An up-to-date list of addresses is vital for local authorities – but they have to pay for the data they created themselves
The GeoNames geographical database covers all countries and contains over eight million placenames that are available for download free of charge.
The postcode database — which turns a postcode to a latitude/longitude and back — is not free in the UK. In fact, it’s very expensive. The Post Office owns it and sells it to various companies that make use of it for things like insurance or parcel tracking. There are however many people who’d like to use it for non-profit purposes. Say you want to lay out events like free concerts / gigs on a map and you only have the postcode… you have to buy the database.
Instead, wouldn’t it be nice if it was free like zipcodes are in the US? To do this, you have to have a number of people collaborating with GPS units who note positions and postcodes. Hence this site to collect that data.
With no guarantees to its accuracy, here you can download a list of UK postcode area codes and their grid coordinates. There are now 2821 area codes in the list. Let me know if you think there are any missing area codes.
The origins of the existing UK Postcode go back as far as the middle of the nineteenth century and arose from the rapid growth of London in the earlier years of that century. So rapid was this that the then Post Office could no longer regard the city as a single town from the viewpoint of sorting mail. Thus the division of London into Postal Districts in 1857-8 effectively divided the capital into smaller and semi-independent postal towns. Sir Rowland Hill, the designer of the first stamp and the man who introduced the uniform postal rate for the whole country, carved up London into eight such Districts.
A useful map of postcode regions (i.e. the first two letters of the postcode).