What is Ordnance Surveys?

What is Ordnance Surveys?

Understanding Ordnance survey

The Ordnance Survey (OS) is the United Kingdom’s official mapping agency. The name of the agency alludes to its initial military mission (see ordnance and surveying), which was to chart Scotland in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite uprising.

In view of the probable threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars, there was also a more general and statewide necessity.

Ordnance Survey has been operating as Ordnance Survey Ltd, a government-owned firm with 100 percent public ownership, since 1 April 2015.

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy continues to hold the Ordnance Survey Board accountable. It also belonged to the Public Data Group.

Paper maps for walkers account for barely 5% of the company’s annual sales.

They create digital map data, online route planning and sharing services, mobile apps, and a wide range of other location-based solutions for businesses, governments, and consumers.

Ordnance Survey mapping is typically categorized as “large-scale” (more detailed) or “small-scale.” The Survey’s large-scale mapping consists of 1:2,500 maps for metropolitan regions and 1:10,000 maps for the rest of the country.

(In the 1950s, the latter succeeded the 1:10,560 “six inches to the mile” scale.) These large-scale maps are commonly used in professional land-use contexts and were available as sheets until the 1980s, when they were digitized.

The 1:25,000 “Explorer” series, 1:50,000 “Landranger” series, and 1:250,000 road maps are examples of small-scale charting for leisure usage. These can still be purchased in standard sheet form.

Ordnance Survey maps are copyrighted for fifty years after they are published. Some Copyright Libraries have entire or nearly full collections of pre-digital OS maps.


Its roots can be traced back to the mapping of the Scottish Highlands following the 1745 revolt.

Since 1 April 2015, Ordnance Survey (OS) has been operating as Ordnance Survey Ltd, which is owned by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Ordinance Survey: Twenty-First Century

OS announced in 2010 that printing and warehouse operations would be outsourced, bringing an end to over 200 years of in-house printing.

Butler, Tanner and Dennis (BT&D), based in Frome, has won a printing contract.

Large-scale maps had not been printed at Ordnance Survey since the widespread availability of geographical information systems (GISs), but the OS Explorer and OS Landranger series were printed in Maybush until late 2010.

The construction of a new headquarters in Adanac Park, on the outskirts of Southampton, began in April 2009.

By the 10th of February 2011, almost all staff had relocated to the new “Explorer House” building, and the old site had been sold and redeveloped. On October 4, 2011, Prince Philip officially opened the new headquarters building.

On January 22, 2015, plans were announced for the organization to transition from a trading fund model to a government-owned limited company, with the transition expected to be completed in April 2015.

The UK government retains full ownership of the organization, which retains many of the characteristics of a public organization.

The history of the Ordnance Survey was the subject of a BBC Four TV documentary titled A Very British Map: The Ordnance Survey Story, which aired in September 2015.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) appointed Steve Blair as the Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey on June 10, 2019.

The Slow Ways initiative, which encourages users to walk on less traveled paths between UK towns, was supported by Ordnance Survey.

GB map coverage

The Ordnance Survey publishes a wide range of paper maps and digital mapping products, including:

OS MasterMap

OS MasterMap, introduced in November 2001, is the Ordnance Survey’s flagship digital product, a database that records every fixed feature of Great Britain greater than a few meters in a single continuous digital map.

Every feature is assigned a unique TOID (TOpographical IDentifier), which is a simple identifier with no semantic content.

Each TOID is often paired with a polygon that, in National Grid coordinates, depicts the area on the ground that the feature covers.

OS MasterMap is available in themed layers, each of which is linked to a variety of TOIDs. In September 2010, the strata were as follows:

  • Topography- The fundamental layer of OS MasterMap, consisting of vector data containing large-scale representations of real-world elements such as buildings and vegetation areas.
  • A link-and-node network of transportation characteristics such as roads and railways is referred to as an integrated transport network.
  • Orthorectified aerial photography in raster format is used for imagery.
  • Address- An overlay that adds every address in the United Kingdom to the other levels.
  • Address 2- Adds additional information to the Address layer, such as addresses with numerous residents (blocks of flats, student residences, etc.) and objects without postal addresses, such as fields and power substations

Business mapping

Ordnance Survey creates a wide range of goods geared at corporate users such as utility companies and municipal governments.

