Maps are one of the most engaging sources for the history of a particular place. They are packed with information; the more you look at them, the more you see.


The first extensive, systematic mapping of Colne happened as a result of the Tithe Commutation Act, 1836. The Colne tithe map can be seen at Lancashire Archives (reference DRB 1/55) and dates from 1842. It is a detailed, large scale map – with each titheable property numbered – and is accompanied by a schedule (or “apportionment”): a document which gives details of the owner and occupier of each numbered plot along  it’s size, the tithe (a tax payable to the Church) and a brief description – “far pasture”, “house and orchard”, etc

The contents of the apportionment can be searched online. Simply enter you search term in the Any Text field and select “Tithe apportionments” from the menu in Look in….

Ordnance Survey

The Tithe survey was quickly followed by the Ordnance Survey, the first national mapping initiative which resulted in a six inch to the mile map of Lancashire, published in sheets in 1845. Since then, various editions at the same and different scales have been published.

A great online resource is Mario, a tool with which you can open a modern map of the county, zoom in and out, move around, and overlay historic Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photographs.

The National Library of Scotland has also made available online a set of Ordnance Survey maps.

These two online resources, in terms of the nineteenth century, focus on the 6″ and 25″ inch editions. Perhaps more interesting and certainly on a much larger scale is the 5 feet to a mile survey of 1851. This  does not appear to be available online and is extremely rare in hardcopy – Colne Library has a set of sheets. Here is a wonderful detail showing Foxclough Colliery and the tramway up into town: