Finding the map you want

Our libraries have detailed large-scale maps showing their local area, and keep small-scale maps such as atlases.

Whatever scale you are looking for, please contact the library nearest to the your area of interest to find out if we have what you want, alternatively you can email us:

Understanding maps and the National Grid

It is easier to find maps if you know the reference number and scale of the map you want. If you do not know the reference number contact your local library and staff will help you. Alternatively email

Maps in the UK use a reference system called the National Grid. This can be used to find all Ordnance Survey maps at all scales, including 6 inches to a mile (1:10,000 scale) and 25 inches to a mile (1:2,500 scale) for rural areas and 50 inches to a mile (1:1,250 scale) for urban areas.

Guides to reading maps, using the National Grid and understanding map scales can be found on the Ordnance Survey website:

Large scale maps

You will need a very detailed large-scale map if you are trying to find a specific building, such as tracing the history of your house or investigating the history of your local area.

Large scale maps include:

  • 1:1,250 – shows names and numbers of buildings, roads, fences and landscape features in urban areas
  • 1:2,500 – shows roads, fences and landscape features in rural areas
  • 1:10,000 – shows general information about roads, road names, major buildings, rivers and streams.

Most libraries have large-scale Ordnance Survey maps covering their local area. Some libraries such as Hastings, Eastbourne and Lewes hold larger collections.

Ask the Land Registry about How do I find out who owns a property or piece of land?

Small scale maps

Small scale maps are useful for planning car journeys or going for a country walk. You can find these maps in the reference, local history and travel sections of our libraries.

Small scale maps include:

  • 1:25,000 – includes field boundaries and major buildings, but not road names and other smaller details. These are sometimes called medium scale maps and are part of the OS Explorer Map series.
  • 1:50,000 – individual buildings are grouped together as blocks and field boundaries don't appear. These maps are part of the OS Landranger map series.
  • 1:250,000 – shows place names, road and river networks, and uses map symbols to highlight places of interest
  • 1:625,000 – shows major towns, cities, roads and rivers.
  • 1:1,000,000 – shows the whole of Great Britain, featuring cities and major towns, motorways and primary roads and county boundaries.

These maps have reference numbers based on the map series and location. For example, Lewes is on the Landranger 198 and Explorer 122 maps. Full sets of modern Explorer maps for the whole of East Sussex – some of which can be borrowed – are held at the following libraries:

Find the reference number of the map you want using the Ordnance Survey map shop.

Historical maps

Before the Second World War a different grid reference system called the County Series was used.

You can identify historical maps using online resources:

Many of our libraries hold printed copies of County Series maps for their area. These maps date from the 1870s to the 1930s. Some libraries such as Hastings, Eastbourne and Lewes hold larger collections.

Other types of maps

These maps are held mainly at Hastings Library, Eastbourne Library and the East Sussex Record Office. They include:

  • tithe maps
  • estate plans
  • provisional maps of registered common land and open spaces
  • shopping centre plans
  • admiralty charts
  • geological maps
  • aerial photos.

For an explanation of these different types of maps see the British Library map collections.

Searching for maps using the E-library online catalogue

You can borrow maps and travel books from libraries. We recommend using keywords to look for maps on our E-library online catalogue. For the best results type in 'maps' plus other relevant words:

  • maps east sussex
  • maps ordnance survey
  • maps walks
  • maps atlas.

Search and reserve using the E-library online catalogue.

Download walking or cycling maps from our section on Discover East Sussex.