REF2014 Impact Case Study: Enabling access to local historical information for everywhere

Impact: Cultural & Creative Impacts

Description of impact

The Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System (GBHGIS) has computerised geographical surveys of Britain, including Ordnance Survey mapping and all censuses 1801-1971, integrating them into a consistent, innovative geo-spatial and geo-semantic information architecture, and disseminated data via many channels including the UK Data Service, direct work for government agencies (e.g. DEFRA, National Archives), and our own very popular web sites that are used extensively by genealogists and the general public with over 1.8 million unique users per annum.

Who is affected

Government Agencies; Genealogists; General Public.


Research undertaken in 2001-4 developing the new architecture predates most geo-semantic research by information scientists. The information about places and units is a systematic framework for a much larger corpus of statistical data values and the system’s contents continue to be expanded. Our technology serves government agencies and makes historical information about Britain’s places widely available and easily findable. Our open access website 'A Vision of Britain through Time', over the year to 26/9/2013, was used by 1,812,462 different people, 79% from the UK; a significant fraction of total population.
Impact statusOpen
Category of impactCultural & Creative Impacts
Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


  • Historical Geographical Information
  • geographical survey
  • national archives
  • ordnance survey


  • REF2014