Viewing historical maps of Bath in Google Earth

I’ve been tidying up some of my online presence this week, including getting rid of a server I wasn’t using any more and moving some project around.

One of those was a project I did a few years ago to digitise some historical maps of Bath, georeference them so they can be overlaid onto current web maps, and then publish them for use in Google Earth.

Having fixed up some SSL issues with the serving of the KML and image files, the maps are now working again.

I plan to do some more work on this as I’ve since found a number of other maps that I’ve also been digitising. There are also better ways to publish these maps today.

But for now I thought I’d quickly write up how to use them using current versions of Google Earth.

Google Earth Pro

The desktop version is now called Google Earth Pro. Its still free.

If you want to view an individual map, then click one of the links in the table and your browser will download a file called doc.kml.

With the desktop application installed double-clicking the file should automatically open any KML file in Google Earth. So just click the file to open it.

You’ll probably want to to turn off some of the default map layers like 3D Buildings as otherwise the map will look odd.

You can then explore the file using the normal navigation controls.

One thing I like to do is use the Opacity setting to fade out the historical map slightly so you can see the modern day features underneath.

The best way to import all of the maps into your application is to:

The application will then add a new folder which contains a sub-folder for each of the historical maps. You can then choose which ones to switch on and off. By playing with the opacity to can explore several maps in one go.

Here’s a video of me doing that.

Google Earth on the Web

This version of Google Earth doesn’t support as many features. So it just doesn’t work as well as the desktop version. But you can still view the maps.

  • Visit the website at
  • From the left hand menu click the “Projects” icon
  • Choose new Project and “Import KML file from computer”
  • You can then choose one of the doc.kml files you’ve downloaded from the website

You can turn off 3D Buildings by going to the “Map Styles” menu option and choosing the “Clean” style.

Unfortunately I can’t find a way to change the opacity of layers in this version, so you’re limited in how you can explore the maps.

The web version also has limited KML support so you can’t open the complete folder of maps, which is a shame.

So, there you have it. I’m pleased the maps are working again but lots to do to make the whole experience better.