19
Apr
2011
0

New exhibition at the Tower of London

Although we’ve spent the last 170 years based in Southampton, Ordnance Survey’s early days were actually at the Tower of London. This early period of our history is being celebrated with the new Power House exhibition in the Tower.

The exhibition gives visitors the chance to discover the stories and personalities behind the major organisations of state, who took care of Royal business behind the mighty Tower walls, from 1100 to the present day.

It showcases the roles of the major organisations that provided the bedrock of England’s power throughout the centuries – including the Ordnance Office, Ordnance Survey, the Royal Mint, Record Office, the Jewel House, Menagerie and Royal Observatory. Power House also puts the spotlight on other Tower of London functions, ranging from royal residence to state prison.

An amazing three metre high ‘bejewelled’ dragon greets visitors to the exhibition in the White Tower. The dragon is made up from parts representing the organisations in the exhibitions – our mapping forms part of the wings.

The Ordnance Survey section of Power House gives our early history. The Board of Ordnance became residents of the Tower in 1716 when a Drawing Room in the White Tower was fitted out to allow for mapping to be drawn. In 1791 Ordnance Survey became a distinct branch of the Board of Ordnance and began to map England and Wales. We remained resident at the Tower until a fire in 1841. We then became a government department in our own right and moved to Southampton, where we remain today.

Also on display is a copy of the first map produced by us. The map of Kent was completed in 1801 at the Tower of London Drawing Room. Produced at the one inch to one mile scale, it was printed by William Faden of Charing Cross, a leading cartographer and map publisher at the time.

There are some fascinating stories to be told by the other residents of the Tower too. Including the tale of William Foxley, potmaker for the Royal Mint, who fell asleep for 14 days and 15 nights. The poor soul was viewed as a curiosity and was prodded, poked and even burned in an effort to rouse him. Even King Henry VIII visited the Tower, to witness the ‘spectacle’ for himself.

If you’d like to find out more or visit the exhibition yourself, visit the Royal Armouries wesbite.

18
Apr
2011
1

Happy birthday to the Trig Pillar – 75 years young today

On a clear, crisp spring morning in 1936, a group of men gathered around a strange, pale obelisk in the middle of an unremarkable field in Cold Ashby, Northamptonshire. Those men were there to begin the greatest undertaking Ordnance Survey had attempted since the early 19th century.

That shining white monolith would now be instantly recognised by any walker, hiker or geography pupil. It was of course a Trig Pillar, and today, 18 April, marks 75 years since the day when they were first used in anger at the beginning of the Retriangulation of Great Britain.

Where it all began - Cold Ashby

Where it all began – Cold Ashby

Trig Pillars now evoke the kind of sentimentalism of something quintessentially British (although there are equivalents in other countries), but at the time they were part of a state-of-the art network built to literally re-write the map of Britain. The Retriangulation was an enormous task and lasted up until 1962 (with a break for World War II), the impact of which we still live with today.

Triangulation is basically a mathematical process that makes accurate map making possible. It works by determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline and in this case, those known points were the 6,500 Trig Pillars erected across the country. In practice, a theodolite would have been secured to the top mounting plate and made level. It would then be directly over the brass bolt underneath the pillar. Angles were then measured from the pillar to other surrounding points. For the highest accuracy primary points in the Retriangulation, many rounds of angles would have been measured with the observations taking several hours.

But why was the Retriangulation needed?

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16
Apr
2011
0

Tackle Snowdon – routes to the top

Snowdon Walking Routes and PathsThe Snowdon range consists of glacial corries, knife-edged aretes, and some very big mountains. There are many routes to the top of Snowdon itself (in Welsh ‘Yr Wyddfa’) with some big paths that can get crowded, but when you look across the horizon of a hundred hills you’ll know why it’s so popular.

There are a variety of routes to the top of Snowdon with different degrees of challenge, but all with tremendous scenery and breathtaking views. Llanberis path and the Ranger track are the easiest way to the top, with Rhyd-Ddu, up the Pyg and down the Miner’s tracks other popular routes. The Snowdon Horseshoe should only be tackled by experienced walkers with steady nerves.

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15
Apr
2011
0

Go Green for charity

When we were planning the move to our new head office, we had quite a dilemma over how to dispose of our excess furniture in as environmentally friendly a way as possible.

We were moving from a block purpose built for our needs in the 1960s, with space for over 3,500 people, to a new head office, planned and built for around 1,000 people. This meant we had excess racking and shelves, desk screens, filing cabinets, cupboards, desks, desk chairs, meeting chairs, plan chests, pedestals, soft seating, plants and much more. While some certainly seemed to be reusable, other items, once unbolted from walls and floors and moved, would be of little use to anyone.

Go Green Reprocess Ltd

Go Green Reprocess Ltd

Have you come across this problem in the past? How did you deal with it? We worked with a company called Go Green Reprocess Ltd to ensure our excess furniture was disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. As well as recycling every scrap of material they possibly can, Go Green Reprocess work to sell and donate reusable items in the local community. In total, they processed some 17 895 items for us, amounting to 484.6 tonnes – and not one piece of our furniture went to landfill.

Some of our excess furniture being reused in a school

Some of our excess furniture being reused in a school

In fact, around 20% of the furniture was either sold or donated for reuse. Some 30 organisations benefitted, most local to our Southampton head office, and a handful local to Go Green Reprocess’ base in Shropshire. The rest of the furniture was then stripped apart (often a painstaking task, I’m told) and recycled.

