Historic Towns Trust

Historic Towns Trust

At a glance


  • Education
  • Environment
  • Museums / heritage

Other details

Geographical remit: 
National - Britain


Our beneficiaries

We serve the general public who are interested in the development of British historic towns, and specific audiences such as universities, schools, policy-makers and heritage organisations, and visitors to historic towns.


We support and promote research into the history and topography of British cities and towns, and disseminate the results, in particular by the publication of authoritative historic town atlases (HTAs) and other maps and related works, prepared mainly through partnerships formed with local interests.

We were established first as a committee of scholars in 1957, then as a charity in the 1960s and now re-established as a CIO. Over this time we have produced 13 HTAs (published in five volumes), enabling a greater appreciation of the nation’s urban history and historic townscapes.  Since 2015 our work has sharply accelerated with the publication of new atlases for Windsor and Eton, York and (imminently) Winchester, along with historic town maps for Oxford, Winchester and Hull. Historic town maps for London and York are in preparation.  Other maps and atlases (e.g. for Cambridge, Swansea, Colchester, Exeter and Edinburgh) are at the planning stage.


The impact of these publications is profound, by spreading knowledge amongst citizens and decision makers of how the town concerned has evolved over time, and how the present day urban environment reflects its past. While backed by scholarly research, the maps and atlases convey the fascinating story of the development of historic towns in an easily accessible way. The British atlases and maps are part of a European-wide project to advance comparative study of historic towns and cities.


We produce: historic towns atlases, printed historical maps, and digital and mixed media, including web content, related to historic towns; and undertake scholarly activities, including study days. We are part of a Europe-wide project for the production of historic towns atlases in countries across the entire continent. 

We deliver our product through local partnerships. The Historic Towns Trust has developed a long-standing successful arrangement of working with partnership organisations to create the British Historic Towns Atlas series. To continue to build on this 50-year track record of publishing HTAs, the HTT welcomes new partnerships with organisations that share the Trust’s vision and mission. We have developed principles and guidelines to help potential partners formulate new atlas and historical mapping projects in collaboration with the HTT (see our web site).

Our business model is as follows:

  • A capital sum is held in trust as the basis for the HTT’s recurrent annual expenditure
  • The value of the capital sum will be at least maintained, and HTT seeks to increase it over time to £1 million
  • Income generated from the capital sum is used to finance the everyday running of the Trust
  • Capital growth above inflation is used to help initiate new HTT projects and activities
  • The production of HTT outputs, including Historic Town Atlases, requires separate fund-raising plans, agreed between the Trust and partner(s), and signed off by the HTT board.

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