Skip to main content

August 2019

 Recent months have seen a variety of activities taking place in venues around the country. As well as examining maps old and new, members have learned much about the history of our road and canal networks, tactile computer models, military campaigns and the nesting habits of puffins and guillemots. 

At a show and tell session in Redbourn (Hertfordshire) in March the exhibits included maps of highways through the ages, ranging from a reproduction of the strip maps in Ogilby’s Britannia of 1675, through Cary’s 1832 half-inch ‘improved map’ showing parish roads and enclosure roads, the OS MoT road maps of the 1920s and a mid-1950s planning map for the construction of the M1, to the 1964 AA handbook.

 The road from London to Holyhead, passing through Redbourn, from the reproduction of Ogilby’s Britannia, shown at the Redbourn meeting in March.

 Canal maps ranged from a 1770 plan for the proposed Stockton and Winton canal and a 1790 plan for a proposed St Albans canal, through the 1830 Bradshaw’s half-inch map of canals and navigable waterways and a 1918 map of ‘controlled canals’, to plans of the Manchester Ship canal dated 1921 and 1956. The next Redbourn show and tell meeting will be on 12 October, when the topic is military maps post-WW2.

 Later the same month CCS were guests of University of Nottingham School of Geography map library, where the manager Elaine Watts had not only laid out a selection of interesting or unusual Ordnance Survey maps, but invited members to rummage around in the collection and look at anything that drew their attention. Particular attractions included the prototype New Popular sheet 126, sent out to selected academic geographers, six-inch MS originals for the 1st Land Utilisation Survey, many of which have information not included on the printed maps, two sheets of the secret German geological map of Northern France of 1918, aerial photos of the Normandy beaches and an ingenious computer model which responded by displaying revised contours and water levels when one moved the surface of the underlying sandbox. Prof Mike Heffernan spoke on the activities of Sir Charles Close after his retirement from the OS, using information from papers at RGS, whilst Garry Priestnall described Mayson’s Ordnance Model of the Lake District of 1875. 

CCS were guests of the National Army Museum, Chelsea in April. The Templar Study Centre manager, Robert Fleming, provided a display of selected items from their map and book collections. The library contains over 55,000 books representing regimental and campaign histories, with nearly 4000 maps and charts and 10,000 photographs. The archive of documents contains a wealth of material about military history, campaigns and battles, personal stories, political and social history, fashion, science, technology and engineering.

 Of particular interest to our party were London Air Defences maps, similar in style to that described in various issues of Sheetlines (Sheetlines 102, 36; Sheetlines 112, 21, see also page 54 of this issue) but dating from 1860. The Templar Centre is open to the public, free of charge and members wishing to pursue studies are invited to visit. Full details are on the NAM website.

 There was another show and tell session in May, this time at Wall, Staffordshire, where canals were again the topic. Here Richard Dean, who runs the canal maps archive gave an informal introduction to his collection, bringing with him a wide variety of OS-based and other mapping related to the canal era. 

The next Wall meeting will be on 11 September, at which John Davies will speak on Soviet mapping of the Midlands.

 The May CCS AGM was held this year in Alnwick, Northumberland. To make the most of what was, for many members a long journey to unfamiliar territory, Peter Ennor arranged two extra-mural attractions; a boat trip from Seahouses to the National Trust Farne Islands bird reserve and a walking tour of historic Alnwick town centre. At the AGM itself, the scheduled speaker, Karen Rann, was unfortunately indisposed and at the last-minute three substitute speakers were recruited from the members present. David Watt showed the plaque in Schiehallion commemorating the 1772 experiment by the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, to determine the density of the Earth. John Davies gave an illustrated talk about secret Soviet Cold War maps of Britain and Graham Cornell explained why the OS MoT road maps, which had been discontinued in the 1920s, made a repeat appearance in 1934. 

The formal report of the AGM business meeting will appear in the Index supplement published with December Sheetlines, whilst the journal itself will carry reports of the June visits to Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Perth, Glasgow University map library, the Scottish Canal archive and the July visit to Dennis Maps. Clockwise from top left: Tactile computer relief model at Nottingham; Prof Mike Hefferman, Karen Rann and Rob Wheeler; National Army Museum entrance hall; examining canal maps at Wall; CCS at sea, voyaging to the Farne Islands.