The last of a generation

A very interesting and somewhat rare map - 1969 issue SK00 of Brownhills. This is the last of the First Series for our area, 1:25,000 scale. Based on the original 1912-21 surveys, partially revised from 1938 to 1949, some building development added in 1959 and major roads added in 1968. To download a selection of PDF files of this map, see the links at the foot of this post..

As promised last weekend, thanks to the diligence of reader and co-conspirator [Howmuch?], I can now make available full scans of the 1969 issue Ordnance Survey sheet SK00, covering Brownhills and north Aldridge. This is a 1:25,000 map, based largely on the First Series, which was surveyed in the early part of the last century. This is indicated in both the cartography, draftsmanship and the frankly out of date nature of some of the information it offers. By the time of the issue of this map, many of the mines, railways and canal navigations it shows were gone, relics of a previous age. This wasn’t lazy mapping, as asserted by a previous comment, but necessity; a decision had been taken previously to rip up the orthodoxy and start again. Maintaining these plans was hugely labour intensive in a rapidly developing country and such a decision was very, very brave. Soon, this draft would be replaced by the re-surveyed second series – the first maps to use computer technology and very high-tech data collection methods. In short, this map marks the death of hand drafted mapping. It’s a glorious, fascinating work of art.

Stymaster pointed out the difference in drafting between this map series and it’s replacement issue in the previous post. What is actually going on here is not just technological advancement, but changing market demands. By the time this map was issued, the Great British public were enjoying more leisure time and increased prosperity, leading to the desire to get out and explore the countryside around them. The hobbies of rambling, hill walking and cycling were coming into their own, and the demand for maps that showed public rights of way, woodlands and points of interest was increasing. This was about the opening up of our country. Mapping was passing from the preserve of the land owner to the wider public.

This map was designed not so much for the curious explorer, like you and me, but as an information source for professionals and legal types. The information it imparts is largely formal and civil. It was drawn entirely by hand. This map wasn’t plotted and surveyed so much as curated. It’s a wonderful thing, like all such maps, but just as with the inch to the mile series I posted earlier, it marks the passing of an age.

The rear of the map includes a wealth of information including the legend key and information about map series, the coming second edition and descriptions of the way the draft was surveyed, so I’ve included similar scans of both sides. This really is a period piece and I fear these visually stunning maps are passing almost unmentioned into history.

The map is in .PDF format, for which you’ll need Adobe Reader or similar – but most folks have that installed already. I recommend right-clicking the links below and selecting ‘Save as…’ to save the file to your computer. All of them will take a while to download on slow connections, so please be patient. The high quality one is 450 DPI resolution and should print fine up to A3/original size. The medium one is 300 DPI, and should be good to A4. The basic is 200 DPI and is best suited to on-screen use.

OS sheet SK00 1969 – high quality download, 11.3MB

OS sheet SK00 1969 – medium quality download 6.2MB

OS sheet SK00 1969 – basic quality download 3.2MB

OS sheet SK00 1969 rear side and key – high quality download 11.2MB

OS sheet SK00 1969 rear side and key – medium quality download 5.6MB

OS sheet SK00 1969 rear side and key – basic quality download 2.7MB

The rear of this map is just as fascinating as the front.

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7 Responses to The last of a generation

  1. Martin_Lack says:

    Howdy Bob,

    I greet you from the southern fringes of idyllic Cheshire (also infamous for bordering the wasteland that is Stoke-on-Trent!)…

    Do I detect a fascination with maps? My Best Man created a big laugh at my Wedding when he told people he had only got me out of bed that morning by allowing me to have a quick look at the Birmingham A to Z first…

    I must say, you are very lucky to live so close to Cannock Chase, I would go there every day if I could…

    I am afraid that climate change is my main concern, what is your view on that?

  2. stymaster says:

    I’ve noticed something more: the house I grew up in isn’t shown, but had been there for 10 years by 1969. The houses between Barns Lane/Winterley Lane (Chatsworth Crescent, Qeuuns Rd etc) are not all shown- I think they would have been there in 1969, but very new. Dumblederry Lane still exists on this map, as does Westgate, which went around it, even though I suspect the quarry work that obliterated the lane was probably under way in 1969.

    • I still think it’s wrong to hit on the map’s accuracy. You have to think how this map was prepared and just what a job it was, with manpower that was not even barely adequate.

      The tools they had at the time were manual surveying (incredibly time consuming to do accurately), aerial photos and information from Local Authorities. Aerials were still prohibitively expensive and required a clear day. These guys had no commercial budget and were stretched to snapping point. Remember, they had the entire country to cover. The pace of development at the time was massive – these people must have felt constantly in a state of dejection against such a huge task.

      If you read the update note at the foot of the map it tallies with the information you give.

      You can actually see on the map the ‘witnesses’ of the start of Northgate and several Aldridge Roads. These were provisional, and would grow latterly into full surveys – the dotted, ghostly outline is cartographical code. The mapmakers were saying ‘we know, but we’re not sure; hang on for the next edition’.

      When the second series came along, computer data collection was practical and used, as were primitive computer aided drafting systems, basic as they then were, they made a huge difference.

      I have immense respect and empathy with the people who made this map and those like it; they were engaged in a lost task, with equipment and technology designed for a previous age. They were men and women upholding a tradition in the most demanding of times – no mean feat.

      Best wishes


      • stymaster says:

        No, sorry, not trying to criticise it, just interested really, because I *know* I can date the house at 1959. Also because some of your maps you’ve posted before show the quarry, and I could have sworn they were older than this one- presumably not :-). I don’t actually know when the quarry started either…

        The detail is, of course, incredible for hand-drawn work. Even the accuracy shown here is many times better than many countries produce to this day, which says something.

  3. Pingback: The last of a generation « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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