150-year-old Stonehenge photos unearthed on the Summer Solstice

They are some of the oldest photographs ever taken of the ancient Stonehenge landmark and the book in which they are bound dates back to 1867. It’s a chronicle which until now has been lost in the archives of the national mapping agency Ordnance Survey.

From an original albumen print in the 1867 book ‘Plans and Photographs of Stonehenge and of Turusachan in the Island of Lewis; with notes relating to the Druids and Sketches of Cromlechs in Ireland, by Colonel Sir Henry James, Director General of the Ordnance Survey

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25 years since the last OS benchmark

You may know about our trig pillars, but did you know that there are more nostalgic reminders of how we used to map Great Britain?

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Have you ever seen one of these while you’ve been out and about? If so, it is highly likely you have spotted one of our renowned benchmarks. 2018 marks 25 years since the last traditionally-cut arrow style benchmark was carved on a milestone located outside The Fountain pub in Loughton.

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Making Ordnance Survey into a work of art

The Lakes Ignite programme for 2018 features an OS-inspired work of art called Ordnance Pavilion, paying homage to the trig pillar and the work of OS surveyors in mapping Great Britain. It’s flattering to be an artist’s muse, but we wonder if it’s not the first time OS has inspired an artwork…

Ordnance Pavilion

Created by Studio MUTT, Ordnance Pavilion is an interactive installation in the Langdale Estate in the Lake District. It forms part of Lakes Ignite 2018 which presents six contemporary artworks to celebrate the Lake District’s designation as a World Heritage site. On display between until July 2018, Ordnance Pavilion is a celebration of OS and how our maps have impacted people’s interaction with the landscape.

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See historic photos from Ordnance Survey on Timepix

The Timepix historic photo site launches today and makes a unique set of photos from OS’ history available online for the first time. Over 21,000 photos catalogue the Manchester streets between the 1940s and 1960s, giving a unique insight into the city’s past captured by OS surveyors. From children and animals photobombing the surveyors, to a background of vintage adverts, Timepix showcases a fascinating collection of photos around Greater Manchester.

Why were OS surveyors photographing Manchester?

OS surveyors took revision point (RP) photos across Britain to provide a network of surveyed locations. These known spots could then be used to ‘control’ the position of detail on a large scale map. RPs were often on corners of buildings and other immovable features, and were fixed to centimetre accuracy. Finding the RPs for future map updates was an issue, and photography quickly became the best visual reference – leading to thousands of photos of men with white arrows… Read More


Map history at OS with Antiques Road Trip

If you were watching Antiques Road Trip yesterday afternoon, you’d have seen antiques expert Paul Laidlaw visiting our Southampton head office. The modern building we’ve been in since 2009, is a far cry from our first home at the Tower of London, and even the military barracks which became our first Southampton head office. But, despite being a digital data company in a state of the art building, there are still many nods to our mappy heritage to be found.

Our CEO Nigel Clifford showed Paul our first map, and an early theodolite while filming for the programme. Here’s a bit more about them:

Paul Laidlaw (left) and Nigel Clifford (right) in from of an 1801 map of Kent and the Ramsden 18″ theodolite

Ramsden 18” theodolite Read More


Marking Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

JubileeBookThis year marks the 225th anniversary of OS, giving us a map-making history to be proud of. Over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection of artifacts, many of which are dotted around our Southampton head office – including a Ramsden theodolite in our CEO’s office and a copy of the 1801 map of Kent in our Business Centre. Watching the current ITV adaptation of Victoria, we were reminded of another stunning historic item, the Jubilee Book.

Compiled in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the book showcased the changes and innovations that had taken place at OS during the Queen’s reign. Director General Sir Charles Wilson presented the original volume to Queen Victoria at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight in 1887. Two further copies were made, one retained with OS in Southampton and the other going to Ordnance Survey Ireland. When our head office was attacked in the Southampton Blitz, our copy was sadly destroyed. However, to mark the opening of our (then) new head office at Maybush, Ordnance Survey Ireland gifted us their copy, which we keep safe to this day. Read More


OS after ‘A Very British Map’

Did you watch the great Timeshift on BBC4 last night about OS? A Very British Map: The Ordnance Survey Story told the tale of how we’ve mapped every square mile of Britain for the last 224 years. It covered our military origins through to how our leisure maps have helped people discover and explore the countryside and beyond. 


As mentioned towards the end of the programme, while we may be best known for our paper maps, they now account for just 5% of our business. Our location data has woven itself into the fabric of our everyday lives across Great Britain. We produce digital map data, online route planning and sharing services and mobile apps, plus many other location-based products so you know exactly where you are.

Find out more about OS today in this video: Read More


Best UK locations to fossil hunt and spot wildlife

Fossil huntingOver 570 million years, the land that we live on and the water that surrounds us has been home to an inconceivable amount of creatures. The majority are sadly extinct – although use of the word ‘sadly’ will depend on how passionate you are about humans being the dominant species on the planet – but their legacy lives on through the fossils we are still uncovering millions of years later, not to mention the evolution of all living species today.

Whether you want to look back in time and discover the fossilised remains of those that came before us, or admire the beauty of today’s wildlife in its natural environment, there are many fantastic locations in the UK for you to set off to. Here are a few of our favourites. Read More