Did you know…that Essex is the birthplace of mapping and forerunner of OS?

Visitors approaching the outskirts of Chelmsford, possibly on their way to DSD with the help of Satnav or Google Maps, will be familiar with the proud proclamation on the welcome signs: City of Chelmsford – Birthplace of Radio. In this post, our guest author, David Kightley, reveals that what they probably don’t know is that Essex is also the birthplace of modern-day mapping and forerunner of the renowned Ordnance Survey series that we all know today! 

Back in time a revolution happened… 

For most of English history, being on the move meant getting lost and for some of us nothing has changed! 18th century England offered few signposts and no maps. Then in the year 1777 something happened here in Essex that began to change all that. The event was the publication of the first accurate modern map of any part of England. The ability to measure landscapes accurately had developed along with other aspects of the scientific and industrial revolution. The first generation of modern maps may not have been steam-powered, but they were just as much a part of the Industrial Revolution as railways or iron ships! 

Best seller in Essex and beyond! 

John Chapman and Peter Andre’s Map of the County of Essex introduced two novel and really quite startling concepts to English cartography of the times – precision accuracy and comprehensiveness – a scale of two miles to the inch was unprecedented. To meet the needs of a new breed of travellers, Chapman and Andre set out to plug this gap in the market. Their plan was to produce a detailed map of England, showing every road, farmhouse, church, windmill and even gallows – any landscape feature that could possibly be useful for route-finding for the general public, as opposed to the military. Their project was plotted on a county-by-county basis to make everything more manageable and commercial. No need to wait until they had wrapped up the whole of England – as soon as a county survey was completed they could be sold and the money would start rolling in from the word go!

Why choose Essex? 

Neither of these two entrepreneurs had direct connections with Essex. Chapman was a Suffolk surveyor and Andre was a French Huguenot from a long line of map-makers. French cartography was several decades ahead of English at the time. Chapman and Andre left no record of their decision, but the reason seems clear enough – then, as now, Essex was a wealthy and self-confident place where people worked to the principle “If you’ve got it, spend it!” and something they liked to buy was maps. Estate maps were also a practical tool for land management and a source of pride and were hung in domestic hallways as if they were old masters! London offered yet another market as much of the capital in 1777 was officially still part of Essex. The Thames bank as far as the Tower of London was often referred to as “the Essex shore”. 

Goodwood and Evolution of the Ordnance Survey Maps 

Among those who acquired an Essex map was one of the richest and best-connected men in Britain; Charles Lennox, The 3rd Duke of Richmond who owned a large portion of Sussex, who pursued his childhood passion by mapping the park, forest and hills around Goodwood House, his family home. Spurred on by the Essex map he instigated a Sussex map and lobbied the king to set up a wider survey for the whole of England. Initially known as The Duke of Richmond’s Survey the project kicked off and ten years later acquired the name Ordnance Survey (OS) in tribute to the engineers who did most of the work. Today, Ordnance Survey maps are used by thousands of Brits every weekend and under The 11th Duke of Richmond (Charles, Earl of March) the Goodwood Estate is renowned for its flagship sporting events including the Goodwood Festival of Speed (1993>), the Goodwood Revival Meeting (1998>) and a six-month season of festival horseracing! 

Now that you’ve finally found us! 

If you’ve successfully navigated your way to CM2 6UA, by whatever means, you can be assured of a friendly, hospitable and professional approach in every respect at Dan Summers Design (DSD). Dan is a thoughtful and innovative graphic designer with over fifteen years experience and a pretty mean saloon car racer in his younger day! Like the mapmakers of old, he too is passionate about precision accuracy and perfect alignment in both his driving style and creative design for clients. 

He’ll be delighted to accelerate the design process, reignite your business aspirations, visualise your ideas and turn them into desirable and effective brands. If you would like Dan to personally create or refresh your brand give him a call right now on 01245 465324. 

Creative Mapping at DSD

As a footnote to our main story, jump forward some 240 odd years from 1777 and DSD has readily embraced the county boundary outline of Essex to create a stylised Union Jack flag in DSD’s favourite shades of green that features in its physical and social media marketing support materials including a bespoke email signature and banner stand map emblem both of which serve to emphasise our business coverage from the East Essex coast to the Capital City of London. As if that’s not enough, Dan has created a wallpaper design comprised of hundreds of tiny Essex maps as a delightful homage to our home county. Chapman and Andre surely would have approved of our modern-day applications of maps and creative mapping! 


Acknowledgements – Maps of Essex in 1777 reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office: Map/CM/37/4 – DSD gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the ERO in production of the historic images in this article and also original research by Tom King. 


David Kightley

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