Go! Rhinos

In celebration of its 40th anniversary this year, Hampshire’s Marwell Wildlife is bringing a world-class mass public art event to Southampton.

The Go! Rhinos event, will take place in the city over a 10-week period this summer. Southampton will be the home to a herd of sponsored rhino sculptures, which will be placed at various locations across the city centre to form a rhino trail.

Various organisations will be sponsoring the rhino sculptures, and the rhinos will be decorated by local professional artists, providing a unique design on each piece – part of the fun will be following the trail and choosing your favourite rhino!

Reggie the rhino and some friends

As well as providing the opportunity to showcase local artistic talent, the event encourages outdoors exploration, whilst raising significant funds for local charities; Marwell Wildlife, The Rose Road Association and Wessex Heartbeat’s High 5 Appeal.

Ordnance Survey will be involved in a variety of ways. We are sponsoring one of the rhinos, which will be forming part of the rhino trail, and will be producing the official Southampton trail map. We’ll also be plotting the route of the rhinos online using OS OpenSpace data.

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Aerial imagery helps define local change

There can’t be many people who failed to notice the coverage in the media about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. What was a horrific event, especially for people local to us here in Southampton, has sparked world-wide interest and a fascination about how the ‘unsinkable’ ship could be sunk so easily with the loss of so many lives.

A new museum about the Titanic and the impact it had on Southampton opened this week. The Sea City Museum run by Southampton City Council was opened by Olympic rower James Cracknell and documents the impact of the sinking of the ship with a host of interactive displays as well as a rather macabre historic map showing where people who died on board the Titanic had lived in Southampton before boarding the ship.

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The Solent Way to Hamble

A guest post by Ordnance Survey’s Richard Cully

I tend to go with the widely held thought that everywhere ‘else’ is interesting to visit.

Across the globe, residents of majestic mountain sides and daily viewers of palm fringed beaches all spend hours planning and then travelling somewhere ‘different’ for leisure and pleasure.

The landscape within walking distance of my home in Southampton is not normally renowned for its majesty and elegance, but on a chilly day with a slightly too-bright sun in my late morning eyes I set off from Woolston and walked the Solent Way to Hamble. Using the OS Explorer Map – OL22  which is more normally used for its New Forest coverage, I set off.

Once the home of the Vosper Thornycroft  shipyard, a large waterside swathe of Woolston is now named Centenary Quay and is being refurbished with smart housing, retail and community improvements which when finished is promised to lift the area and show a shiny new face to the long established Ocean Village across the River Itchen.

Five minutes walk from home and the waterfront is heralded by the familiar mast clanging chimes of the sailing club and my equally familiar question to myself – how do the people in the nearby houses put up with the racket?  The path here is wide and welcoming and follows the original plan of the road to Netley which had been re-routed many decades before to allow the building of a now vanished naval supply depot. Cyclists, dog walkers and kite flyers love the breezy open space and helpful sign boards inform about the wild birds viewable on Southampton Water.  The beach of shingle widens significantly into bird-attracting mud at low tide and further along the walk at the end of Weston Shore I watched fascinated as gulls stood silently eyeing an entire murder of crows in a slightly unsettling tableaux at the shingled fringes of ancient Westwood.

Weston Shore, always popular for viewing ships is backed with a long promenade, some lovingly refurbished (and lovingly re-vandalised) Art Deco shelters and several residential towers which rise through trees to gain what must be fantastic and distant views of the New Forest. Having re-joined the main road, it seems the shore is an always popular place to park and watch the water.  Even on the coldest day there is an appetite for ice cream at the seaside and the man in the van had a queue at what seemed like minus 2….

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Mapping experts set to arrive in Southampton

Senior representatives and leaders from mapping organisations from across the world are about to descend on Southampton next week.

They’re here for the The Cambridge Conference – so named because of its historic ties to the city – which this year is taking place at our new head office in Southampton. It is a unique occasion, giving top international experts the chance to discuss developments in mapping, changes in technology and issues of global importance.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt will be chairing a session on open data

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Map reading around Britain

Join one of our paper map reading workshops

Join one of our paper map reading workshops

As we read last week in the guest blog post from Wildlife Whisperer – Ordnance Survey will be going around the country teaching beginner map reading skills.

The workshops are designed for beginners who are unfamiliar with map reading and compass navigation. What we want to achieve with the workshops is to make enjoying the great outdoors through the use of one of our maps more accessible.

This month has seen the Ramblers Association pledge to nudge the nation to their feet and get walking. As part of the launch of the Public Health Responsibility Deal which brings together organisations across the business, voluntary sector and retail, the Ramblers will be doing their bit towards changing the attitudes towards the health of the nation. With over 60% of adults in the country either overweight or obese, there is a need to do something to tackle the issue. With walking being the closest thing to perfect exercise perhaps our beginner map reading workshops will encourage you to your feet to explore the great outdoors that Britain has to offer.

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Ordnance Survey exhibition opens in Southampton

Last night saw the preview of our new exhibition at Southampton’s Maritime Museum. We’ve been working with Southampton City Council to celebrate our 160 plus years in the city. Ordnance Survey In Southampton: Mapping Great Britain Since 1791 celebrates not only our long association with the city of Southampton, but also our recent move to our new head office at Adanac Park.

Some of the information now being exhibited.

Some of the information now being exhibited.

