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Python routines for working with grid references as defined by the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain (OSGB).

Toby Thurston – November 2023

The functions in this module convert from OSGB grid references to and from GPS Latitude and Longitude, using formulae, and the OSTN15 data set, supplied by OSGB. Conversions are accurate to approximately +/- 1mm. The scope is limited to the same coverage as the Ordnance Survey maps: England, Wales, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, but not Northern Ireland, nor the Channel Islands.

This implementation supersedes the osgb module written by Paul Agapow; existing code should work unmodified, but the exported functions have been re-implemented, so the results will be more accurate.

The implementation uses the Ordnance Survey’s high-precision dataset called OSTN15. This dataset is freely available for public use, but remains (c) Crown copyright, Ordnance Survey and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) 2016. All rights reserved.

The modules were designed to work with Python 2.7 and with Python 3.5 or newer, but they are now only tested on Python versions 3.7 and newer. When I last checked they were very slightly faster with Python 2.7 than with Python 3.6, but the functions are, and the results should be, identical. If you are still using Python 2, then use python2 (or whatever you call it) instead of python3 below.


python3 setup.py install

or more likely

pip3 install osgb


import osgb

(lat, lon) = osgb.grid_to_ll(324231, 432525)
(easting, northing) = osgb.ll_to_grid(52.132341, -2.43256)

grid_ref = osgb.format_grid(324231, 231423)
(easting, northing) = osgb.parse_grid("TQ213455")

Each of the modules contains detailed documentation and examples in “doctest” format:

pydoc osgb/convert.py
pydoc osgb/gridder.py

For more please see the page at RTD.


The original osgb functions are also still provided for compatibility with old code, so that code like this, should still work:

from osgb import osgb_to_lonlat, lonlat_to_osgb

(lon, lat) = osgb_to_lonlat("SD 30271 33770")
grid_ref = lonlat_to_osgb(-3.058695, 53.795346, digits=5)

Note that the older osgb_to_lonlat returns latitude and longitude in the opposite order to the newer grid_to_ll. If in doubt, note that for valid OSGB grid references latitude will always be greater than longitude.

Note also that the older lonlat_to_osgb expects the arguments to have longitude first and latitude second. However the re-implemented version will determine the correct sequence automatically, so the calling order does not actually matter.

The re-implementation also adds an optional model= parameter to each of these functions, so you can use them with WGS84 coordinates. Model defaults to OSGB36, so if you leave it out you will get the old functionality.

(lon, lat) = osgb_to_lonlat("SD 30271 33770", model="WGS84")
grid_ref = lonlat_to_osgb(-3.058695, 53.795346, digits=5, model="WGS84")


The scripts directory contains some tools that show examples of how to use this module.

1. The first is a handy command-line conversion tool that will convert a grid reference to latitude and longitude and vice versa. With the --show switch it will try to open the relevant map on StreetMap.co.uk. With --random it will generate a random grid reference for you. Try

python3 bngl.py TQ 109 324
python3 bngl.py --show 51.48 0
python3 bngl.py --help

2. The script called plot_maps.py will create a map of the OSGB grid system. To make this work you need to have a current TeX distribution with “mpost” installed. Optionally you can add the outlines of the supported map series.

python3 scripts/plot_maps.py --series A

The two PDF files included are examples of the output.

  1. The script called whatmaps.py reads a GPX file (of a track or a route or just a list of waymarks) and shows you all the OS maps that cover the points in the file. This uses the external module called gpxpy to parse the GPX data.

  2. The script called zero-points.py prints out a list of all the “meeting of myriad” points in the UK that are on an OSGB map. These are the points with grid references that are all zeros like NJ000000 (just above Loch Echtachan) or OV000000 (Beast Cliff). If you plan on visiting them all, beware that you will need a boat for some of them.


You can run python -m doctest against the main modules.

You can also run the osgb/test/test_ostn_standard_points.... routines to check that there are no errors converting the forty standard points given by the OSGB.

python3 -m doctest osgb/convert.py
python3 -m doctest osgb/gridder.py
python3 osgb/test/test_ostn_standard_points_to_grid.py
python3 osgb/test/test_ostn_standard_points_to_ll.py
python3 osgb/test/test_some_more_places.py

or, if you have pytest installed, you can do that in one go with

python3 -m pytest --doctest-modules

These tests are automatically run on Github against the currently supported range of Python versions.

You can also run test/bench_mark.py to see how fast you can go on your system.

python3 test/bench_mark.py

This should produce something like:

Grid banger bench mark running under CPython 3.6.4 on Darwin-17.4.0-x86_64-i386-64bit
ll_to_grid: 84231/s 0.0119 ms per call
grid_to_ll: 22564/s 0.0443 ms per call