While we know a number of contacts at local schools and charities, Go Green Reprocess spread the net much wider and contacted 123 schools in the area as well as many local charitable groups. They arranged viewing of the items available and then collated lists of requested items and arranged collection times. Local organisations that received donations included Romsey District Scouts, Nursling and Rownhams Village Hall, Hounsdown School and Oakwood Primary School.

Go Green Reprocess have already had some great feedback:

There is no budget allowance for this type of equipment in schools at the moment, therefore the school really do appreciate the generosity of Ordnance Survey and Go Green. Thank you for your help.
Doreen Longman, Community Development Officer, Hounsdown School

Thank you so much for allowing us to collect items from the clearance at Ordnance Survey, we are extremely grateful. I attach our certificate of thanks…
David Sutton, Vice President, Romsey District Scouts

12
Apr
2011
0

Change matters – OS MasterMap over 7 years

Our surveyors rely on receiving accurate satellite information.

There are around 250 Ordnance Survey surveyors based across Britain.

I’ve been asked a few times whether there really are enough changes to the landscape to warrant an army of 250 surveyors and 2 aircraft mapping them. My answer is always to think of your own town (or one nearby) and the changes that happen there over the course of a year. New buildings appear whilst others are pulled down, the road layout changes and new footpaths are laid.

Change is everywhere.

Now think about all those changes multiplied across the entire country and you start to get the picture.

But like all constant and gradual change, it’s still easy to miss. It’s only when you’re reminded of how things were that you can see how far you’ve come.

So that’s why we’ve built a visualisation showing all the change that has occurred in the north-west of Swindon over the last 7 years. It’s been made by archiving every change made to OS MasterMap Topography Layer since October 2004.

The scale and scope of the transformation is quite astonishing.

But remember that the physical changes only reveal only some of the story. When you watch the video think about all the questions it raises.

What kind of underground infrastructure would need to be put in place? What planning would need to go into providing local services like rubbish collection and public transport? Are there enough schools or GPs to cover the new population? With the loss of green spaces, would you want to model the impact on surface water in case of flooding? Will the roads cope with the increase in congestion?  It goes on and on.

And if you think again about that multiplied across the entire country, you start to realise the incredibly important role that geographic information plays in everyone’s lives.

So next time someone asks me if there really is that much change, I’m just going to show them this…

To find out more about how we keep mapping data up-to-date, you might like to this post on a day in the life of a surveyor.

6
Apr
2011
0

Addressing reaches key milestone

geoplace-logo1If you’ve been following the development of a single address gazetteer then it won’t have escaped your notice that an important milestone was reached last week.

On Friday the legal process to form GeoPlace was finalised. This means that work can now begin on actually building the national address gazetteer database ready for an autumn launch.

GeoPlace is the name of the limited liability partnership jointly owned by Ordnance Survey and the Local Government Group. Its products will be available for anyone to licence through us, but the public sector will have access to them via the Public Sector Mapping Agreement, which itself ‘went live’ last week. You can read Gemma’s post from yesterday for more details on the PSMA.

What this means is that public sector organisations from local councils, to Whitehall departments will have access to GeoPlace data for free at the point of use, as well as virtually all of our other location data.

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5
Apr
2011
0

The PSMA opens its doors

Last week, 1 April, saw the launch of the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA). This means that public sector organisations in England and Wales have access to most of Ordnance Survey’s mapping data under a single agreement for the first time.

The PSMA is open to the 750 public sector organisations previously covered by other agreements with us – such as the Pan Government and Mapping Services agreements – as well as 1,000s of others in the public sector. It covers local and central government organisations, as well as health bodies, town and parish councils, Welsh community councils, UK Search and Rescue organisations and many more.

psma-image

We invited those public sector organisations already in agreements with us to sign up for the PSMA from February 2011. We were really pleased that 75% of organisations took up the opportunity. For everyone else, our new PSMA website went live on 1 April.

For the first time our public sector customers can now order and receive their data online. PSMA members can also contact each other through the new website and share ideas on the dedicated PSMA community forum.

By making it easier for PSMA members to contact each other and widening the access to data through the PSMA, this will help deliver significant cost savings for the public sector, and greater data sharing. And it’s not just about widening access.

The geographic data we provide, including our OS MasterMap products, will be free at the point of use for public sector bodies that join up. It will not be subject to limits on re-use when used internally within the public sector for public sector activities.

The new agreement also enables sharing of our data, and members’ derived data, with anyone to support delivery of the member’s public sector activity.

We’re hoping to see our data being used in new and innovative ways to improve efficiency, deliver cost savings and improve front-line services across England and Wales.

You can find more information on the PSMA and benefits for members on our website.

1
Apr
2011
0

Outdoor enthusiast seeks to list Britain’s ‘holes’

For those of you that have climbed every Munro, ticked off each Marilyn and collected all the Corbetts and now find there is no outlet for your wanderlust, help may be at hand thanks to outdoor enthusiast and hill list compiler Alan Dawson.

Alan has hit upon the novel idea of creating a list of ‘holes’ across Britain that walkers are invited to visit and ‘bag,’ in the time honoured tradition.

“Just about every mountain, hill or mound in Britain has made it onto one list or another – from the Scottish Munros to the Nuttalls in England and Wales. My aim to create a list of British holes seeks to redress the balance.”

“Many of the holes I’ve visited are filled with rich history and are just as unique and compelling as their convex cousins and they deserve to be recognised.”

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