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Opening the new nursery at Adanac Park

We have had a nursery at Ordnance Survey for many years, providing care for the children of our staff. It’s a fantastic resource which makes coming back to work much easier for many parents and it’s always been on site which means the children aren’t too far away.

When we started making plans for our new building, the nursery provision was also included and last night our Director of HR, Jan Hutchinson, formally opened the new facility.

Fun at the nursery

Fun at the nursery

Catering for 45 children aged from 3 months to school age, the new nursery is outstanding, with an open plan feel and outside play area with its own treehouse. The nursery staff have made it an inviting, friendly and happy environment in which the children are flourishing.

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Mapping the Southampton Blitz 70 years on

Damage to Ordnance Survey's London Road building

Damage to Ordnance Survey’s London Road building

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, and whilst for some people the word might be almost synonymous with the bombing of London, many other towns and cities across the country also suffered terribly from Luftwaffe attacks.

One of those was Southampton. As an important dockyard on the south coast of England, home of the Supermarine factory and birthplace of the Spitfire, it was a prime target.

During the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940, the Southampton Blitz reached its climax as the city came under sustained attack. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, whilst on 30 November alone some 634 individual properties were left ablaze – including our then head office on London Road.

A report by the Ministry of Food describes how the resulting destruction “equalled anything so far in aerial attack on this country” but even so, it is very hard to now comprehend the scale of the damage, let alone the impact it had on the people who lived through it.

So with the help of The National Archives and Southampton City Council, we’ve built a map using OS OpenSpace that pinpoints where 712 of the bombs fell based on records from the time. We hope that by seeing the bomb sites overlaid on modern mapping, it will help people better relate to the scale of the damage and the courage and suffering of those who lived through it.

You can clearly see the heavy concentration of direct hits around the docks and industrial areas in Woolston and Itchen, as well as the city centre itself.

We’ve also included images of some of the original documents from 1940 that recount the raids and damage that was done. Within them you can read about how our offices were destroyed; the fear for patients in South Hants Hospital; the affect the raids had on food supplies; and a report by a man working for Southern Railway who travelled from Salisbury to Southampton during the raid.

To read them, simply click on the green markers shown on the map, whilst the red markers indicate each bomb impact site. We hope you find it interesting – I certainly found the research fascinating.

In terms of the damage to the Ordnance Survey offices, thankfully no one was killed, but many valuable documents were destroyed including height survey records; drawings for the New Popular One Inch map series and almost all Object Name Books, which recorded the place and feature names published on the maps of England and Wales.

Perhaps the most precious object lost was the 3 foot Theodolite of 1787 made by Jesse Ramsden and used in the scientific triangulation survey from the Greenwich Observatory to the Kent Coast in 1787-88 by Major General William Roy – the precursor to the founding of Ordnance Survey in 1791.

Tonight, Ordnance Survey staff will be at the commemorative service at St Mary’s Church, Southampton, a place which was gutted by fire during the Blitz, to remember the events of 1940 and those who gave their lives for our freedom.

UPDATE: Quite a few people have asked me to make a version of the map available for download, so here it is. It should be high enough resolution to be enlarged to around A2 size.

Visiting the Director General’s House

Vanessa Lawrence, our Director General recently paid a visit to a particularly special building in Southampton. 15 Rockstone Place is near the centre of the city and is now the home of a solicitors firm, but it for many years it had a very close association with Ordnance Survey as the ‘Director General’s House’.

Vanessa at the Director General's House

Vanessa at the Director General's House

The house was built in 1840, and was one of the last projects of Samuel Toomer, who died in 1842 at the age of only 41. It was originally called Avenue House and for the next 25 years it served as a private residence.

There were several tenants until in 1865 the house was acquired from the Toomer family for the purpose of accommodating the Director General of Ordnance Survey.

Major Henry James (who later became Lt General, Sir Henry James), Director General 1854-75, was the first occupier, and the house was used by all his successors until Sir Duncan A Johnston, Director General from 1899 to 1905. It was during Sir Duncan’s tenure that the decision was taken to stop using the house as the official residence.


By 1900, faced with the need for extra space for an increasing amount of colour printing, and not wishing to find temporary accommodation, the decision was taken to convert the house into offices, which is as it stayed until we moved to our current home on Romsey Road in 1969.

The building remained empty until the mid 1980s and been home to a range of different businesses ever since.

Simon Rhodes, Managing Partner at Trethowans Solicitors which now occupy the building, shows Vanessa a painting of the building.

Simon Rhodes, Managing Partner at Trethowans Solicitors which now occupies the building, shows Vanessa a painting of the building.

With our new head office due to be complete in just a few months it could be easy to lose touch with the past, which is why we’re keen to ensure our long heritage is remembered.

Progress on our new head office

There is an increasing amount of activity going on behind the scenes to get everyone ready for the move to our new head office on the outskirts of Southampton. We’re all getting increasingly excited as the build reaches it final few months.

These new photos will hopefully give you a taste of how the work is progressing. The first shows the visitors’ entrance from outside. Next two photos reveal the spacious atrium, which will be a central focus point, and new business centre. The last photo gives you a better idea of the building levels and the length of the spurs – or ‘fingers’ as we’ve come to call them! 

We will keep you up to date on progress as we get closer to our big move!

Visitors entrance

Main entrance

Inside visitor entrance

Inside the main entrance

Internal view 2

The atrium

Staff entrance

View from the back of the building