Where Are Milestones?
To find milestones or other waymarkers you can access the Milestone Society in-house database as detailed below.
There are also a variety of other sources you may wish to investigate:
Ordnance Survey maps show milestones (MS or MP) and boundary stones (BS) and are a good starting point but it’s not a definitive source. Many milestones shown on the current mapping are no longer in place and some that are in situ are not shown!
Old Ordnance Survey maps, which can be accessed at: https://maps.nls.uk/ are another excellent resource. In addition to showing the location of milestones, they usually show destination and distance information in one or two directions. Such information is a significant help in identifying the original inscription where it is now missing owing to weathering or damage.
Some milestones and waymarkers are Listed Buildings and can be found through a search of the relevant links given in Developing the Database below.
Many milestones and waymarkers are also recorded in local Heritage Environment Records. The majority of these can be accessed and searched through the Heritage Gateway: http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/gateway/advanced_search.aspx
The Milestone Society Database - some background
The current Milestone Society Database holds over 30 thousand records of waymarkers across the British Isles. An excellent resource and we hope you enjoy discovering it. It has been collated by our enthusiastic members over more than 20 years.
The original surveys used manual record sheets with a comprehensive range of attributes noted. In a pre-smartphone world most of them were accompanied by hard copy photographs that have subsequently been scanned. A significant proportion of this work was undertaken by one of our founder members, Alan Rosevear.
The advent of Google Earth Mapping and ready availability of digital photography allowed us in 2010 to create the Repository website. This provided on-line image files and included spreadsheets with abstracted details of milestones and a variety of other roadside heritage features.
To encourage wider access we duplicated our image files in 2019 onto the www.Geograph.org.uk website which contains over 6 million photographs across the British Isles. This is now the primary resource for the Milestone Society photographs. Information on the Geograph site from other users can also usefully supplement our own records. You can find directions for searching the site content here.
Discover the Database
- Boundary Markers
- Wayside crosses
- Modern Waymarkers
- Canal Milemarkers
- AA Signs
Each file shows the month it was most recently updated. The published information are extracts from our master database with key details for each record.
The photographs and hyper-links in the Google Earth files, Excel spreadsheets and search results are derived from a number of sources and you should observe the copyright policies of those sources, for example the links to Images of England, Geograph and Flickr.
Where the photographs shown have been provided by individuals, whether members of the Milestone Society or otherwise, these are displayed as ‘thumbnails’ (low resolution images) and are not intended for commercial use. You may use them for personal research or for PowerPoint presentations to other bodies, for example, but you must attribute them to ‘The Milestone Society’.
Developing the Database
There are still milestones and waymarkers being discovered that haven’t been logged in our database. If you think you’ve found one then please get in touch!
A guide to what items we would include in the database can be downloaded here.
To add information to our database or report inaccuracies or changes, please complete the SUBMIT form below, or email our Database Manager, email@example.com.
Please make sure you include an accurate Ordnance Survey grid reference for the location of the waymarker. There are free smartphone grid reference apps such as OS Locate – just search ‘grid reference’ on the Play Store / App store.
Other information to note is:
- the text of any inscription;
- position (e.g. on eastern verge, in front of No.23 High St);
- condition (e.g. milestone is leaning; lower text buried)
- date the information was recorded/ photographed
- the name/ number of the road it’s on if applicable
- the parish where it’s located if known
- Is it listed? Search by country at:
- If you provide a photograph it must be freely available for use under a Creative Commons Licence so it can be uploaded to the Geograph website.
NOTE: photographs of items located on private property will only be accepted for publication if the item can be viewed from a public highway/ road; a public right of way; access land or a towpath. The Milestone Society does not encourage trespass to view waymarkers in the database.
Frequently Asked Questions
Click here to download Google Earth.
a) in the Excel spreadsheet
If the Milestone Society National ID is known, scan the first column (National ID) with records sorted alphabetically by National ID or use the Excel Data filter facility to identify the milestone record.
If the Milestone Society National ID is not known, use the Excel Find next function to search the spreadsheet for an attribute such as a place name or road classification number. Each attribute may produce no result or a number of results for consideration.
b) in the Google Earth map file
Load the map file and use the Google Earth search facility at the top of the left-hand control panel which supports searches by place name, road name and road classification number. Search by more than one of these attributes may be necessary.
Assuming that the milestone is actually included in the national database, you should be able to locate the milestone by using the search facility in Google Earth, which supports search by place name, road name and road classification number.
However, you need to decide firstly which regional file to look in. The regions of England used are based on the pre-1974 counties classification. In some cases, there were major realignments of county boundaries in 1974, one of the most well-known being the district of Saddleworth near Oldham moving from Yorkshire to Lancashire.
If the milestone you are looking for is close to a regional boundary, then it would be better to load all the neighbouring regional files. Once you have found the milestone, the 2-letter prefix of its National ID will tell you which old county and hence region it belongs to.
