[Talk-GB] Fwd: ANNOUNCING GB1900 -- Online volunteers needed to build the most comprehensive gazetteer of British place names

Paul Williams pjwderby at googlemail.com
Fri Sep 23 17:59:18 UTC 2016

I spotted the message below on a mailing list I'm on, and thought it might
be also of interest to OpenStreetMappers. I've noticed that their site uses
OSM as a background map (use the slider at the top right of the map to fade
in/out between the old map and OSM).

Paul Williams
(Paul The Archivist)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: humphrey <humphrey.southall at port.ac.uk>
Date: 22 September 2016 at 21:20
Subject: ANNOUNCING GB1900 -- Online volunteers needed to build the most
comprehensive gazetteer of British place names
To: ARCHIVES-NRA at jiscmail.ac.uk

The GB1900 web site is now live:


List members who attended the UK Archives Discovery Forum at the National
Archives in March may have seen our poster display. GB1900 is a joint
project between my team at the University of Portsmouth, the National
Library of Scotland and four Welsh partners: 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.

The aim is, through crowd-sourcing, to transcribe all the names on the 2nd
Edition Ordnance Survey "County Series” six inch maps of the whole of Great
Britain, and to make the resulting gazetteer freely available. We are
particularly hoping that some archive’s volunteers will be able to put
working into their local area.

A press release, with some dodgy quotes “from me” but invented by the PR
guy, is here:


If you were’t at the UKAD Forum but this still sounds a little familiar, it
is because GB1900 is based on the earlier Cymru1900Wales project. If you go
to the GB1900 site, you will see it is already claiming  over 300,000 names
transcribed and over 400 volunteers at work, and this is because it
inherits all the contents from Cymru1900. However, this is not just a

== Cymru1900 worked with six inch map scans of Wales already licensed from
a commercial supplier. GB1900 works with a quite different and higher
quality set of scans covering the whole of Great Britain, created by the
National Library of Scotland.

== Cymru1900 gathered a lot of transcriptions, but very few were
re-transcribed for confirmation. The software has been modified to make the
need for confirmatory transcriptions clearer, the process simpler and the
results much more visual. Incidentally, this means that although it is now
hard to find new names to transcribe in Wales, there is a great deal of
work to be done there confirming the existing transcriptions: turn those
markers from green to purple!

== While Cymru1900 ran somewhere “in the cloud”, GB1900 runs on a server in


Gazetteers which tell you where towns and villages are/were are plentiful,
but those County Series maps include names for just about every farm, wood
and many parts of settlements. We are asking volunteer transcribers to
gather every piece of text on each map, other than purely numerical
strings, so we will also be including, at least in the raw data, many
“Waterfalls”, Brickworks” and so on. Based on how many names were gathered
by the Welsh project, our guess is that the final harvest will be around 3
million “names”.

It is worth explaining why two existing resources don’t meet this need:

— The DEEP project created the Historical Gazetteer of England's
Place-Names (http://www.placenames.org.uk) from the reports of the English
Place Names Survey and offering "four million+ historical place-name
forms". That means it is based on real place name scholarship, but it has
two big limitations considered simply as a finding aid for places:  the
EPNS is far from complete, with several counties not even started (see
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/groups/epns/survey.aspx), and although
the DEEP gazetteer includes many landscape features within each parish
entry, the only geographical coordinates are for parishes. The count of
“place-name forms” of course reflects the very large number of variant
names in the system. Some of the earliest EPNS County surveys cover ONLY
parish names.

— The Ordnance Survey have made their Open Names gazetteer freely
available, and initially it sounds very promising: “2.5 million accurate
locations”. However, read a little further and you find "870,000 named and
numbered roads, nearly 44,000 settlements and over 1.6 million postcodes” —
which does not leave much room for farms or woods. The OS’ core MasterMap
system does list farms and woods, but it is anything but freely available.


The GB1900 system is not an online gazetteer, but rather a machine for
building a gazetteer (it does include a simple gazetteer of settlements,
but that is off-the-shelf and there just to help you find the right part of
the map to work on).

Our aim is to build an online place name search facility accessing the
final GB1900 gazetteer, probably as an additional facility within our web
site A Vision of Britain through Time, but that is not currently funded and
we cannot announce anything now.

However, the GB1900 system is programmed to dump out its current place name
database every 24 hours, and once it starts to build up we can make this
dump available for download without funding. It will be under the simplest
form of the Creative Commons license, which means anybody can use it for
anything, even commercial. You don’t need specialised software to work with
this — the laptop I am typing this on has a full dump of Cymru1900 as an
Excel file. We know that a lot of people will want to create subsets for
their local area.


However, for now this is getting a bit ahead of ourselves, For this project
to work, we need volunteers willing to contribute their eyeballs and
fingers to the transcription process. The Cymru1900 system has been closed
down but the home page is still there, to re-direct people to GB1900. That
page includes the following acknowledgment — so we are looking for more
people like “Jan”, interested in working on parts of Scotland and England.
We hope you will draw your users and especially your volunteers attention
to GB1900:

"We would like to thank to all those who helped with the transcription of
Welsh place names, and give a huge thanks to our top 10 contributors:

• Jan (202,088 transcriptions)
• Gall (37,576 transcriptions)
• Sue (32,312 transcriptions)
• Maureen (24,747 transcriptions)
• Mike (24,730 transcriptions)
• Stephen (24,680 transcriptions)
• Alison (19,462 transcriptions)
• Judith (16,329 transcriptions)
• Alwyn (15,236 transcriptions)
• Hilary (12,151 transcriptions)

You have made an invaluable contribution to the creation of a Wales 1900
gazetteer, which will benefit research for years to come."

Best wishes (and happy transcribing — I have done part of Portsmouth and
much of Colwall today ….)

Humphrey Southall
Professor of Historical Geography/
Director, GB Historical GIS
University of Portsmouth
Geography Dept, Buckingham Bldg,
Lion Terrace, Portsmouth PO1 3HE, UK
Humphrey.Southall at port.ac.uk

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