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 received some very positive feedback following Liz’s blog post a few weeks ago about our Engineering the Olympic Park map.
The Institution of Civil Engineers was inundated with requests for copies!
The original print run has now been distributed to ICE members and to education groups visiting the Olympic site.
So, as we’re not able to send out any more copies, we thought it would be a great idea to make it available to download (pdf).
Hopefully it will give you a taster of the development that has taken place on the site since 2001 and the contribution that Civil Engineers have made.
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s a great excuse to have a bit of fun looking at Britain’s spookiest place names.
Place names have been a bit of a running theme over the past few weeks, what with Location Lingo and last week’s look at how history has influencedthe names of places and regions across the country.
In preparation for this post, I asked people to contribute their spookiest place names on Twitter, and are some of my favourites – enjoy!
We’ve written a lot recently about place name nicknames as part of the Location Lingo project. There have been some wonderful contributions; my favourites are probably Basingrad for Basingstoke and Ponte Carlo for Pontefract.
But, the stories behind ‘official’ place names are every bit as fascinating and intriguing, and can tell us a lot about our history and the development of the English language. I spoke to Glen Hart, our Head of Research, to uncover more on the history of place names …
Have you ever considered why some places are called what they are? Some may be obvious like Cambridge which grew around a bridge over the River Cam. Another is Oxford which was a ford over the River Ox, but why are they lots of places ending in ‘Thorpe’ and ‘By’ in the north but hardly any in the south, and just where the do the names Westonzoyland and Sixpenny Handle come from?
The map of Great Britain shows a very rich and varied tapestry of place names and these reflect the development of the country from Celtic times to the present day. The Celts may not have been the first inhabitants but many of the names they used, especially those for natural features like hills and rivers in England are still with us today.
Did you know that Wednesday 13 October is English Language Day? Set up by the English Project, a Winchester based charity, English Language Day seeks to recognise the richness and vibrancy of English in all its forms.
To celebrate, we’re partnering with them for something called Location Lingo. If you look at a map, you’ll find ‘official’ place names, but those aren’t necessarily what those places are called in everyday life. In fact we probably all use names that would look pretty out of place on an Ordnance Survey map!
There are the obvious ones, like The Big Smoke and Pompey but there are hundreds of others. Take, for example, these three nicknames suggested by @PontoonDock – ‘Cas Vegas’ for Castleford, ‘Stalyvegas’ referring to Stalybridge and the wonderful ‘Ponte Carlo’ for Pontefract.
So the idea of Location Lingo is to capture these names and the colourful stories behind them.
Buckled roads, collapsed buildings, destroyed power lines and trapped, injured and isolated civilians in desperate need of help.
That was the scenario played out across the country last week as part of Exercise Orion, an national disaster scenario designed to push the country’s emergency services to the very limit.
In the context of the imagined catastrophe, with a huge amount of information to process, understand and act upon, having a clear picture of the unfolding crisis was absolutely vital. That was why experts from Ordnance Survey were called upon to join the very heart of the operation and provide a geographic context to the unfolding events.
Four of our GI experts were deployed to command centres across the country in response to a call to our ‘Mapping For Emergencies’ hotline. They worked with the disaster management teams, providing them with an analysis on how the ‘earthquakes’ had impacted on electric, water and gas supplies, how the emergency services could be routed whilst avoiding impassable roads; and how best to evacuate civilians based on the location of the most vulnerable.
With the summer holidays well underway, lots of us are looking forward to loading up the car and hitting the road.
But a survey we carried out of just over 2000 people reveals that while the children in the back seat are screaming “are we nearly there yet?” millions of us will be driving round in circles.
Our results show that two thirds of the population admit to regularly getting lost, a figure that soars to nearly eight out of ten in London, and that 38% of us Brits pretend to know where they are going even when we’ve got no idea!
We all know that maps are pretty useful things. A weekend adventure in the Lake District, the sat nav in your car and many of our public services all rely on using maps or Geographic Information (GI). Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Cardiff City Council is using GI to save a healthy £1.3m by reorganising their bus routes.
But the other day I started thinking about some more unusual uses for maps – the wacky, the bizarre or the inspired. And I was reminded of someone who loved maps so much they had wallpapered their toilet with them! I’m sorry to say we can’t find any trace of them or their toilet (if that person was you, get in touch!) but it prompted me to ask ‘what are the most unusual uses for maps?’
So, we put the question to our wonderful twitter followers who came up with these fantastic examples of map decor and clothes. Can you think of any others?
Maps as clothes
This fetching OS Landranger Map shirt is modelled by Alan Parkinson, also known as @GeoBlogs
Our own example comes in the form of the now (in)famous OS MasterMap jacket and tie!
Maps as wallpaper
There has been a bit of media coverage around in the last couple of week about some research we’re supporting at Cardiff University. It’s called Peoples’ Place Names, and they’re studying what’s known as Vernacular Geography.
What I might think of as the East End of London, or Shirley in Southampton, might be completely different from the next person, or at least different in ways I don’t realise. And that can still be the case even when a place has official boundaries.
For people that live or work in these places, the boundaries are often a matter of strong and passionate opinion. Have you ever met someone who, upon selling their house, was adamant that they didn’t live in a particular part of town?
The prospect of the upcoming move to our new head office has resulted in buzz of increased activity around the building in recent months. Just like when you move house, it’s been a good time to have a bit of a clear out and take stock of what’s been hiding under the proverbial bed or in the attic.
Well, part of that process has included cataloguing the many pieces of antique surveying equipment that have been accrued by Ordnance Survey over the past 200 years. Some of the items have played an historic role in the birth of modern map making in Britain and are irreplaceable.
To understand more about some of this fascinating equipment, I caught up with Ken Lacey, a surveyor by trade who now works in our education team. Ken was kind enough to give me a tour of what is rapidly turning into an Aladdin’s cave of cartographic memorabilia, with two pieces being of particular interest.