[Talk-GB] 'historic' county boundaries added to the database

Sean Blanchflower smb1001 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 10 08:59:14 UTC 2018

I completely agree that to map every iteration is of no merit, and that's
never been the aim. There's an accepted definition of the boundaries
(Historic Counties Trust) that by definition will never change. The
Middlesex changes were to the administrative boundaries. The traditional
boundaries remained constant through that.

On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 9:38 AM Stuart Reynolds <
stuart at travelinesoutheast.org.uk> wrote:

> Hi
> I’ve watched this from afar, but thought that I would add my two
> pennyworth, as a more casual mapper.
> Historic county boundaries have some merit (in a very general sense), but
> where do you draw the line? As it happens, I was discussing where, exactly,
> Middlesex was with my son only yesterday, and I looked it up on Wikipedia.
> Turns out that Middlesex has changed quite significantly over time. First
> of all, it existed. Then, some of it got plonked into London - and it had
> already lost the City of London and Westminster by then. Bits of it got
> hived off to Hertfordshire. Then the rest of it got incorporated into
> Greater London. So what would you map, historically? Do you map every
> single variation of it, and try and date them all? If you were going to map
> historic counties properly, then you must.
> But think what this does to the data. Think what this does for the new
> mapper (who we are trying to encourage). There is now a mass of
> overlapping, conflicting entities to edit. You need to go through every
> one, laboriously, working out which ones you need to edit, and which ones
> you need to leave alone. It’s a data management nightmare, and the chances
> of the wrong thing being edited, or being edited incorrectly, rises
> exponentially.
> Personally, I have never particularly liked the variety of ways that OSM
> attempts to map disused / demolished entities (e.g. bus station rebuilds,
> etc) even now. I am firmly of the opinion that we should be mapping
> existing, current, objects, and that things that don’t exist on the ground
> should be ripped out. If OSM as an organisation wants to take annual
> snapshots for posterity, or to set up a separate “historic OSM” then I am
> all for it - I won’t be mapping in it, myself, although I would have an
> interest in using it. As in my Middlesex example, though, you would still
> have data management issues unless you compartmentalise it by year - but
> that is a whole new interface or workflow.
> So I am very strongly in favour of NOT mapping historic counties, and only
> mapping what is on the ground (or verifiably shortly to be there, as in new
> builds)
> Stuart
> On 10 Aug 2018, at 09:24, Sean Blanchflower <smb1001 at gmail.com> wrote:
> I guess you at least acknowledge that not everyone agrees with your views
> below though.
> A quick factual error though: the traditional/historic counties were not
> administrative in the sense that current areas are. The changes of the
> Local Government Act 1888 were to create administrative areas for the first
> time, and it was the fact that they were called 'counties' that has caused
> all the trouble since then. The government acknowledged that the new areas
> were distinct from the existing counties and were not replacing them, and
> in fact the Ordnance Survey continued to print them on maps after then.
> How do we reach some compromise here? We seem to be at an impasse.
> > I'm sorry, but this is complete and utter bullshit. The "historic"
> > county boundaries are no more "real" than the current ones. They were,
> > at the time, the administrative boundaries. They are no longer the
> > administrative boundaries.
> >
> > I do appreciate that there are matters where the historic boundaries are
> > relevant (primarily genealogical research). But that's not really a
> > mapping issue., And the emotional attachment to the pre-1974 boundaries
> > is just that - emotion, not based on any objective assessment. And the
> > fact that, in retrospect, the 1970s changes were over-reaching and did a
> > lot of harm does not change that.
> >
> > Describing the historic boundaries as "real" is like insisting that we
> > map, say, the old Euston station the way it was before it was rebuilt,
> > because it was a lot nicer then. It may well be the case that it was.
> > But we map what exists now, not what existed in the past and in
> > rose-tinted memory. The same with county (and other administrative)
> > boundaries. We map what is, not what was.
> On Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 3:49 PM Sean Blanchflower <smb1001 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I'm smb1001 and have been adding the traditional county boundaries
>> recently. DaveF kindly let me know of the discussion thread here so I've
>> joined Talk-GB to add my side of things.
>> I'm not alone in thinking the traditional county boundaries have a place
>> on current maps. It's unfortunate here that these counties are known as
>> 'historic counties' as this implies that they are no longer extant. The
>> debate as to their current utility or their immutability is not one I feel
>> is relevant here as there are arguments on both sides, but the Association
>> of British Counties summarises it more succinctly than I could in any case
>> (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_British_Counties and
>> the many links therein).
>> I have no intention of adding any "historic" boundaries beyond the
>> counties. I settled on the (static) definition of "historic counties" used
>> by the Ordnance Survey and UK government and was going to stop there.
>> I would also have never started my efforts if the results would have
>> littered invisible lines all over the map. Similarly, if there were an
>> authoritative trace that could be imported then I'd agree that that also
>> should be blocked. The reason I've been doing it is that 99% of the ways
>> required to create the counties are already in OSM. Pretty much all I've
>> been doing is adding existing (administrative) boundary ways to these new
>> 'historic' relations alongside the 'ceremonial' and myriad 'administrative'.
>> (As an aside, I would also have never started my efforts if I hadn't been
>> inspired by finding that the same had been done for other countries.)
>> I fully agree with Lester's comments on OHM in all this. Without the
>> presence of the 'current' OSM database in OHM, it's impossible to get any
>> traction there. For example I can't actually add the traditional counties
>> to OHM without the current OSM administrative boundaries (county and
>> parish). Then again, as he said, if the current OSM set were put there to
>> do so, it ends up duplicating the site.
>> I also agree with DaveF that to add every iteration of former boundaries
>> is not for OSM, but I would argue that the addition of the traditional
>> counties as defined by this current definition does not fall into that.
>> After all, certain councils have already been erecting road signs
>> indicating the presence of these county boundaries so why would we not
>> reflect that.
>> I begin to fear I've caused offence in my recent editing, so apologies if
>> so. I'm just a keen OSM editor trying to add what I see as a valuable
>> omission in its database.
>> smb1001
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