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Prepare for launch of the BBC Domesday Reloaded website...

Neil Copeman | 12:48 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

Domeday Machine 


In 1986 the BBC launched an ambitious project to record a snapshot of everyday life across the UK for future generations. A million volunteers took part…

Now, 25 years later you will be able to explore the archive online, see the pictures, update the information and make your mark on this fascinating record of our collective history.

Domesday Reloaded... coming early May to BBC Online.



  • Comment number 1.

    Wow, I look forward to Domesday Reloaded from the Beeb. The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park has two original Acorn BBC Domesday systems running when we are open and the reaction from our visitors is always very positive, with many people discovering their contributions all those years ago.

  • Comment number 2.

    Looking forward to seeing and hearing about this. It'd be great if you could write a bit about how you've managed to restore and reformat the data. Have you given any thought about how you might design the new website so that it's more likely that it'll still be accessible in another 25 years? :)

  • Comment number 3.

    Oh, wonderful. I can remember the original project back in 1986 (and the associated BBC quiz) and would have loved to have contributed to it then (but didn't know how to!)

  • Comment number 4.

    Great to see this data being rescued from its aging technology and made available. I was one of the local editors at my comprehensive school, helping check and upload contributions about a number of Berkshire villages from our school and local primary schools. I remember feeling very privileged to be involved, and proud to see the end result - a copy was available at Reading library. It was a real national effort, capturing a snapshot of Britain viewed by local people.

  • Comment number 5.

    Cannot wait to be informed.I have tried several approches for information on Doomsday and remember it well on the T.V.Philips Ltd,Were part instrumental in its production on a 12"dvd.They were not able to advise on information or archive reference,Wiki have no reference"probably before their time.Search on B.B.C. two months ago came up blank.Yes,this is exciting.Cheers.

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks for all of your comments on the blog! - Frankie Roberto I'll add a new blog post in the coming days about how the data was restored. Also, we will be launching the web site Thursday, 12th May (tomorrow)!

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks to the BBC team for what must have been a long and pains taking project. I am sure it will be of value beyond mere nostalgia - (though who is to say that is bad?)

    Please leave a link to the website on this page.

  • Comment number 8.

    I almost have a Domesday system myself, I have recently managed to get the discs and a broken player that is about to have surgery :-)
    I wonder how many of them are in private collections.

    What a project in 1986!

  • Comment number 9.

    At the time of the Doomsday Book, 1038, the Americas and Australia had yet to be discovered and Britain only had a maximum of 4 million people long before any industrial revolution.

    It would be nice to turn the clock back but I think that this will prove to be impossible, even for the gods.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 10.

    How fabulous to have this restored back to use. I have many happy memories of my time in junior school working on the domesday project. It was lovely doing a quick search to find my contributions. I still remember Mr Baish our teacher taking us here there and every where to get the research done!! I'm now a teacher myself due to his influence and my oldest child is just a little younger than I was at the time!

  • Comment number 11.

    Well Done the Beeb! This is an awesome project!
    Cant wait to see it all come together, More advertising on the project is needed!

  • Comment number 12.

    This isn't the first time this material has been available on the web. My children took part in 1986 and I remember sharing a URL with them that I found about 5/6 years ago when news first came out that the material had been transferred from the original video discs to http. I distinctly remember the thrill of seeing an interview that one of my daughters wrote still viewable some twenty years later.
    Sadly I lost the reference.

  • Comment number 13.

    Pity there's no link here to the actual site!


  • Comment number 14.

    A trip down memory lane. It was not just children involved - I was doing a BEd at what was then Brighton Polytechnic. Remember doing some data gathering outside a pub (near Ringmer I think) with other trainee teachers. Remember thinking that technology generally - not just for Domesday - was limiting. Always wanted things to be more interactive than they generally were.

  • Comment number 15.

    Ah! I see I was right. You can see here [ an excellent, clear account of the rescue of the data in the early 2000s though it doesn't explicitly mention the posting of it on the web.
    The article finishes with this statement from a key player:
    'Dare I hope it will be republished by the BBC?'
    Good old Auntie!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I am really excited to find this material again. I was the headteacher at Cassop school (Co.Durham ) in 1986 and still am.I can remember this project vividly as a really interesting way of studying our village.We never aspired to a machine to read the results but did come across them on a visit to the British Museum many years later.
    The weird thing for me is not so much the changes but how much has remained exactly the same.The article about the local fish and chip shop for example ,even the opening times are exactly the same.I wish however we had put prices in the piece.What I will do now is ask our year 6 children to update all the articles and add some new.

