Maybush

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 Geo CoordinatesCountry
MaybushUK
Places Of InterestThe Mound - good views across Millbrook Crabwood House - a listed historic house, formerly used by the Ordnance Survey Sports and Social Club
Recommended PubsThe Bush
Recommended HotelInformation required!
Travel TipsPublic transport: there are regular buses serving Maybush from the city centre, Southampton Central railway station and Shirley. Take the First bus no 8/8a or Bluestar 4. Buses are scheduled to run every ten minutes during the day.


Our Ordnance Survey users In Maybush

Work Areas in Maybush

Interests Specifically Related To Maybush

Computing and IT, Lifts, Mechanical and electrical systems



Gallery

Other Information

Introduction

Maybush is a locality within Southampton that contained the former headquarters of Ordnance Survey. Maybush is mainly residential, with a mixture of inter-war and post-war housing, ranging from semi-detached houses to low-rise walk-up flats. On the fringe of Maybush is Sturminster House, a 13-storey block of flats of a similiar design to the Shirley Towers and Albion Towers elsewhere in the city.

The focal point of Maybush is Maybush Corner, where several roads converge: Wimpson Lane, Coxford Road, Rownhams Road and Romsey Road. Except for the latter, these are all minor roads but Romsey Road is the A3057 that goes from Southampton to Romsey. At Maybush Corner there is a Co-Op supermarket and a newsagent/convenience store that has gone through many names over the years but is now part of the Spar chain. Until 2010 there was a Nat-West bank as well.

Maybush has two churches, a care home and a public house, The Maybush that closed in 2010. There was also a post office.

The Ordnance Survey head office complex in Maybush was officially opened in 1969, although some staff moved in during the second half of 1968. The complex was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The complex was purpose-built for Ordnance Survey and designed for the very different map production requirements of the era. It was designed by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW)for 4 000 staff and is very much typical of government buildings of the era. The focal point of the complex is a large concrete mural designed by sculptor Keith McCarter. While the design of the mural appears to be random, it was intended to symbolise something. More info can be found on Keith's website: http://www.keith-mccarter.com/Gallery4.aspx

The main building is the William Roy Building (WRB), previously known as Central Block. This has printing and production areas on the ground floor and four storeys of offices above.

Linked to this by a spur of the WRB is West Block, a large brick-faced building designed for storing maps and printing plates.

Adjacent to the WRB and joined to it by both the mural and an underground subway is North Block, a four storey building that mainly housed offices. This is now loaned to other businesses and was extensively refurbished at the turn of the millennium.

Behind West Block is Services Block, which contains workshops and stores. This was originally used for vehicle maintenance.

The oldest building on the site is Crabwood House, a listed building that was used by the Ordnance Survey Sports and Social Club until around 2003. It has since been mothballed.

The buildings are surrounded by car parks and landscaping, including The Mound, a man-made hill constructed from the spoil excavated during construction work and there is a pleasant green area with mature trees between Crabwood House and North Block.

Ordnance Survey finally handed the site over to Kier on Friday 4 March 2011.

History

Ordnance Survey has been based in Southampton since 1841, when its original home in the Tower Of London was damaged by fire. The original Southampton head office was in London Road, on the site of the current Law Courts. A small part of these buildings still exists today although the complex was severely damaged by World War II air raids. This, and the need for more space, prompted the move to the current site in Romsey Road, Maybush, now a suburban location, but then on the edge of the city, a largely greenfield site adjoining the then-new Millbrook housing estate.

Until around the 1940s, the Romsey Road site was largely unoccupied by buildings except for Crabwood House (a listed building that later became within the grounds of the Ordnance Survey premises and until recently housed the OS Sports & Social Club) and a small chapel close to Maybush Corner. An extensive complex of temporary buildings was constructed at the Green Lane end of the site and around Crabwood House in the 1950s although a lot of staff remained at London Road and in alternative premises in Chessington, South London until the new HQ was completed.

1964 09 01.JPG
Maybush Corner in 1964, before construction commenced.

Most of the temporary buildings were gradually demolished once the new HQ was completed and most of the land sold off for housing, however the last two 'H’-shaped blocks were in use until fairly recently; at one point they were occupied by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments before that organisation moved to Newbury. The land these huts occupied is now the temporary car park and the foundations of the buildings can still be seen. See OSO_Crabwood for more detailed information, including a map of the huts complex.

