How the Blitz changed London – a blow-by-blow online map

Thursday 4 April 2019

Layers of London, an interactive map-based project at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) has collaborated with the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) to publish online for the first time, the London County Council (LCC) Bomb Damage Map, which chronicles the devastation of the metropolis by The Blitz – enemy bombing in the Second World War.

Laurence Ward, LMA’s head of digital services and an authority on the map, says, “The London County Council Bomb Damage Map is a detailed and moving record of the damage inflicted on the capital during the Second World War.

“It speaks of the experience of Londoners, of loss and devastation, and provides a fascinating view of the challenge faced in the post-war period to rebuild the city. In adding the map to the Layers of London website and enabling users to make direct comparisons with other maps and share their stories, we hope to add significantly to our understanding of the impact of the Second World War on London.”

The hand-coloured map diligently charts, house by house, the extent of the war damage, with categories ranging from buildings that were destroyed, to those that suffered minor loss such as broken windows. Dating from 1940, the underlying map captures the capital before the post-war developments that gave rise to the modern city. It also depicts the locations where V1 (‘doodlebugs’) and V2 bombs fell.

The original is held at LMA, one of the partner institutions in the Layers of London project, an ambitious website that makes key historic maps available online and boasts a dynamic community engagement programme. Other project partners include the Museum of London Archaeology, The British Library, Birkbeck, Historic England, The National Archives, and the National Library of Scotland.

Professor Matthew Davies of Birkbeck, University of London, and director of the Layers of London project, says “This is an extraordinary map, which paints a graphic picture of the impact of wartime bombing on London. We are delighted that London Metropolitan Archives has made it available to the Layers of London project, sharing it online for the first time with many thousands of users and contributors to our website.”

Using the London Bomb Damage Map to understand London

Exploring the London County Council Bomb Damage Map online through the Layers of London website allows direct comparison with other maps of London and its environs, including the more recent, and aerial images that show the longer-term impact of war damage. For example, areas that were rebuilt, or cleared and converted into parks.

Other maps on the Layers of London website

The website comprises a number of significant maps. Currently the earliest is a map of the City of London in 1520, and others recently added are the Horwood Map (1799) showing 18th century London building by building, and the Greenwood Map (1828), recording the city’s 19th century expansion in great detail. Apart from extensive new areas of London in the south, it details landmarks such as New London Bridge, standing alongside its medieval predecessor, Old London Bridge, which was demolished in 1831.

Online access to the London County Council Bomb Damage Map

To get to the bomb damage maps you need to visit the Layers of London website. Click on ‘Map’ at the top of the homepage, then click on ‘Layer Tools’ at the bottom left of the map and click on ‘Choose New Layers’. Select the Bomb Damage Map Layer and then click ‘Close’ on the upper right of your screen. The general map of London will now show the London Bomb damage map, although you may have to zoom in to see it in detail.

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages London Metropolitan Archives, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.

Ends

For further information, please contact seif.elrashidi@sas.ac.uk / +44 (0) 20 7862 8705

Notes for Editors 

  1. The London County Council Bomb Damage Map is available online at www.Layersoflondon.org. Photograph: Copyright, The London Metropolitan Archives.
     
  2. Layers of London, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Institute of Historical Research Trust, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, comprises an ambitious website that makes key historic maps available online and a dynamic engagement programme to encourage schools, community groups, archives and individuals to share information about the people, places and communities they know. It is led by the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, in partnership with a number of institutions including London Metropolitan Archives, The Museum of London Archaeology, The British Library, Birkbeck, Historic England, The National Archives, and the National Library of Scotland. www.Layersoflondon.org
     
  3. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is owned, funded and managed by the City of London Corporation on behalf of London and the nation. It is London’s archive service, collecting, preserving, celebrating and sharing the stories of London and Londoners and its many communities through collaboration, innovation and learning. The documents and books, which the LMA care for, and provide access to, date from 1067 to the present day – and collections are constantly expanding. The archives are free to use, as are the majority of resources in the public research rooms in Clerkenwell, London.