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Post-war images of Manchester unveiled online

7 Mar 2018

Pictures taken in the late 1940s to early 1950s were the Google Street View of their day and are a fascinating insight into how Greater Manchester looked back then. They show surveyors from Ordnance Survey (OS) marking out Revision Points to map the city, but also capture faces of many unknown young children – who would be in their sixties or seventies today. founder Elaine Owen hopes the event will jog some memories and put names to mystery faces photographed in the collection. She said: "We have a treasure-trove of images which illustrate everyday Manchester life while surveyors were going about their daily business.
"These photos show many faces of children from the city who would still be alive today.

"We’d love people to visit and search the places and streets they know to see if they recognise anyone, or even themselves. That would be fantastic."

Elaine added: "There is such a rich heritage captured in the collection. As well as surveyors measuring revision points with the distinctive white hand-held arrows of that time, among other details you can clearly see shop fronts and goods on sale from that era, billboards promoting movie stars, local landmarks and advertising slogans of the time.

"We have published thousands of photos from across great swathes of the city, not just the centre, but residential areas in surrounding towns such as Stockport, Stalybridge, Oldham and Rochdale. If you have any connection to Greater Manchester at all it is well worth a look.", a web app for geo-locating historical photos, is Elaine’s brainchild.

Education manager at OS and part-time historian, Elaine knew there were hundreds of thousands of historic photos that have never been digitalised or catalogued, tucked away in public sector vaults or in library files. The aim of is to get them online, so people can browse photos by searching for them using either a modern digital OS map, or a historical OS map from circa 1900. Low resolution watermarked copies can be downloaded and shared for free, while there is a charge for higher resolution versions to help fund the site and its future development.

The project is part funded by Geovation, OS and HM Land Registry’s innovation hub.

Elaine said: "We have a further 25,000 images of other parts of Greater Manchester to go online shortly. Our plan is to add further images from other towns and cities around the UK, so we can make available historical images for the entire country."

The detailed survey of Manchester started in the early 1940s, but really took off post-war. The surveyors would capture the measurements and take the photos, with a field labourer holding a pointer, the white arrow, and a hymn board in shot displaying any relevant information. Street corners were preferred locations for RPs as they gave a line of sight in more than one direction, so there is a high number of corner shops in the collection. 

OS continues to map Manchester in detail decades later. OS is working with CityVerve, the UK’s demonstrator project in Manchester for large scale deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) technology. This involves capturing data on street furniture such as lampposts and bus stops to provide a deeper geospatial framework for the project. OS has also trialled indoor mapping in Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium changing rooms. It takes just minutes for a 3D laser scanner to ‘map’ the area and create a 3D image.

Timepix is a work in progress. View the Manchester pictures here: 


Ordnance Survey
By Ordnance Survey
Press Office

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