Thursday, 15 March 2012

The History and Story of Ordnance Survey

This logo is reproduced here by kind permission of Ordnance Survey, Southampton

We in Southampton are justly proud of the fact Ordnance Survey have their headquarters based in our city and I personally take great pleasure at the sight of their offices whenever I pass them,  as I am reminded of so many happy days in my far off teen-age years, when I hiked for miles and miles around the country, always with a 1" to the mile Ordnance Survey map as my guide.

From the map, by looking at the contour lines,  I could see that in another two miles along the B road I was travelling on I would see the tower of a church on the horizon, with the promise of a spectacular view from there.   Whatever the situation, it was all there in greater detail; than any photograph could ever show.

I sought the answer to how such great detail could be drawn so accurately, and I learned how - about two hundred years ago - the whole of the country was divided up into triangles, using compass bearings, measuring chains, walking the ground, and old fashioned arithmetic, and from this triangulation maps were made.  It is a truly fascinating story of  a brilliant achievement.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I watched on TV a documentary film about how those two hundred year old calculations were checked a short while ago.   This time they used the very latest, 21st century, state of the art equipment.

The result of this new, very hi-tech survey, after covering the entire country, came out to within inches of those two hundred year old calculations.  A magnificent tribute to the high standards maintained from the very start by Ordnance survey, and carried on today into the digital age.

The subject matter of our meeting for Thursday 12 April is perhaps best described in the following words

Founded amidst the threat of Napoleonic invasion in the 18th century, Ordnance Survey is now a key part of the modern day digital information economy.    Geoff May, who retired from Ordnance Survey in March 2008 and was latterly their Parliamentary Engagement Manager, charts the progress of the organisation over the last 220 years.

From the comments I am already hearing from members, this promises to be a highly popular meeting, and one we are very much looking forward to.

John G.

Friday, 9 March 2012


The meeting on Thursday 8 March was a resounding success, bringing with it the feeling that after all the hard work that has gone into it over the past year, this Society is now firmly established and can only go from strength to strength.

First  there was the speaker, a local man,  Ryan Cooper, an ex regular soldier of the Royal Engineers who gave a brilliantly planned and delivered talk on the Mulberry Harbours of WW2, from the planning stage, through to construction and how they fared once deployed, with some interesting anecdotes involving  Gosport and other local sites  relevant to the story.

A man who really knows his subject and clearly no stranger to public speaking.  Thank you Ryan, we look forward to a return visit from you and a talk on 'Hobart's Funnies' - the armoured vehicles such as flail tanks which played a prominent part in the D-Day landings.

On top of this success there is our new meeting place on the ground floor of Manston Court.  Absolutely perfect in every way, and of course the terrific support from the ever helpful staff of Manston Court, to whom we say a great big 'Thank you'

With a super programme lined up, how can we go wrong.

OK guys, we have 'Arrived'  Let's celebrate.

John G

Thursday, 1 March 2012


A couple of weeks ago I made a comment in my favourite watering hole about our super climate here in Hampshire, enjoying beautiful sunshine whilst other less fortunate counties suffered appalling conditions.

Warming to my theme I explained to my bemused listeners that it was all down to the New Forest, the Isle of Wight, and the Downs, not that I think  they have anything to do with it, creating updrafts and sending all the nasty stuff north of Watford.

Then a rustic voice said  "It be because of Fawley Refinery, it's 'er sending up all that warm air that does it"

That shut us up.   We had never given that a thought.

Then somebody said they if we took the ferry to the Isle of Wight we would see steam rising  from off the sea, from where hot water was pumped out from Fawley, but he had been in the pub a couple of hours so we were not sure about that one.

But given the prevailing wind being from the south west, which I think is bottom left, then it could just add up.

Whilst there has been a refinery on the site since about 1925, the present extensive works at Fawley date from the early 1950's, at which time stories abounded around here as to how agricultural workers could abandon their £3 a week job (and extra cheese ration at harvest time) and go stamp out welders sparks for £15 a week at Fawley.  I still don't know if that was an urban myth as my application for a job a 'Stamper out of Welders Sparks' was never answered.

Although I never made it as a Stamper I do know that even in the 1940's we enjoyed a mild climate in Hampshire, in spite of the thick snow of that vicious winter of 1947/48, whilst others to the north of us fared much worse.  Not long after that I departed to distant parts - all the way to London, which was really foreign service in those days, with a slow train from Wickham, and change at Alton,   although I did come back for a while in the 1950's.

After much wandering around this world I returned to my beloved Hampshire in 2004 and have observed since then that in spite of some rough weather in less favoured counties to the north of us,  we still do pretty well.

How much of our favoured status is due to Fawley Refinery?    Are they part of  our weather protecting screen ?  I don't have a clue about that,  so I have written  to them asking if they could point us in the direction of somebody who can ome along and talk to us about it, and the history of Fawley Refinery - where they get the crude stuff from and what they do with it.

On a visit to Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia in 1959,  not long  before it opened for business, I was introduced to a thing called a 'Catalytic Cracker'.  A massive tower through which  the good oil percolated, sorting itself out on the way down, or something like that......possibly even into paraffin  for all I know - the stuff which filled our lamps in the Hampshire I once knew.

 'Catalytic Cracker'.   I just love the way those words roll off the tongue  and would be delighted to know Fawley has some of that.  I do hope they find somebody to come and talk to us.

John G