  • Comment number 17.

    Thank you very much indeed for putting this up. And the pictures somehow look better than the original display too! I'm afraid you can't get away with doing something marvellous before someone asks for more - so when will we get the walkthroughs and the gallery please?

  • Comment number 18.

    My particular piece of England (near Guildford) seems to have escaped the original Domesday project. This is probably because its rural nature was far more agricultural than the built-up aspect of today. Are there plans to accept and publish new data - and photography - illustrating the changes in areas not mentioned in the original records?

  • Comment number 19.

    Thank you so much for doing this, it brings back a lot of good memories for me. I remember it being big news at the time, with Michael Wood's Domesday series on TV - and him on the cover of the Radio Times with a laser disc :) I've been hoping for years that the BBC would repeat his series or release it on DVD - now would be a great time to do it with the project being in the news again. There are some clips of it on the Domesday Reloaded site so it's obviously still in the archive somewhere! How about it BBC?

  • Comment number 20.

    The most telling thing about this story is that, within 9 years of its original inception in 1986, the then-cutting edge, modern, digital, exciting, technology used became obsolete, unreadable, and unusable through technological "advances".

    We have seen all this before: e.g. old 8mm movies having later to be transferred onto videotape; which subsequently had to be transferred onto DVDs; which no doubt soon will have to be transferred onto the "next great new technology"... if people want to continue to be able to view them.

    Compare that to the printed-paper technology originally used a thousand years ago. Throughout that time, it never needed, and will never need, any "new technology" to view it because, unlike all electro-mechanical digital media past, present, and future, it's directly accessible to the human eye.

    So maybe we should just make books from the 1986 and 2011 findings, and keep them safely stored alongside the original Domesday manuscripts...?

  • Comment number 21.

    "8. At 08:02am 12th May 2011, IanDomesday wrote:

    I wonder how many of them are in private collections."

    I have TWO systems. Just fired them up and everything is working [ Well almost, one of the BBC Master 128's needs a new power-supply.]

    The evocative music at boot-up brings back so many memories. By modern standards possibly slow, but stunningly advanced for its time. a very worth technological project for which the original BBC team should be extremely proud.

    More importantly, the social snapshots are absolutely priceless.

    I shall be sad to see them go, but ....

  • Comment number 22.

    I will try and join in with this great project. The block I live in was not recorded in the original survey and this needs correcting.

  • Comment number 23.

    Great idea and how interesting to see how places - and fashions, for those original photographs containing people - have changed over the last 25 years! It's sad to say, but I expect a lot of beauiful old buildings will have been demolished to make way for faceless 'little boxes' (like the song). I wonder what we'll all look like in ANOTHER 25 years!

  • Comment number 24.

    There is a detailed technical discussion from Andy Finney about how the content was extracted from the discs here:

    I notice that all the discussion on the Domesday archive site at is about the Community disc. I assume the National disc will be available online too? It's raaather important as an archive document!

  • Comment number 25.

    This is quite funny as I contributed 5 images to the project all of which I suspect are more national images rather than the community ones like a Rioter in St Pauls in bristol and a pair of High Speed 125's at either Bristol or Cardiff. Most of us sent in sets of images in the original six categories and when I got mine back 5 had a barcode on them. In those days even Barcodes were new.

    I believe they were all picked for the National disc rather than the community one so it might be hard to find the images if the new website concentrates only on local images . Local images are good but not the real thing.

  • Comment number 26.

    Really good to see this resurface. Especially as this is a proper web site, it allows static links to individual pieces of content.

    On the 'Updates', it might help to make it clear as to how original material will be identified alongside any updates from 2011 ... 'Updates' is not a good word to use as some might be hesitant to provide new material if they believe their words and images will replace the original.

  • Comment number 27.

    Great to see this at last, well done. However I noticed my area Rutherglen (G73) does not have any input from the time of the project. Do the organisers wish updated material to fill such gaps?

  • Comment number 28.

    Things have certainly moved on since the 80's such as NOT EVERYBODY USES MICROSOFT NOWADAYS

  • Comment number 29.

    My wife and I did some squares in the Dales, as no-one at the time seemed to be choosing these. It made for a couple of interesting days out taking photos and doing a bit of research.
    Hove found some of the squares, but is there anyway I can select squares by contributor insted of place name. The memory grows dim with time.
    Excellent that the Beeb has resurrected project. I remember using internet about 5 years ago to find details of project and failed dismally.

