Geographically referenced databases of species records are becoming increasingly available. Doubts over the heterogeneous quality of the underlying data may restrict analyses of such collated databases. We partitioned the spatial variation in species richness of littoral algae and molluscs from the UK National Biodiversity Network database into a smoothed mesoscale component and a local component. Trend surface analysis (TSA) was used to define the mesoscale patterns of species richness, leaving a local residual component that lacked spatial autocorrelation. The analysis was based on 10 km grid squares with 115035 records of littoral algae (729 species) and 66879 records of littoral molluscs (569 species). The TSA identified variation in algal and molluscan species richness with a characteristic length scale of approximately 120 km. Locations of the most species-rich grid squares were consistent with the southern and western bias of species richness in the UK marine flora and fauna. The TSA also identified areas which showed significant changes in the spatial pattern of species richness: breakpoints, which correspond to major headlands along the south coast of England. Patterns of algal and molluscan species richness were broadly congruent. Residual variability was strongly influenced by proxies of collection effort, but local environmental variables including length of the coastline and variability in wave exposure were also important. Relative to the underlying trend, local species richness hotspots occurred on all coasts. While there is some justification for scepticism in analyses of heterogeneous datasets, our results indicate that the analysis of collated datasets can be informative.