Tuesday, June 21st 2011
I absolutely love looking at maps. I can spend hours casting my eyes over grid lines, boundaries, contours, footpaths and bridleways. Maybe its because the map crosses over the various boundaries of my hobbies; mountain biking, landscape photography and graphic design, that leaves me gazing longingly at those folded sheets.
It was on this day in 1791, Ordnance Survey was born when a request of the Master General, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, to purchase a three-foot Theodolite and is now generally accepted as the founding action of the Ordnance Survey. That theodolite, and subsequently many others, were used to map the south east coast of Britain for fear of invasion by the French, and from that day to today’s world of GPS, Ordnance Survey has played a constant role charting the changing face of the nation.
The presence of the Royal Engineers harks back to Ordnance Survey’s military origins, where that fear of invasion promoted the Board of Ordnance, the Ministry of Defence of the day, to order a survey of the south east – hence the rather unusual name.
The great art of map making subsequently played a major role in both World Wars, with Ordnance Survey staff being dispatched to map the trenches throughout The Great War, whilst during World War II some 342 million maps were printed for use by the Allied forces. By 1944 maps were off the presses and in the hands of men at the front within 24 hours.
Years later and we take for granted the great work done by Ordnance Survey for such a long time.
Personally, I have great fondness for the 1:25000 Leisure maps (the orange ones). Every part of England, Scotland and Wales is covered by 403 maps that include National Trails, Recreational Paths, picnic areas, viewpoints and selected places of interest. In addition, there’s Rights of Way information for England and Wales.
Call me old-fashioned but I’d still rather be up a mountain with a big sheet of map in my pocket than a handheld GPS device. So here’s to a great British institution and long may it contin…