Latest Timepix photos show OS trig pillars

Historic photo site Timepix launched six weeks ago with over 21,000 images, many captured by OS surveyors between the 1940s and 1960s. Timepix now boast 26,000 photos and has been visited by thousands of people across the world, getting a unique view of Britain and insight into the past of OS.

Today marks the 82nd anniversary since the well-known trig pillar was first used in the retriangulation of Great Britain on 18 April 1936. Timepix is helping us celebrate with some antiquated trig pillar photos.

From Timepix, we’ve found photos of Britain’s highest trig pillar, Ben Nevis. Taken in 1959, you could say Ben Nevis has grown up since these photos! In late 2016, we revealed that Britain’s highest point was even taller than originally thought, with Ben Nevis standing at 1,345m and not 1,344m. This official change in height was realised following a restoration of the trig pillar on Ben Nevis. So you see, the mountain really did grow!

Major John Kelsey (standing) on Ben Nevis taking a temperature reading in 1959 using a Tellurometer MRA1 with a small dish.

Photo taken of a surveyor using a 5 inch Tavistock theodolite. A tellurometer and dish stands cased at the foot of the pillar.

Photo taken of a surveyor using a 5 inch Tavistock theodolite. A tellurometer and dish stands cased at the foot of the pillar.

2018 also marks 60 years since OS started using Tellurometers on trig pillars. These instruments had dishes (as shown in the photos) and used radio microwave pulses to measure distance. They marked a dramatic step change in the technology available for land surveying.

Now redundant, back in 1936, trig pillars formed a state-of-the-art network to help us map Great Britain. Some 6,500 stone trig pillars were built in a style conceived by Brigadier Martin Hotine. Over the decades, hundreds of pillars have been lost to housing developments, farming, coastal erosion and other causes. But, those that remain are still a familiar sight if you’re out exploring around Britain. If you’d like to learn more, read our blog on trig pillar history.

The modern equivalent is the OS Net network of 110 Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers. Our surveyors use OS Net and GNSS technology every day to instantly position new map detail to within a few centimetres.

To explore more photos from Britain’s past, head to Timepix. You can search for photos and see them set against modern or historical maps.

The first Timepix release focuses on OS photos from the Greater Manchester area, but there are a small number of Edwardian postcards, Victorian studio photos and other OS historic photos scattered across Great Britain. Timepix will be adding more photos from wider areas over time.

Visit www.timepix.uk to browse the photos.

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4 Responses

  1. Happy 82nd Birthday Many Thanks for the countless adventures & Trig Point visits that have been assisted and made possible with OS Maps. Here’s to the next 82 amazing years.

  2. JMB

    The navigation around the site is confusing.

    I click on the marker over Ben Nevis that shows there are four images, one image opens and at the top there is “1/4”. I expected that, like other image display sites, there would be some way of going through the four images but I have yet to find a way.

    If I go back to the map and zoom right in the I can drag around and see more images but the Southern on on the summit of Ben Nevis shows “2”. I cannot zoom in any further and can only display one of those images when I click on it.

    Not sure what the significance is of the location of the thumbnails on the map, they do not seem to correspond to the location of the photographs because the Northern-most two Ben Nevis pictures are not shown located on the summit even though the trig point pillar is visible in the image.

  3. KLS

    I’m particularly interested in the photos in and around Manchester but as there are so many it is impossible to zoom in successfully. Even searching for a specific area of Manchester returns sporadic results, sometimes no results at all. It is very frustrating. I’m not sure the search engine is up to the job!

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