Happy birthday Ordnance Survey – 223 years old!

happy-birthday-iconTomorrow will mark 223 years since Ordnance Survey was founded. In the late 1700s the government ordered its defence ministry – the Board of Ordnance – to begin a survey of England’s vulnerable southern coasts, worried that the French Revolution might sweep across the English Channel. In June 1791, the Board purchased a huge new Ramsden theodolite, and this is seen as the foundation of our organisation.

We’re marking the occasion by telling you some of our favourite facts and figures about Ordnance Survey. You can find out more about our history on our website too.  Continue reading “Happy birthday Ordnance Survey – 223 years old!”

Football ground quiz for the England World Cup 2014 squad

The England team will be continuing their FIFA World Cup 2014 campaign tonight and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for them over in Brazil. Back in Britain, we got to thinking about the 23-strong squad and where they usually play their home games, away from Sao Paulo.

The squad play across nine British grounds – but can you identify the grounds shown on our map? We’ve shown eight of the nine grounds in OS MasterMap, with all of the street names and so on removed, to make it a little more challenging. Can you name them all – and tell us the name of the ninth ground, missing from the quiz?

Football Grounds

Please note that home grounds are correct as of the date the 23-man England squad was announced and will not reflect any changes as a result of transfers and deals since the end of the football season.

Semantic and Geometric Enrichment of 3D Building Models

Today’s guest blogger is Jon Slade. Jon’s currently working on his PhD at Cardiff University, sponsored by Ordnance Survey.

After a fruitful year spent as a GIS Specialist at Arup I chose to change direction and return to the world of academia to study a PhD full-time at Cardiff University. Whilst I found the commercial world, in which I have worked for 15 years rewarding I missed really immersing myself deeply in a topic. My UCL MSc Summer research project ‘Google Maps Journey Immersion’ gave me a taster of this. And so, with experience of civil engineering from my time at Arup, a life-long love of maps and all things Ordnance Survey plus an unashamed fondness for reality architecture shows such as Channel 4′s Grand Designs, the opportunity to study a PhD on the Semantic and Geometric Enrichment of 3D Building Models at Cardiff, sponsored by Ordnance Survey felt ideal. This shall be my main area of work for the next 3-4 years.

Continue reading “Semantic and Geometric Enrichment of 3D Building Models”

Chocks away – tales from Ordnance Survey’s Flying Unit

Every so often we receive a tweet from one of our followers saying that they’ve seen an Ordnance Survey plane overhead. Or someone will tweet us a picture like the one below and ask us what we’re up to. The simple answer is that we’re capturing aerial imagery of Britain, as part of our role as the national mapping authority.


Continue reading “Chocks away – tales from Ordnance Survey’s Flying Unit”

Our OS Locate app goes worldwide

OS Locate will show you the grid reference for your position and your altitude too

OS Locate will show you the grid reference for your position and your altitude too

We’ve teamed up with world-renowned outdoor accessories brand Silva for the new version of our OS Locate app – and it’s now available for Android and iOS. We’ve had fantastic feedback from people across Britain since the iOS version launched in February – and had an amazing 10,000+ downloads so far. Our free to download app is a fast and highly accurate means of pinpointing your exact location – and now you can see your latitude, longitude and altitude as well as your grid reference –meaning you can now use OS Locate all around the world.

For our new version, available in Android for the first time, we’ve partnered with leading compass manufacture Silva to feature their iconic Silva Expedition 4 as the compass display in the app, complete with a moving bezel to take bearings. Better yet, OS Locate does not need a mobile signal to function, so the inbuilt GPS system can be relied upon, even in the most remote areas – you have no excuse for losing your place on the map now! Continue reading “Our OS Locate app goes worldwide”

New election maps website

Ahead of the local and European elections last month, and the recent Newark by election, we launched a new election maps website. It replaced our previous election maps website, which for many years provided a free service to help candidates and party workers as they prepare for elections.


The election maps website lets users overlay the official boundaries of constituencies and wards on Ordnance Survey maps at various scales.  This is particularly useful at street level, where canvassers working for local candidates need to know which side of the street to cover; or how far along the street to go. Continue reading “New election maps website”

How to create models of towns with building heights

Today’s guest blog is from Cristina Savian at Autodesk. If you were at last week’s GEO Business 2014 event, you may have seen our Acting Director General, Neil Ackroyd give his keynote and feature the image below, an infraworks model of Shrewsbury which was created using our new building height dataset. Cristina created the model and tells us how.


Customers using Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap Topography Layer can now access information on the heights of almost 20 million buildings across Great Britain with the alpha release of building height attributes. Released on 17 March, OS MasterMap Topography Layer – Building Height Attribute is a product enhancement to OS MasterMap Topography Layer, and available to licence holders at no additional cost. Continue reading “How to create models of towns with building heights”

Maps on screen

What do BBC2’s The Secret Life of the Cat, BBC1’s Luther and Channel 4’s Kirstie’s Best of Both Worlds have in common? Answer – all three programmes use Ordnance Survey maps on screen.

Our Brand team supply maps to be used on screen (and in print) from paper maps used as a prop, to extracts of our digital map products to use as a backdrop. A map is often the best way to illustrate a point, clearly show what happened and where or just bring a story to life.

Continue reading “Maps on screen”

Railway station map quiz

Our last few railway station quizzes proved very popular, so as many of you may be jumping on trains to head away for the Bank Holiday weekend, or head home from your half term trips, we thought we’d run another. We’re making 10,000 changes a day to our database holding the vast master map of Great Britain and changes to the rail network and railway stations themselves form a part of that.

We’ve found out a few facts about our railway network too, did you know:

  • The longest railway tunnel in Britain (other than the Channel Tunnel) is the Severn Tunnel which links England and Wales and is 4.5 miles long. And it’s also the lowest point on the network, at 144 feet below sea level. Continue reading “Railway station map quiz”

New videos for our Public Sector customers

We’ve recently added four new videos to our YouTube channel to help our Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) customers get the most out of our data. We now have over 3,000 customers signed up to the PSMA and many more organisations still eligible to sign-up.

Gaining access to our data can help organisations to deal with a wide range of challenges and make use of geographic and location data across a range of applications – and share information between organisations. Our first video looks at the application process and what steps you need to take to become a member.

Continue reading “New videos for our Public Sector customers”