In 1962, government approval was given for the construction of a new, 'permanent' and purpose-built HQ on the Maybush site in Southampton. This was a relief for staff, who had been threatened for some time with the possibility of a move to Wellingborough.

Construction of the new Ordnance Survey complex commenced in 1964. The complex did not fully open until 1969, this was mainly due to the sheer size and complexity of it. While the complex had been designed by the MPBW, the actual construction was undertaken by Wilson Lovatt & Sons, a well established construction firm. The cost of building it was said to be around £4 million! Once the OSHQ was completed, Lovatt moved a short distance along Coxford Road and started construction of the new Southampton General Hospital, a massively ambitious task of replacing the entire hospital estate in around 15 years. Firstly, the new Boiler House and laundry was built; this allowed for the old boiler house and laundry to be demolished, its brick chimney had to be taken down by hand in 1969 as there was no room to explode it safely. On that site, the first part of the current Neurology centre was built, with a temporary kitchen (which was dismantled and moved to Tatchbury Mount afterwards). They then started work on the East Wing; however, they then suddenly collapsed, leaving all the staff without a job. It was some months before the contract was awarded to a different building firm and the East Wing eventually opened in April 1974

The ‘New Headquarter Building’ (sic) as it was referred to in the official information booklet issued to staff, was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 1 May 1969 and at the time was state-of-the-art, accommodating around 4 000 staff and finally giving Ordnance Survey a headquarters building suitable for the requirements of the world's leading mapping organisation all under one roof.

In the late 1960s when the complex opened, the business of producing maps was very different to what it is today. In those days, there were no computers so everything was done by hand, although technology had moved on from drawing by hand and 'scribing' was the main way of producing maps - the linework was etched on to glass plates or plastic films by a Draughtsman - of which there were 1 500 at the peak.

There was also a lot of labour-intensive work involved in sticking waxed stripfilm to the plates, this was used for vegetation symbols, slopes, house numbers, road names, land parcel areas, boundary information, building stipple and so on. Each Draghtsman or Cartographic Assistant was equipped with a custom-built light table and angle-poise lamp and over the years, the number of these gradually dwindled as the mapmaker’s main implement changed from the drawing table to the computer screen.

Ordnance Survey was in the process of redrawing every map – in something called the 1980 project. This was because Ordnance Survey was moving from the old ‘County Series’ maps to the National Grid. The old maps were cut up and stuck together into the new grid squares and then scribed. The intention was to complete this by 1980 so Ordnance Survey took on thousands of new staff in the late sixties, mainly school leavers, to complete this project.

Once the films or glass plates were ‘finished’, they were then photographed using a very large camera and printing plates were produced from this, which were used to produce the finished product – paper maps. The plates were then stored in West Block. This entire process took place in the new HQ building.

The popular folded paper maps commonly available for the public to buy in shops (for example the OS Landranger Map and OS Explorer Map) were not the main product, rather large-scale flat sheet maps were, which were used for various commercial and government purposes.

As previously mentioned, the building was purpose-built for the production of paper maps using largely manual methods, however, one thing would come along that would single-handedly change the building forever – computing. Although not part of the original design, a computer room was installed in West Block from the beginning – although a computer that filled an entire large room in those days is probably less powerful than a modern pocket calculator!

The process of redrawing all the maps manually to the National Grid projection was cancelled in 1973 because technology had moved on and Ordnance Survey, being very forward-thinking, decided that it would be far better to 'digitise' all its mapping – a mammoth task with hundreds of thousands of mapping 'tiles' covering the whole country. Digitising was done using a special table and was an arduous task as all the points that made up each line on a map had to be plotted by hand, along with attachment points for text. If done in-house, this task would allegedly have taken until 2030, so in the end, much of it was contracted out and in fact, the last map was digitised in 1995, making Ordnance Survey the first mapping agency in the world to have a complete digital record of the country’s topography. This work set the foundations for all of Ordnance Survey’s current products and the digital map database evolved over the years and is now the basis of OS MasterMap®, which is estimated to contain 440 million records representing real-world features. 5 000 changes are made every day to ensure that this valuable asset is kept up to date with the ever-changing landscape.

