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Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

The geography of London's population: populating places with historical Census statistics

Executive Summary
ResearchersDr Mike Smith (Principal Investigator)
Dr Jasper Knight (University of Witwatersrand)
Funding Body/Source
AbstractSome 5300 striae measurements were compiled from the published literature in to a structured database noting location and orientation. These were then used to construct the dynamics of the last ice sheet in Ireland.


Initial work involved the compilation of a database of some 5300 individual striation measurements on bedrock surfaces across the island of Ireland. This used data from published and unpublished sources in the production of a single structured record showing their location and orientation.

The striae database was then used to produce maps of flowsets corresponding to individual ice flow events during the last glacial cycle. These flowsets were identified on the basis of regional-scale correspondence between striae orientations which, when linked together spatially, are able to identify ice flow vectors away from dispersal centres located in northern and western areas of Ireland.

Striae-based reconstructions of the glaciology of the last Irish ice sheet are qualitatively different from those based on bedform (mainly drumlin and ribbed moraine) evidence. Significant differences are apparent in upland areas which have fewer preserved bedforms and a higher concentration of striae, and areas where glacial drift is absent. Uplands areas are also more strongly controlled by topography and geologic structure than in lowland areas where bedforms are most dominant. Combining bedform and striae datasets will enable a better understanding of the temporal evolution of the ice sheet. It is likely that both datasets record a snapshot of ice flow direction and subglacial conditions and environments immediately prior to preservation of this directional evidence.

The research focuses on three Boroughs in the former Counties of London and Middlesex (see Fig: 1) that had contrasting experiences of population change in the first decade of the 20th Century. One Borough in each county experienced population growth, stability or decline during the period. The research combines information from historical and contemporary data sets. Whilst recognising that economic and social conditions in the two periods are different, these analyses will provide critical insights into our understanding of small area demographic and socio-economic geography of comparable areas separated by 100 years.

Fig1: Glacial striae observations for Ireland complied from historic records.

Selected publication(s)

Smith, M.J., Knight, J. 2011 Palaeoglaciology of the last Irish ice sheet reconstructed from striae evidence, Quaternary Science Reviews, 30: 147-160. DOI:

Smith, M.J., Knight, J., Field, K.S. 2008 Glacial striae observations for Ireland compiled from historic records, Journal of Maps, v2008: 378-398. DOI:

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