‘Google maps’ of yesteryear

OLD MAP Portsmouth and Gosport in 1832
OLD MAP Portsmouth and Gosport in 1832

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WITH strong defences and a distinctive coastline, Portsmouth and Gosport don’t appear to have changed all that much in 200 years.

Areas like ‘Fraton’ and ‘Privit’ were spelled differently back then, a smattering of hamlets in Gosport show a very different picture to today’s plethora of housing estates, and Southsea was almost non-existent apart from the castle.

But the historic fortifications built for the Napoleonic wars and the densely populated areas around what is now Old Portsmouth are features that have endured into the 21st century.

This map from 1832 is the oldest detailed example of The News’ region among 60,000 maps worldwide that will go online for the first time today.

The Old Maps Online site, hosted by the University of Portsmouth, is already being hailed as the ‘Google for old maps’ for academics and amateur historians to enjoy.

Dr Humphrey Southall, project director, said: ‘Our obsession with the past includes an innate curiosity about how the world around us looked, and the sheer global reach of this collection is what sets it apart and makes it unique.

‘Having a single point of entry to a repository of this scale offers historians and the general public a gateway to some of the most fascinating images from history.

‘This site will give people a notion of one’s own past home but places where ancestors came from too.’

He added: ‘The single most compelling kind of evidence of how places used to be is evidence from maps.

‘You can form quite a quick impression – you can, for example, see that Portsmouth was a fair-sized town and you can see the dockyard.

‘Its special character jumps out at you.’

The number of maps dating as far back as 300 years – with some 100 detailed maps of Portsmouth and Hampshire – is set to double over the coming year.

Maps have been sourced from five collections including the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the David Rumsey Collection in California. The £180,000 project funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee can be seen at oldmapsonline.org.