Expert Search

Our home page allows simple searching by placename and postcode. Here you can widen searches by using wild-cards. You can directly search for administrative units or for descriptions from historical gazetteers:


Search type:

  • Searches can include asterisks ('*') as wild cards to match characters you are not sure of.

Our gazetteer of places was created especially for A Vision of Britain through Time, and aims to include all towns and all villages of any size. It draws on our gazetteer of administrative units, as well as our historical maps and descriptive gazetteers, and includes every settlement that gave its name to any of the following:

  • All Ancient Parishes, Civil Parishes that existed in 1911, and all Irish and Scottish parishes.
  • All local government districts that existed between 1894 and 1974, and all the slightly earlier sanitary districts.
  • All Poor Law Unions and Registration Districts, and almost all Registration sub-Districts.
  • All Parliamentary Constituencies.

Each place can be found using any of the names we have linked to it, including the names of associated administrative units, names given in historical gazetteers, and names used by historical travel writers.


Search type:

  • Searches can include asterisks ('*') as wild cards to match characters you are not sure of.

Our administrative gazetteer combines:

  • Frederick Youngs' Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England (Royal Historical Society, 1979 and 1991)
  • Melville Richards' Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units (Univ. of Wales Press, 1969)
  • Richard Cheffins' Parliamentary Constituencies and their registers since 1832 (British Library, 1998)
  • Gazetteer of Scottish Administrative Units compiled from census reports and other sources
  • Baronies, Poor Law Unions, Parishes and "Towns" from Census of Ireland. 1851. General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland

Our gazetteer also incorporates much additional research at the University of Portsmouth.


Search type:

  • Searches can include asterisks ('*') as wild cards to match characters you are not sure of.

Our descriptive gazetteer combines the full text of four 19th century gazetteers, a total of over 90,000 entries:

  • John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales (1872)
  • Frances Groome's The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1885)
  • Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837)
  • John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887)

Our typology of descriptive entries is based on the ADL Feature Type Thesaurus.

Political Areas

 . . .  Country
 .  countries, 1st order divisions
 . . .  Region
 .  countries, 2nd order divisions
 . . .  County
 .  countries, 3rd order divisions
 . . .  Higher-level District
 . . .  Middle-level District
 . . .  Lower-level District
 .  countries, 4th order divisions
 . . .  Parish
 . . .  sub-Parish
 .  multinational entities
 . . .  World
 . . .  Continent
 . . .  Sub-Continent

Our system for classifying administrative units is designed as an extension to the Alexandria Digital Library's gazetteer Feature Type Thesaurus, but that contains only four terms for intra-state political units so the first expansion is from their four to our twelve Geographical Levels. The next expansion is to our Unit Type values, and the final one to our type-specific Unit Status values ('World' and 'Country' are both Geographical Levels and Unit Types). NB a given type of unit may hold more than one status value concurrently.

Click on any of the levels for details of the types we include within that level. Where there are a small number of units with a given type or status, you can access a complete listing of all such units. Note that some levels are unused when working only with British units.