Introduction to Ordnance Survey maps

Early Ordnance Survey one-inch mapping in Scotland

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With many thanks to Olivia Vane for this animation - for further details, see her Observable Notebook.

Ordnance Survey's one-inch to the mile (1:63,360) series was intended as a 'touring, cycling and small-scale manoeuvre map, [with] the primary object being that the average man should be able to find his way about unfamiliar country with ease' (OS circular of 1909, quoted in Oliver (1993, p.35)). Essentially the one-inch is a general map, supplementing the main record of landscape change at the larger basic six-inch and 25-inch to the mile scales, so that minor changes may not appear even on full revision. For example, cottages more or less within a village, or the exact number of buildings at a farm were not considered important, 'provided the village or farm is indicated in the right place and approximately the right size and shape' (OS circular of 1909, quoted in Oliver (1993, p.35)). By giving coverage of a wider area than the basic larger scales, the series is particularly useful in showing an overview of significant landscape changes such as urbanisation, changes to roads, and forestry developments.

The one-inch first edition of Scotland was based on larger scale surveys of 1843-1878, and published on 132 sheets between 1856 and 1895. A national revision of 1894-1895 was published in 1896-1898 as Outline and Hills editions, whilst a further revision of 1901-1910, published 1903-1912, was known as the 'Third Edition'. A coloured version of this Third Edition covering mainland Scotland was also issued, whilst a fourth edition, begun in 1909, was abandoned. From 1912, work began in England and Wales on the one-inch 'popular' edition, extending this into Scotland as the Scottish Popular edition from 1921. Unlike the previous Scottish engraved mapping based on the Bonne projection, the 'popular' edition put Scotland on the same base as England and Wales by extending the Cassini projection northwards with a point of origin of the projection at Delamere Forest.

Ordnance Survey one-inch second edition with coloured parishes, 1898-1904 (Hellyer 14.4 and 14.5)

These map series were published as indexes to larger scale mapping at six-inch and 25-inch to the mile scales, and from the evidence of the OS Dorington Committee reporting in 1892, and a Departmental Committee of the Board of Agriculture (1896), they were intended to reduce the great confusion that existed between the two series. With underlying topography dating from 1894-1895, the indexes show parishes in five colours, and were an important milestone in OS printing history by obtaining green and orange from combinations of the primary colours, anticipating 'process printing' some 80 years later (Oliver, 2002).

Certainly the extent and boundaries of civil parishes, incorporating the recent and extensive changes of the Local Government Act (Scotland) 1894 are a striking feature of the map, and of great value for the genealogist and local historian. The earlier civil parish boundaries can be seen on various other maps, but are shown quite clearly on the county series indexes (1854-1886) on this website. However, the sheet lines of larger scale mapping are usefully included, of value particularly for those counties with revised meridians in the 1890s, which differ from the first edition sheets lines shown on the earlier county series indexes.

The series was never completed, the high production costs and low sales leading to its abandonment in 1904, with only 100 (showing six-inch indexes) or 104 (showing 25-inch indexes ) sheets published out of a possible 131. Our website includes 105 sheets numbered from south to north aiming to give most extensive coverage of Scotland from our collection: 96 sheets showing six-inch indexes, and nine (covering Fair Isle and Shetland) showing 25-inch indexes.

Further reading

Oliver, R, 'The Ordnance Survey and its indexes to large scale maps' in Ordnance Survey of Great Britain. England and Wales Indexes to the 1/2500 and 6-inch scale maps (reprinted Kerry, 2002)

Ordnance Survey one-inch 'popular' edition of Scotland, 1921-1928 (Hellyer 18A.1 )

This map series was the first one-inch edition produced completely independently of copper plate engraving, the production method used for earlier 19th century editions. The name indicated Ordnance Survey's intention of producing an attractive contoured road map in seven colours that would be popular with the 'man in the street', and the series still evokes images of the inter-war generation's leisure hours, cycling, touring, or walking through the British countryside.

The larger sheet area than previous one-inch maps, even with new overlaps between sheets, allowed the whole of Scotland to be covered on 92 sheets, numbered from north to south. The revision dates of sheets must be used with caution, bearing in mind the functions stated above of the series as a general map, ignoring many features considered to be minor. The first printings were all based on field revision of 1921-1930, also incorporating data from the (limited) county revision from 1921 onwards.

Although showing many similarities to the 'popular' edition of England and Wales, the Scottish sheets differed in some respects, such as showing parish boundaries and names, showing buildings in solid black rather than hatched, with limits shown for rough pasture, and showing parks by dots rather than ruled. Following the completion of the series in 1932, the series was updated and reissued in various military editions between 1933 and 1944 (including GSGS 3908), before appearing with the new National Grid lines (1945-1948).

Further reading

R. Hellyer, Ordnance Survey small-scale maps, indexes: 1801-1998 (Kerry, 1999)
Y. Hodson, Popular Maps: the Ordnance Survey popular edition one-inch map of England and Wales 1919-1926 (London, 1999)
R. Oliver, Ordnance Survey Maps: a concise guide for historians , 3rd ed. (London, 2013)
R. Oliver, A guide to the Ordnance Survey one-inch Popular Edition of Scotland (London, 2000)