Publisher: Ordnance Survey


The Ordnance Survey has produced many thousands of different maps in its over 200 years existence, and this section only considers those created of Essex - and even so there are many more from the OS than from any other producer. The OS has always produced its maps at uniform scales (as opposed to a scale that fits the displayed area within a given size of paper sheet), and also produced maps that continue in full detail to the edge of the sheet rather than stopping at a county (or other) boundary.

There are some notes on where to find more information on the history of the OS below.

The maps were created at a variety of scales, and over time when there had been a comprehensive re-survey they issued the new maps of a given Scale as a new Series (although this was often called a new Edition); within a Series when a map had been updated sufficiently it was published as a new Edition of that map within the existing Series. OS maps of Essex are described by Edition within Series within Scale, so the first list has to be of the principle scales used.

Scale name Fraction Dates Notes
Ten mile 1:633,600 1817 - 2010 Initially used as an Index sheet for One Inch maps, with the southern sheet in 1817 and
a middle sheet in late 1820s, but the northern sheet not until the early 1880s. It appeared
as a proper map in its own right in 1904, and was used off and on through the 20th
century, ending as the Route Planning map at 1:625,000.
Four mile,
or Quarter
1:253,440 1900 - 2010 Several Series were produced throuout the 20th century, becoming 1:250,000 in 1978
when it was rebranded as Routemaster, then in 1993 as Travelmaster, and in 2003 as
simply Road Maps (or Travel Map: Road).
Half inch 1:126,720 1903 - 1962 Competition from Bartholomew's sales encouraged the OS to give this scale a try; it
was not a great success. The military liked it, however, and several specially prepared
Training Maps were created.
1 inch 1:63,360 1801 - 1974 The first they published, and in many Series (see below).
Landranger 1:50,000 1974 - now Successor to the 1 inch.
2 1/2 inch 1:25,344 1914 - 1931 These were initially classified military maps, only covering part of the UK.
Explorer 1:25,000 1931 - now The military switched to the metric size early on, and then these were used as civilian
maps from shortly after 1945. the initial Provisional Edition was superseded by a
Regular Edition and then a Second Series (or Pathfinders), which were also used as
Outdoor Leisure maps of National Parks. These latter with larger sheets than the earlier
maps became the model for the new Series called Explorer maps.
6 inch 1:10,560 1846 - 1890 Surveying was carried out at 6 inches/mile from 1840, but maps appeared later in the
century. They changed to 1:10,000 once they were derived from the 1;2,500 maps.
25 inch 1:  2,500 1855 - Surveying was carried out at about 25 inches/mile from 1854 for inhabited areas, but
always with the intention of being printed at 1:2,500 (as opposed to 1:2,534, or 1:2,640
which is 24 inches/mile). Maps appeared later in the century.
125 inch 1:     500 1852 - 1894 These very large scale maps were only made for cities; London had later maps at this

The One Inch and 1:50,000 Series

Each of the Series below has its own page, accessed by clicking on the Series name.

Series Publ'n Dates Notes
Old Series 1805 - 1874 The first and longest lived - and longest to complete. Only covers England & Wales.
New Series 1874 - 1896 A very long overdue revision was exceedingly slow to complete, and with the maps being
even slower to publish they were superseded by the Revised New Series before the
country coverage was complete.
Revised New Series 1895 - 1899 First in monochrome and then also in colour, as well as symbols for churches-with-tower
and similar; railways use diferent symbols on the monochrome and coloured editions.
Third Edition 1903 - 1913 This was the "3rd Edition of the New Series", the initial small sheets (ie as in New/
Revised New Series size) replaced in 1906 by Large Sheets.
Popular Edition 1918 - 1926 Seven colour plates were now in use to produce a map that was keenly used by the public,
and looked quite similar to ones in use in the 1970s.
Fifth Edition 1931 - 1939 Only a few were published, before halted by the war; most of the country was still covered
by the Popular Edition maps.
Military Series 1923 - 1950 The Military wanted a uniformly projected grid across the whole country earlier than there
was public demand, based first on the Popular Edition maps. A new version was created
in 1940 using Popular Edition or Fifth Edition maps as available with revisions from the six-
inch maps; this "first War Revision" was joined by a "second War Revision", which
continued to be sold after the end of the war.
New Popular Edition 1946 - 1961 A stop-gap Series, using Popular and Fifth Edition maps, co-ordinated to a projection and
to a single grid, but with very few updates (particularly in rural areas).
Seventh Series 1951 - 1976 A fully resurveyed map of England, Wales & Scotland, the first with a single numbering
range for them all.
Metric 1st Series 1974 - 1980 These were photo-enlargements of the Seventh Series one inch maps, with spot heights
and contour lines renamed to metric equivalents.
Metric 2nd Series
(aka Landranger)
1980 - now The 1st series were progressively replaced by resurveyed and newly drawn metric maps,
whilst the brand name evolved from 2nd Series to Landranger, complete with a colour
picture on the cover.

The dates above are for the official Publication of the maps; in practice there would be many being sold years (even decades) after the last publication date. In the case of the Old Series, maps were being updated and electrotyped for sale all the way until (at least) 1892 (the New Series maps were very slow to appear in many parts of England, including Essex).

History of the OS

There is some information of the Ordnance Survey on each of the pages concerning Series and Editions, but if you want to know more, consult the website of the Charles Close Society (CCS) (the Society for the study of OS maps) which has a wealth of material. Alternatively consult the many CCS books, such as The Ordnance Survey in the Nineteenth Century by Richard Oliver, which puts the development of the OS in the context of the growth of British government, and Old Series to Explorer, A field guide to the Ordnance map by Chris Higley, which gives a good overview of all the major Series, complete with Index diagrams. They also have books on each of the One Inch Series.

Return to the Map publishers main page.

© Peter Walker 2014