons licence, making it usable by everyone without charge.
Professor Humphrey Southall, professor of Historical Geography at the University of Portsmouth, said: “We hope to tap into local knowledge about place names around the UK. The more people who can volunteer information through this project, the more we can make sure these names can live on rather than being lost forever.”
“Names of places are a vital key to unlocking the social and linguistic history of the land. They recall agricultural practices and local industries, changed landscapes and lost settlements. They preserve a rich heritage of Welsh- and Gaelic-language forms from across Wales and Scotland, chart the arrival of English, and illustrate interactions between the two.”
The project is based on cymru1900wales.org, which includes all the Welsh place names gathered by that project, and existing cymru1900 transcribers will be able to log in using their existing account information, but the new system needs many new volunteers wanting to work on England and Scotland. Humphrey added ‘Since we (re-)launched last week, we have recruited over 100 new volunteers, added nearly 50,000 transcriptions, and "confirmed" 14,000 names, relative to what we inherited from the Welsh project’.
The partners in the GB1900 project are the University of Portsmouth, the National Library of Scotland, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, the National Library of Wales and the People’s Collection Wales.