Vernacular Geography and Local Knowledge in OpenStreetMap

15 Jul 2021

I thought it would be interesting to see some examples of how local knowledge and vernacular geography is included in the OpenStreetMap project. The following examples are not seen in any other current mapping (Google, Ordnance Survey etc.) and are included because the volunteers who update the OpenStreetMap are residents or are familiar with the area. I chose to look at an area near to my home in Worcestershire.

St Luke’s Church, was a short lived missionary chapel which disappeared from Ordnance Survey maps in the 1920s. No foundations remain of the church at the site, and I can only find two mentions of the church online, one is a Licence for the performance of Divine Services document and one is a short description: “St. Luke’s Mission church, at Astley Cross, erected in 1900, at a cost of £400, is an iron building, and will seat 160 persons.”. I would be interested to know if any photos of the chapel exist in any private collections.

The area known locally as the Snipes is an area of grassland and small woods/copses and is dotted with large mature trees. It is bordered on the east by the River Severn and Red Stone Caves, the north by Stourport and the south by farmland. It was formerly a sand quarry. There are no official mentions of “The Snipes” online.

St Bartholomew’s School Sports Field is an area of grassland which lies quite a distance (600m as the crow flies) from the main primary school buildings. I am not sure if it is currently in use but remember playing football on the field when I attended the school as a child. I can find no mention online of this field belonging to the school, other than on OpenStreetMap.

Larford Sandpit is a legacy of the former sand quarry. There is no mention of this surface type on any current mapping and as the site is now overgrown with vegetation it would take a site visit and historical knowledge of the location to determine the former land use and current state of the land parcel.