There are two possible contributory factors here;
- the OS grid reference is not precise enough, i.e. the number of significant figures provided in the grid reference is insufficient.
- the OS grid reference is inaccurate, i.e. wrongly measured or recorded
Many of the grid references were produced around 20 years ago during the original surveys for the National database. Back then the only method was direct measurement from Ordnance Survey maps. These early surveys adopted 3 figure references as this was the maximum precision that could be achieved by direct measurement. These only give positioning within a 100-metre square so are not very precise.
Instances of inaccurate grid references, as the result of a wrong reading or transcription error, are difficult to pick up until presented on mapping such as Google Earth. If you spot an error please let us know by emailing our Database Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, there are tools such as satnavs and other GPS position devices that provide much more precise coordinate references and most recorded grid references are now 4 or 5 figures.
If you’re getting duplicate copies of the marker files this is usually because Google Earth has the facility to store map files which are then displayed automatically each time Google Earth is loaded.
Sometimes you can save a file inadvertently when closing Google Earth or the program can crash unexpectedly, resulting in the currently loaded file being saved. In such circumstances, if you load the file for viewing as normal you will end up with 2 copies of the file being displayed.
Google Earth has two separate folders for storing map files:
- Temporary Places used to hold any files you load just for the session
- My Places permanent storage: files in the folder are displayed automatically
These folders are displayed in the middle section of the control panel on the left-hand side of the screen called 'Places'.
When you load a map file, it is placed in the "Temporary Places" folder. When you close Google Earth, you receive the following message:
You have unsaved items in your "Temporary Places" folder. Would you like to save them to Your "My Places" folder? Save Discard Cancel
If you select Save, any files you have loaded in the session are saved in the My Places folder. If you select Discard, the contents of the Temporary Places folder are deleted.
If you are seeing duplicate markers both the My Places and Temporary Places folders have copies of the same file.
There are 3 solutions to the problem:
- Do not load the relevant file anymore - just load Google Earth and the file will reappear automatically.
This is the simplest but when you move to a later issued version of the file you will need to delete the current version of file (see option 3 below)
- Switch off the display of the file in the My Places folder, by removing the tick from the rectangular box before the file name under the folder name. Then load the file every time and ensure that you select Discard when you terminate the session.
This allows viewing new versions of a file but leaves the old version in permanent Google Earth storage.
- Delete the file in the My Places folder and then load the file every time and ensure that you select Discard when you terminate the session. To delete the file, right click on the file name below the My Places folder name and then select Delete.
This probably the best compromise as you don't use the Google Earth permanent storage facility at all. Just load and discard files every time.
Some waymarkers are very obvious but often inscriptions can be lost due to weathering or damage. If you’ve spotted a stone that you think looks significant then you can search for it in our database or in www.geograph.org.uk. Does it look of similar design to other stones on the route? Might it be a boundary stone (for example, on a parish boundary)? Is it shown as a milestone on current maps or on old maps www.maps.nls.uk?
Please complete our SUBMIT form with the details of your find or email to our Database Manager, email@example.com
If the milestone you have photographed is Listed then Historic England are keen to have updated photographs in their database. You can add your photographs using The Missing Pieces projects at:
You can upload your photographs directly to www.Geograph.org.uk but specific tags are required for them to be picked up by our database search. The best option is to use the SUBMIT button form.
If your question relates to how the Database works or entries can be added then please contact our Database Manager by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you’ve got a general query about milestones or other waymarkers then please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll do our best to help.
Missing milestones, vandalism and theft
A major concern of the Society is the loss of our milestone heritage through deliberate theft, which in view of the massive weight of stones or posts most often involves the plates recording mileages attached to the stones. Milemarkers in place are the property of the authority responsible for the upkeep of the road and unauthorised removal of any part of them therefore constitutes a crime.
The information on this website can help to identify stolen material which may appear at car-boot sales, antique fairs, private properties, etc and even advertised on commercially-based websites. The fact that reliable records with photographs are now being made and an inventory of the nation's milestones collected and recorded on searchable computer databases should help to deter future losses, since identification and proof of provenance should be a straightforward matter.
Members who are aware of theft of a milestone or milepost are urged to report the theft to the police and, importantly, to get a crime number to allow the item to be tracked in future. Some police forces are reluctant to accept such a notification from someone who is not the 'owner' or loser of the stolen item, but a definitive statement from Warwickshire Constabulary points out:
Any person is able to make a complaint of an offence if armed with the evidence to create the grounds for, or suspicion that an offence may have occurred.
The recording standards would be slightly different, as the Crime would need to be recorded with the force that related to the loser's address. However, if that is not known then it can be reported with the information known at the time and checked back in order to try and find the original loser. If an item is identifiable by specific detail then the investigation could commence with any force.
So provide the details of location, when last seen as well as other known information. If it's an Historic England 'listed' artifact and it appears on eBay, that is sufficient evidence of theft! Do inform the local authority as well, since they are the 'loser' - the Conservation Officer, the Highways Liaison Officer or the local Councillor.