Tilehurst? Where is Tilehurst and why does google maps care about it?

Google are being asked hard questions in Parliament about their UK tax setup.

I think the politicians are missing an opportunity to ask them the question that I'm always wondering: where is Tilehurst and why does google maps think it is so special.

Here is a google maps view of the UK

Google mapview UK
It has Bristol on it, but not Portsmouth or Cardiff. Its a always a mystery in Bristol while Pompey gets a dot on the BBC weather map, as does BRS's nearby rival, Cardiff. In the google map, Edinburgh and Manchester are the ones being left out.

But that is nothing compared to the Tilehurst question. Specifically : why?

Look what happens when you click to zoom in one notch.
Tilehurst? Where is tilehurst?
Edinburgh exists, along with pretty much everything north of their excluding Mallaig, which is something all visitors to Scotland should do when laying out an itinerary.

And what is there between Bristol and London. One town merits a mention. Tilehurst.

Apart from this mention of Tilehurst, I have no data on whether or not this town actually exists. It's not on any motorway exits on the M4, no train stations, no buses from Bristol. I have never heard it mentioned in any conversation whatsoever.

Why then does Google Maps think that it is more important than, say, Reading, which meets all of the above criteria (admittedly, never in conversations that speak positively of it), Oxford, which people outside the UK have heard of.

No, Tilehurst it is.

It could be some bizarre quirk of the layout algorithm that picks a random place ignoring things like nearby population numbers or using M-way exit signs, mentions in pagerank or knowledge of public transport.

I think it could just be some spoof town made up to catch out people who have been copying map data from google maps without accreditation. If some map or tourist guide mentions Tilehurst, the google maps team will know that they are using Google map data and immediately demand some financial recompense, routed through the Ireland subsidiary.

There's only one way to be sure: using this resolution map as the cue, drive there and see what it is.


  1. Mallaig is great! Well, the chip shop is. Well, it was 25 years ago.

  2. Perhaps it's basis is on local authority and Reading as a local authority is quite small. The suburbs, like Tilehurst, are outside of the authority area. The majority of what most residents consider as Tilehurst are part of Wokingham district. So perhaps Google decides that Tilehurst has the greater significance..

    Perhaps Reading residents prefer to write their address as Tilehurst rather than Reading, and Google mines the results.

    But why Headington rather than Oxford?

    Of course, the obvious answer to this is that your map is personalised. :-)

  3. Snig -that seems like a good theory, but as Southsea pops up at the same resolution -and it's just posh word for portsmouth seafront, no separate council at all- some other factor must be at play. I'm still not convinced Tilehurst exists.

    Personalisation? That could be it. Google Maps are sending me a message. I must go to Tilehurst

  4. Hey- I'm pleased someone else A)spotted this and B) is as baffled as me.

    I grew up in the area and honestly have absolutely no idea why Tilehurst pops up like that.I did some Wikipedia-type digging just to see if it was something I was blissfully unaware of like 'it was there first', but no, doesn't look like it. It sort of looks in the middle ish of Berkshire on the map.That's about it. So I'd love to know if they ever reveal an actual reason for it.

  5. Glad I'm not the only one out there contemplating this world shattering issue. I reckon that someone important from Google must live in Tilehurst and is just keen to increase its standing as a place.

    Also have you noticed recently that, at the same map resolution, there is now a place called "Town Centre" roughly where Telford should be?


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