October 2012

Mapping – October 2012

The speaker at the October meeting of the Society, Geraldine Beech, amply displayed her knowledge and experience resulting from her twenty years as principal map archivist at The National Archives. Her subject was ‘Mapping the New Forest’ and in a very professional, erudite and interesting talk together with a Powerpoint presentation covered 600 years of mapping.

Starting with Gough’s Map of Great Britain, originally produced in the mid/late 1300’s the speaker traced her way through the centuries.

Christopher Saxton in 1575 produced the earliest map of Hampshire. He was the first English map maker to use the science of triangulation which became an established surveying technique until the 20th century when it was superseded by air surveying to be followed by a GPS system. Early maps showed primarily natural features – rivers, waterways, forests, hillocks, reflecting that people travelled mainly on horseback or on foot.

A contemporary of Saxton was John Norden who was noted for the variety of symbols which were included in his maps. Probably the best known map maker of this era, however, was John Speed (1552-1629) He was the first to include town plans as insets to his maps and the maps themselves were very colourful.

Little further progress in the art seems to have taken place until 1759 when Isaac Taylor produced a map of Hampshire on the scale 1 inch to a mile which was adopted by the Ordnance Survey in the 1810’s and became the common scale until the advent of decimalisation. The map extended to six sheets but it was very detailed and for the first time showed main roads. Hills were shaded to denote height which method was the precursor of contour lines. Enclosures were mapped and clearly identified.

Map making received a major fillip in the 1740’s resulting from the quelling of the Jacobite Rebellion. There were no maps of Scotland – essential for the English Army and William Roy was commissioned to carry out a military survey of Scotland. It was from this early beginning that the Ordnance Survey was formed.

The most detailed map of the New Forest was that surveyed by Richard, King and the two Driver brothers in 1789 and published by William Faden. It covered the whole forest at a scale of 4 inches to one mile and was by far the most advance map of the area produced up to that time. So good was it that it continued to be updated as the basic New Forest map into the mid-nineteenth century.

As time went on the need for maps began to broaden. By 1815 William Smith produced a Geological Map, coloured to show the physical structure of the ground although with this limited information it was of little use for getting from A to B. Detailed and large scale Tithe maps became very important. They were surveyed and produced in response to the 1836 Tithe Commutation Act which provided for the replacement of the medieval tithe with money payments. Other important maps although with limited use included those relating to hunting where, for instance, in the New Forest areas used by deer hounds and fox hounds were identified.

Moving into the 20th century the speaker reminded the meeting that tourist and leisure maps for walkers and motorists became more and more essential and with accuracy a prerequisite. But in addition useful themed maps were and still are, produced – from Heywood Sumner’s archaeological maps to the latest Google Map 2012 – showing only roads and devoid of any contours. So virtually there is a map for everything.

This very interesting talk was much enjoyed and appreciated by members and visitors.

The 2012 AGM of the society was held prior to the talk under the chairmanship of Caroline Birch when all the current members of the committee were re-elected. The next meeting will be held on Friday 30 November 2012 when the speaker will be Roy Doughty whose subject will be ‘Lymington’s Maritime History’.