Bicentenary Book

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The Bicentenary Book was a project launched as part of the Bicentenary celebrations in 1991 and led by Jack Walters, who was in the OS Bookbinding Club.

A team photo was taken of every work area and was published in the book. Two copies of the book were produced and held in the Ordnance Survey archives, however it was never published as such and was forgotten about until it was a very popular feature of an open day in the Library a few years ago.

The majority of the photos from the book are now available here (click the links in the list below), however there are a couple missing but these will be uploaded shortly. The list below is now complete. It seems more logical to list the various Sections in the order they are in the book itself (by Directorate) rather than in one alphabetical list, which had become somwhat confusing.

Gary Tull and Ian Corps

Team photos

NOTE: this section of the Bicentenary Book describes and celebrates the work of Ordnance Survey and its staff as they were in 1991. First, the sections are described in their own words and pictures to form a scrapbook of activities and faces. Some accounts are formal, others light-hearted; some expansive and others brief. Importantly, some sections were very successful in obtaining photographs of nearly all their staff. Other sections did not find that possible. The editors have tried to identify every individual shown.

The great majority of photographs in this book are the work of John Philpott, Peter Seden and John Bear. Those in the chapter on the celebrations were taken in 1991-92 but some later photographs have been included in the team photos so that we could give a more complete view of the staff in 1991.

We are pleased that it has been possible to create this key to the photographs some years after the bicentenary year. Special thanks to Julia Maltby and Wayne Debeugney, who recalled an astonishing number of names and organised the collection of others. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to check the key comprehensively so it is likely some of the names will be wrong or misspelled, as well as those not known. Apologies to those affected. Some additional errors have also crept in during the automatic text capture process. If you have any corrections, we would love to hear from you, please contact Gary Tull.

Management Board and Secretariat

Topographic Surveys Function

Production Function

Ordnance Survey International

Marketing, Planning and Development

Finance and Establishment Directorate

Miscellaneous Bicentenial Memorabilia

Foreword by Peter McMaster, Director General 1985–1991

This book is an account of Ordnance Survey's 200th year. It tells of some of the many events with which the bicentenary year was celebrated and it is a record of how the department stood at that time. Other works – large and small – record the history of Ordnance Survey; here we are concered solely with 1991, the 200th anniversary of its founding.

Fortunately for those of us who have worked at Ordnance Survey , map making is an ejoyable excercise; it it requires intelligence, industry and skill from each of the individuals concerned with the many processes of mapping – and it requires a high dedgree of cooperation by all if the processes are to be combined efficiently and successfully. With success comes great satisfaction at having played a part in creating something which is both useful and beautiful. Because of this Ordnance Survey has throughout its history had the benefit of staff who understand the worth of what they do and find satisfaction in it. It was this teamwork and the understanding of colleagues which contributed so much to the success of events in our bicentenary year.

The year was remarkable in many ways – there was a genuine desire, both within Ordnance Survey and externally, to mark the 200th anniversary and to make it quite special. Many users of Ordnance Survey maps and and services very generously organised events to mark the occasion and these were most satisfying tributes to the high regard in which Ordnance Survey and its works are held.

Within Ordnance Survey, a particularly heavy load fell on the group looking after information and publicity. Inevitably they had the leading rolew when organising major events and the additional burden placed on them was very great. However, with much hard work, and the goodwill and cooperation of colleagues, they succeeded - as is shown in this book - and our great thanks are due to them.


NOTE: The full introduction text is edited to reduce the amount of copy-typing required. We cannot OCR the text because it is close to the inner margin of the book and we do not want to damage it.

This record of Ordnance Survey's bicentenary year cannot be comprehensive. Rather, it is an informal catalogue of the events that took place. This is foillowed by descriptions of the various Divisions, Branches and Sections of Ordnance Survey that have been produced by each work area.

On 21 June 1991, Ordnance Survey celebrated the completion of 200 years of continuous activity in surveying and map production since its founding in 1791. Some highlights of the celebrations held in 1991 were:

  • A Reception at the Tower of London on 26 June attended by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip was hosted by Peter McMaster and attended by 200 members of staff.
  • Receptions were also held in Manchester, Birmingham, the Royal Cartographical Society (London), Edinburgh, Builth Wells (Wales) and Ruckinge in Kent to mark the issue of the Bicentenary postage stamps by Royal Mail® on 17 September 1991. Other receptions took place jointly with Southampton City Council, the Outward Bound trust and wirth the Consultative Committees.
  • Exhibitions were mounted at various venues, including the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the Tower of London, Birmingham City Library and the Royal Highland Show (Edinburgh).
  • Various lectures were delivered by Ordnance Survey directors.
  • The Observer nerwspaper also celebrated its bicentenary in 1991 and a number of walks were staged in a joint venture with Ordnance Survey.
  • A Bicentenary Garden Fete for staff and their families was held on 22 July 1991 in the grounds of head office in Maybush, near Crabwood House and the Yellow Car Park.
  • A Service of Thanksgiving was held at St Mary's Church in Southampton on 27 October 1991. The service was conducted by the Revd Richard Wheeler, Rector of Southampton, who was assisted by Ordnance Survey staff.
  • A plaque was unveiled at the Newlyn Tidal Observatory (which was used until 1983 for measuring the mean sea level for our maps).
  • Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal visited head office on 18 December 1991. See the Memories page for further information, including videos of this occasion.
  • The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was chosen as corporate charity and over £10 000 was raised, enabling Ordnance Survey to present an inflatable inshore lifeboat, named Ordnance Survey Bosun to the RNLI. A special launch ceremony took place in the North Block courtyard.


On 17 September 1991, Royal Mail issued a series of four special postage stamps to celebrate our bicentenary. The stamps were beautiful examples of Ordnance Survey mapping and Royal Mail organised publicity events so that philatelists, journalists and others could share in a commeration of mapping history. The village of Hamstreet in Kent was chosen as the subject for the mapping - Kent was chosen because it was the first county to be fully mapped by Ordnance Survey.

On the day, Ordnance Survey staff from the East Region held a special event in Ruckinge - just down the road from Hamstreet. A large hole was dug at the end of a surveying baseline and local children buried a time capsule. Staff dressed in period costume and travelled via a traditional stagecoach between Hamstreet and Ruckinge. Special letters were delivered to the villagers and the church bells were rung by Ordnance Survey staff. Later, there was a reception in a marquee and Peter McMaster delivered some special first-day covers for franking.