Can the Ordnance Survey national grid reference system be used or laid over OpenStreetMap maps legally, and if so how? Could I then print it out, ideally to a scale that I could use a romer (the measuring scale on some compasses) on, and allow map and compass navigation?

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asked 07 Jan '11, 13:17

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
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edited 02 Feb '11, 15:08

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TomH ♦♦

related help type in os grid and get openstreetmap at that point.

(06 Oct '15, 11:44) andy mackey

The National Grid was first published in 1936. Ordnance Survey copyright expires 50 years after initial publication, so the National Grid has been out of copyright since the end of 1986.

However, the standard OpenStreetMap display uses a different projection ("spherical Mercator"). Consequently you can't easily overlay the National Grid on top of it. Instead, you'll need to download the data, and render it in the Tranverse Mercator projection used by the National Grid. This is not likely to be an easy task if you're not used to projections and map rendering, I'm afraid.

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answered 07 Jan '11, 17:55

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Richard ♦
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thanks for answer hoped it would be easy

(02 Feb '11, 11:18) andy mackey

Just for reference the Lincs. Beetles site has just such an online map: I use it regularly to find 100m grid refs.

(06 Oct '15, 15:50) SK53 ♦

Another way of doing this is to use Where's The Path. This has the option of showing OpenStreetMap (Standard or Cycle map), and it can show OS grid lines on top. You can then print out that map if you want.

As Madryn points out, the grid lines are not straight or parallel, but this isn't really noticeable unless viewing a large area. Where's The Path also has the option of showing WGS84 degree lines (which will be straight and parallel), but probably not as useful for navigation.

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answered 14 Jul '12, 21:53

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accept rate: 22%

Having read your additional suggestion about using Quo, and at the risk of being awarded the 'Pedant' badge, I should point out that if you overlay the grid from a transverse Mercator projection (as used by OS) on to a spherical Mercator projection (as used by OSM), the resulting grid lines will be neither exactly parallel nor exactly straight. The effect is small if you are mapping a small area (e.g. a town), but less so if you are mapping a county or a National Park. The image below is the OS grid printed over an OSM map of most of the British Isles. The green line is 53°N on WGS-84.OS grid over OSM map

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answered 14 Jul '12, 11:14

Madryn's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

edited 14 Jul '12, 12:14

One possible way of doing this:

  • Download and install Google Earth
  • Use the KMZ link from OSM in Google Earth to display OSM map tiles in it.
  • Then use the KMZ from to load OS grid lines in Google Earth, these will show as an overlay on top of the map.

So you can then print out a map from that etc.

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answered 08 Jan '11, 23:08

Vclaw's gravatar image

accept rate: 22%

edited 14 Jul '12, 11:04

thanks I'll have to spend some time working through those steps

(02 Feb '11, 10:56) andy mackey

Note that the site is now empty with no data available.

(14 Jul '12, 08:58) Deanna Earley is working it's also a useful tool to help geo ref old OS maps with a grid, Google Earth KMZ images can then be used as custom maps in the newer garmins. see

(29 Jun '14, 15:43) andy mackey

Since asking the Question I have found that QUO aka Mapyx as free software which will now display OSM data and also yield OS Grid references. I have not been able to display the grid but if I put way-point dots at grid intersections I can use a straight edge to join the points and create a grid on the map when I print it

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answered 11 Feb '11, 10:59

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
accept rate: 4%

I think that some of the rendering sets, like possibly mapnik that may use the Proj module. Can use proj to process a lot of projections and althogh older versions didn't have OSGB NG the latest version seem to list it. Proj is now I thing version 4.x.x.x and comes with some package servers (to link with download packaged programs that use it and from a range of download sites for the best option search for proj on your system or take a look at the requirments lists of renderers and where they sugest you should get it. I think upstream it comes out as a support file of projection parameters from a reaseach and science body mainly for use with thier s/w (of the top of my head ESRI comes to mind but could very wrong. -just looked it up it was USGS [aledgedly])

These links might help a bit..

Essentialy its a big parameter file that a program uses to self configure, and can then chunter through the conversion maths with for your chosen projection.

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answered 18 Jun '15, 21:39

Govanus's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

edited 18 Jun '15, 21:41


I don't think there are legal issues.

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answered 07 Jan '11, 16:19

Kartograefin's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

That page says nothing about the legal position of using OSGB grids in maps.

(07 Jan '11, 17:13) Jonathan Ben...

This is a help site, not a discussion site. Answers should be definitive.

(02 Feb '11, 11:44) Richard ♦
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question asked: 07 Jan '11, 13:17

question was seen: 13,111 times

last updated: 06 Oct '15, 15:50

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