In Words

Ever wondered how maps are made? You know, those paper things that look a bit like a giant, fold-out SatNav? As recently as the 1950s, before the days of computerisation, cartographers drew them by hand, working from land survey data and the odd aerial photograph. Here’s a picture of a couple of them doing their thing. Everyone looked like Charles Hawtrey in those days.

1935 saw the launch of the great Retriangulation of Great Britain, a campaign by the Ordnance Survey to bring the charted record of the whole nation up to date. This gargantuan task involved sending out surveyors to erect triangulation pillars (Trig Points) atop wind and rain blasted peaks throughout the land. These beleaguered souls had to work in all conditions, getting soaked through, frozen to the bone and lashed by vicious gales as they lugged the rocks, stones, concrete mix and whatever else was required to build those indestructible triangulation pillars on bleak, remote hilltops. (The sort of task you might associate with Hercules, not Hawtrey). If they were lucky they might be given a horse to help.

It took until 1962 to complete the job. Around 6,000 Trig Points were built in all, enabling those heroic cartographers to map the country with far greater accuracy. So next time you’re out rambling with your Ordnance Survey map and you come across a Trig Point, spare a thought for the poor sod who had to get it there, and raise your Thermos to the intrepid cartographer.

This nugget of historical interest was discovered while researching The British at Work (Arcturus Publishing), due for publication later this year. Look out for it in all good garden centres and National Trust gift shops.

Recent Posts

We're not around right now but send us a quick email and we'll get back you ASAP...