River Deep Mountain High

08th December 2017

The first ever Ordnance Survey map of Britain was commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Richmond, whose passion for cartography still resonates today

  • goodwood newsletter

  • map

  • Duke of Richmond

  • History

ordnancesurvey.jpg

How long do you think it originally took to map England and Wales at one inch to the mile? Longer. Longer still... it took 85 years. That would have been the life’s work of a lesser man, but was one of many feats achieved by “the Radical Duke”, Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond (1735-1806).

During his tenure as Master of the Ordnance – a post that gave him responsibility for the country’s fortifications, military defences, small arms, munitions and map-making – the Duke nurtured his love of cartography by commissioning a map of the 72 square miles surrounding his home at Goodwood. A few years later, in 1785, to protect the nation from the threat of a French invasion, the Duke expanded his horizons, commissioning the first survey of the whole of Britain.

Fast-forward to today, and 250 surveyors – with the help of two aircraft – make 10,000 changes to the Ordnance Survey database every day. Consider White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur’s football ground since 1899 – recently demolished, then removed from the OS. It makes sense that the 403 paper maps that cover Great Britain are revised every two to five years – some more than others (the OS app updates automatically). So what of these defunct maps? Using an out-of-date map is risky – landscapes can become unrecognisable in the time between revisions. To encourage people to replace their maps regularly, every few years OS gives people the chance to trade in their old versions for money-off vouchers. OS then sends the obsolete maps to Scout groups and navigation classes for use in teaching, or – if it’s rare – adds it to the archive.

Today...250 surveyors – with the help of two aircraft – make 10,000 changes to the Ordnance Survey database every day."

There’s a characterful beauty to a time-worn old map that collectors and hoarders – the Timeshift documentary A Very British Map: The Ordnance Survey Story spotlighted a fan who owns thousands – can get very excited about. The Map House, London’s oldest specialist antiquarian map seller, stocks iconic maps, ranging from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctica to Edward VIII’s Western Front. A map of Jerusalem plotted by Captain Charles Wilson for OS in 1865 is currently available for £4,250.

Artists are getting in on the act too. Tony Davis’s series of reimagined OS Landranger maps saw the artist take the map of Unst in the Shetland Isles and digitally retouch it as Treasure Island (it’s widely believed that the island in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel was based on Unst).

Meanwhile, Ordnance Survey’s most popular initiative – perhaps the one that the Radical Duke would have most approved of – is a venture that mixes practicality and personality. OS now creates custom-made maps. Find your centre point, choose your scale, set your boundaries, choose from folded, flat or framed, and let the team do the rest – the perfect gift for an avid ambler or keen cartographer.

cessna-light-aircraft-learn-to-fly-and-flying-experiences-at-goodwood-aerodrome.jpg

Make a survey of your own flying above the Goodwood Estate.

Read more

  • goodwood newsletter

  • map

  • Duke of Richmond

  • History

  • 2nd-duke-and-duchess-of-richmond003.jpg

    Stories from the Estate

    A Twist of Fate

  • waterloo-ball.jpg

    Stories from the Estate

    Dancing into Battle

  • canaletto-view-of-thames-from-richmond-house.jpg

    Stories from the Estate

    This Old House