Free, accurate information about the geography of the United Kingdom is suprisingly hard to find. The only two complete mapsets of the UK (as far as I'm aware) are owned and copyrighted to the hilt by the Ordnance Survey
. Similarily, the only complete postcode file (the PAF) is owned and copyright by the Royal Mail
. There are assorted Gazetteers out there, but again, they're generally owned and copyrighted. This is part of the widespread movement to build an accessible, practical and free alternative.
Who owns this?
The American National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (bless their nylon socks) have just about the whole world mapped out, and give away a subset of their data as 'Geonet'
. The UK file contains about 32,000 names of populated places, rivers, hills etc., along with latitude and longitude information, to an accuracy of about 5km. Combining this with data (Ward Tables, Parish & Community listings, 2001 Census Keycounts etc.) from the UK Office of National Statistics
, together with data from the Open Street Map
projects, results in a pretty large (37,499 placenames representing 33,861 places) database of UK places, along with their location, Local Authority, Parliamentary Ward, Population and Area. An HMSO Licence allows me to also give away the 2001 Census Key Statistics, which cover about 3000 major places. In short - it's free data. Take and enjoy.
What use is it to me? I use Multimap / UpMyStreet / Google Earth / whatever?
Of course. So do I. But there have been many times as a programmer that I've needed to write code to find out *roughly* where somebody is, or needed a list of "nearest major towns", or a "Select Your County" list. At present, this will supply those needs, and more. For free.
My town/village/hamlet isn't on there / is in the wrong place!
Please feel free to send me
any corrections. If you have location data, such as a latitude / longitude, please
make sure this is from an independent source - a measurement from your own personal GPS or similar - and not from a copyrighted one, such as an Ordnance Survey map.