  • Comment number 30.

    we did this!!! we were in year 4 at Moss Hall junior school in Finchley, we went to Holders Hill circus in Mill Hill london. It was a lovely hot day and parents volunteered to take grops around the area so we could do our survey. We found out about the shops, the residents and the houses. I had forgotten all about this until today. WOW what a blast from the past!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    I remember taking part in this when I was at 6th form. We must have written an article but I don't recall what it was, and reading the articles from my block at the time unfortunately nothing rings a bell. What I remember most was walking around the streets counting things so we could provide density figures - number of banks, shops, post boxes that sort of thing. Where is this data? can I access it from this site? I remember a funny thing, the maximum value you could enter for anything was 99 - and we were over 200 for some things in our urban environment. An early example of the software not being field-tested and the sort of thing that brought us the millenium bug!

  • Comment number 32.

    Just a quick reply to comment 14. Students at Brighton Polytechnic surveyed Palehouse Common. Take a peek. I don't remember the pub featuring in our work but I do recall wondering how we were going to gather sufficient information from such a very rural part of Sussex. Do you recall the tea and biscuits that I offered as encouragement to get the data entries completed on time?

  • Comment number 33.

    Will the Domesday Reloaded project provide an emulation of the original software - or just give access to the text data? The current 'search for a place' functionality on the BBC web site - with a number of text screens that can be displayed - is interesting, but doesn't vaguely resemble the multi-media style functionality of the original system. I hope that we are going forwards not backwards in technology in terms of viewing the Domesday data. :-(

  • Comment number 34.

    I hope the site will allow good links to local websites such as photographic archives, museums, etc. Here in East Sussex we have excellent photographic archives online and going back more than 100 years and these would be a great complement to the Domesday Reloaded project, albeit with the same strictures about data longevity.

  • Comment number 35.

    @HS-BBC, The domesday reloaded project concentrates on making the community data accessible to a wide audience. If you are looking for emulation there is some work being done to build in emulation of the BBC Domesday system into a BBC Micro emulator called BeebEm.

    If domesday is something that interests you I suggest you look up [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 36.

    Oops the URL I tried to share in comment 35 had a typo in it that caused it to be deleted. At the domain that once hosted an on-line version of the domesday community data by Adrain Pearce has been set-up as a Domesday Special Interest Group for people who are interested in the domesday project and are keen to get involved with projects like domesday reloaded.

  • Comment number 37.

    I wonder how many of the old 4c at Roseacre remember the days we visited Mote Park to survey the trees and measured the height of so many trees with our home made clinometers ?? A very enjoyable time. Tape measures at the ready!!

  • Comment number 38.

    I've just been looking through the archives and notice many parts of the data missing, is this because it could not be saved, or are you still uploading the data. I notice that there is nothing of Carden Middle School or Patcham Fawcett High School in Hollingbury Brighton. I know when I was at Patcham Fawcett I entered some information, but it is no where on here. I hope it's just you have so much to upload that there's more to come and not that it has gone forever. Love the site and glad the project is back.

  • Comment number 39.

    @Wordrabbit (Comment 38). It was probably never included on the original disc or the material supplied was part of the statistical data on the national disc. covers some of the reasons why you may not be able to find the information you are looking for.

    There are a few real working domesday machines about perhaps if there are cases of suspected missing data people with the real machines could look it up to verify if it was there on the laserdisc.

  • Comment number 40.

    Having gone to the map I was disappointed to find that, Barry, the area in which I live is not covered. It is an important area in the history of South Wales. Is there any way to remedy this omission?

  • Comment number 41.

    At the time of the Doomsday Book, 1086, the Americas and Australia had yet to be discovered and Britain only had a maximum of 4 million people long before any industrial revolution.

    Some were considered to be 'secular' and were also referred to as 'villains' who, presumably, lived in villages.

    This would suit me as I have alwys considere that religious terms should not exist in a truly modern ENGLISH dictionary. (Note NOT Latin)

    It would be nice to turn the clock back but I think that this will prove to be impossible, even for the gods. I doubt that they have any will or intention to do so anyway.

    The global weather patterns have changed completely and I rather fear that IT is all over...

  • Comment number 42.

    Wordrabbit, (Comment 38), look at the entry here:
    which mentions PATCHAM FAWCETT SCHOOL.


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