New 'computer-to-plate' technology gradually made the photographic section obsolete and this vast area was stripped out and converted into a large, fully equipped and very impressive Business Centre in the late 1990s. The need for storing vast numbers of glass printing plates had also gone, with everything being stored electronically, and with the advent of digital customer supply (sending customers electronic mapping data rather than paper maps), the need for storing large-scale paper maps had gone too. Large areas of West Block were converted to office space to fill these gaps.

These technological advancements meant that less staff and less space was needed. North Block, a large four-storey complex (see separate section later) was originally intended to house all the non-production staff (for example Finance, HR, and so on), however by the 1990s, the entire block was surplus to requirements as the staff could all be accommodated in vacated areas of Central and West Block. North Block was stripped out and comprehensively refurbished and let out to another government department. This signalled the end for the Exhibition Centre, which covered one side of the building and also the air photo section, which occupied the ground floor and was moved to the second floor of West Block.

The pace of technology continues to march on and in 2010, there were many pockets of surplus space within the building. Several large offices in West Block were completely vacant. In late 2010 and early 2011, Ordnance Survey moved to a new building, Explorer House at Adanac Park, about a mile or so away from Maybush. The Maybush campus was finally closed down by Ordnance Survey on Friday 4 March 2011.

Natural History

See The Natural History of the Maybush HQ for some notes on the wildlife to be found on the Maybush site.

The buildings

When the complex opened in 1969, it was described in an official booklet as ‘A simple and unpretentious expression of function and construction’. It was designed and project-managed by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, in the days before privatisation! It is generally of standard reinforced concrete column and slab design – a very common method of constructing the skeleton of a building that allows for large expanses of glass as the walls are not structural. However, the design and finishes of the buildings varies.

The core of the site is the William Roy Building (WRB) – formerly known as Central Block – a seven-storey ‘E’-shaped building of offices with Print and Business Centre facilities in between the wings. This is connected via the central wing to West Block, a large brick-faced building designed for storage. Behind West Block but not physically connected to the rest of the complex by buildings, is Services Block, which houses workshops, some offices and a day nursery for workers' children. North Block is to the north of Central Block and is connected via a covered way (Port Cochere). Finally, to the south of Central Block is the Staff Restaurant – a one-storey building with an impressive domed concrete shell roof. There are smaller ancillary buildings as well but these will be discussed later.

There is an underground corridor that connects Central Block to North Block and the Restaurant, although access to North Block was permanently closed when it was let out to other organisations. A further underground corridor connects the previously mentioned corridor to West Block, beneath the central spur of Central Block. There is also a single-storey link corridor between the central core of West Block and the Print Floor in Central Block.

Central Block (William Roy Building)

The William Roy Building is the heart of the Ordnance Survey head office buildings constructed in the 1960s. It housed production areas, conference facilities and offices.

West Block

West Block was originally designed to store large reserves of paper maps, back when large-scale products were published in this way. More recently, the upper floors have been used to house IT Services, Photogrammetric Services and various administrative departments.

North Block (Compass House)

North Block was designed mainly to house offices for administrative staff but it was deemed surpluis to requirements in around the year 2000 and was rented out to other businesses.

Port Cochere

The port cochere (also known as the covered way) is a concrete canopy that links WRB and North Block, allowing cars to travel underneath and giving pedestrians access between the two buildings with shelter from the rain (but less so the high winds that howl between the buildings.

At the centre (between the road carriageways, is a large textured concrete mural, designed by eminent sculptor Keith McCarter. The mural, a very abstract work with varying textures and shapes was designed to represent the link between cartography and astronomy. Since North Block has ceased to be used by Ordnance Survey, the port cochere became largely redundant, as there was little (if any) need to go between the two buildings.

Staff Restaurant

The Staff Restaurant is a purpose-built restaurant building at OSHQ, Maybush. It was constructed in the late 1960s and features a concrete domed shell roof.

Services Block

Services Block is a large standalone single-story double-height building located to the rear of the site. It was originally mainly used for maintaining and garaging official vehicles, however it was later used mainly for storage, as well as housing the Little Explorers Nursery and Playscheme.

Substation

The Substation is a small, separate building near F core that contains the main electrical transformers and switchgear for the site. It is of the same architectural treatment as the WRB, with concrete columns, brown bricks and mosaic parapets.