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’.
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.
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.