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 

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 


On 10 Aug 2018, at 09:24, Sean Blanchflower 
<smb1...@gmail.com<mailto:smb1...@gmail.com>> wrote:

I guess you at least acknowledge that not everyone agrees with your views below 

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 
<smb1...@gmail.com<mailto:smb1...@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.


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