Download, explore and view data from traced boundaries relating to Edinburgh.

This dataset contains a selection of traced boundaries relating to Edinburgh, including the boundaries of landownership (1804-1817), Police Wards (1822-1848), Sanitary Districts (1864-1880), Municipal Wards (1852-1902), and Registration Districts (1865-1902). These boundaries were traced by the Visualising Urban Geographies project, 2009-11. It also includes the extensions of the Royalty Boundary from 1685 to 1885, and Bartholomew’s Chronological Map of Edinburgh (1919).

Edinburgh Royalty of the City expansion (1685-1885)

This data is visualised on the map of 1885 by W. & A.K. Johnston and shows the expansion of the area controlled by the Edinburgh Town Council (the Royalty of the City of Edinburgh) from 1685 to 1885. The Ancient Royalty was the term for the Old Town and was the relatively small, darkly-coloured areas at the upper (western) end of the Royal Mile. The large yellow-coloured area was predominantly acquired in 1767, and 1809, but with important exceptions that influenced developments.

Chronological Map of Edinburgh (1919)

This data is visualised on the map of 1919 by J.G. Bartholomew uses different colours to indicate the dates of the city’s expansion: with a red tint used for ‘Old and Medieval Edinburgh’, i.e. before 1750; blue for ‘Renaissance’ i.e. neo-classical Edinburgh, 1750-1850; and brown for ‘Modern’ Edinburgh, 1850 to 1919, with shades of these colours indicating shorter periods within these broad ones.

Land-ownership boundaries (1804-1817)

This data is of landownership boundaries from two early 19th century maps of Edinburgh: John Ainslie’s 1804 map and Robert Kirkwood’s plan of 1817.

Police Wards (1822-1848)

The Police Commission was first established by the 1805 Police Act with six electoral wards in Edinburgh. The number and arrangement of wards was revised by subsequent Police Acts in 1812 (26 wards), 1822 (30 wards), and 1832 (32 wards). Police Commissioners had wide-ranging powers relating to public health, with responsibilities for water, gas, lighting, building regulations, and sanitary policies. Their administrative roles in public health were absorbed partly by the Town Council and the wards were replaced by new Sanitary Districts and Municipal Wards.

Sanitary Districts (1864-1880)

In 1863-64, Henry D. Littlejohn, Medical Officer of Health for Edinburgh (1864-1908), created 19 sanitary districts as an improved basis for understanding the mortality and morbidity of the city. This spatial framework and its boundaries accorded closely with contemporary understandings of the social and cultural topography of Edinburgh.

Municipal Wards (1852-1902)

The Police Commissioners and Town Council were merged in 1856, and the municipal boundary was extended to coincide with the parliamentary boundary. Municipal wards were revised at regular times over the following half-century. The complex and confused earlier boundaries were simplified, and all were revised in 1882. Thereafter, there were further extensions and additions.

Registration Districts (1865-1902)

The Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1854 provided for the division of Scotland into registration districts. Registrars were appointed in each district to maintain the registers of births, deaths and marriages. Registration Districts were based on the parishes and burghs but some of these units were divided and others united to form new districts. Within Edinburgh, the City Parish was divided initially into five Registration Districts, which grew to seven by 1902.

Related links

Visit the Edinburgh Boundaries viewer on the Library’s Maps website: Edinburgh Boundaries viewer

Edinburgh Royalty of the City expansion (1685-1885) viewer

Chronological Map of Edinburgh (1919) viewer

Edinburgh land ownership (1804) viewer

Rights information

This data collection is licensed under a CC-BY 4.0 license.

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Edinburgh Boundaries data

Download the Edinburgh Boundaries datasets as Shapefiles or KML files.