Ordnance Survey provides data on optical media or, increasingly, via the Internet. Products can be downloaded over FTP or accessed ‘on demand’ with a web browser.

Organizations that use Ordnance Survey data must obtain a license to do so. The main products are:

  • OS MasterMap
  • Meridian 2, Strategi.
  • Boundary-Line.
  • OS VectorMap Local.
  • Recreational maps in raster form.

Leisure maps

OS’s leisure maps are available in a variety of scales:

  • OS Landranger- The “all-purpose” map. They have pink covers and 204 sheets that cover the entire United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.
  • The map depicts all footpaths and is formatted similarly to the Explorer maps, although with less information.
  • OS Landranger Active- Select OS Landranger maps are available in a waterproof plastic-laminated version, comparable to the OS Explorer Active series.

As of October 2009, 25 of the 204 Landranger maps were available as OS Landranger Active maps.

  • Route- A double-sided map created for long-distance road travelers that covers the entirety of the United Kingdom.
  • Road – A set of eight sheets covering the entire United Kingdom that are intended for road users. These, along with fifteen Tour maps, were phased out in January 2010 as part of a cost-cutting effort. The Road series was relaunched in September 2016.

App development

Ordnance Survey introduced its first official app, OS MapFinder (which is still available but is no longer supported), in 2013, and has since added three more apps. OS Maps will expand its coverage in Australia in 2021.

Custom products

OS Custom Made is a print-on-demand service based on digital raster data that lets a consumer to specify the area of the map or maps desired.

There are two scales available: 1:50,000 (equal to 40 km by 40 km) and 1:25,000 (20 km by 20 km), and the maps can be printed folded or flat for framing or wall installation.

For folded maps, customers can supply their own titles and cover graphics.

Educational mapping

For instructional purposes, the Ordnance Survey provides replicas of their maps from the early 1970s to the 1990s.

These are frequently used in classrooms throughout the United Kingdom and former British colonies, either as stand-alone geographic aids or as part of geography textbooks or workbooks.

During the 2000s, Ordnance Survey provided a free OS Explorer Map to every 11-year-old in UK primary education in an effort to raise schoolchildren’s awareness of maps.

Over 6 million maps had been distributed by the time the scheme ended in 2010. The scheme was superseded by EDINA’s free access to the Digimap for Schools service for qualifying schools.

Mapping News, a quarterly journal published by the Ordnance Survey, is primarily aimed at geography instructors.

Derivative and licensed products

One series of historic maps published by Cassini Publishing Ltd is a reprint of the Ordnance Survey’s first series from the mid-nineteenth century, but with the OS Landranger projection at 1:50,000 and 1 km gridlines.

This means that features from more than 150 years ago fit almost exactly over their modern equivalents, and that modern grid references can be assigned to old features.

Free access to historic mapping

The National Library of Scotland offers free access to OS mapping from 1840 to 1970, at scales ranging from 1:1056 “five foot” maps of London to 1:625,000 “ten mile” national planning maps.


The CartoDesign team at Ordnance Survey plays an important role in the organization as the authority for cartographic design and development, engaging with internal and external audiences to promote and explain the value of cartography.

They work on a variety of initiatives and are in charge of styling all new products and services.

Data access and criticism

The Ordnance Survey has come under fire.

Most focus on the fact that Ordnance Survey has a near government monopoly on geographic data in the UK, although despite being a government agency, it has been forced to act as a trading fund (i.e., a commercial business) from 1999 to 2015.

This meant that it was planned to be totally self-funded through the commercial sale of its data and derivative goods while also serving as a public supplier of geographical information.

The Committee of Enquiry into the Handling of Geographic Information was established in 1985 with the mandate to “advise the Secretary of State for the Environment within two years on the future handling of geographic information in the UK, taking account of modern developments in information technology and market needs.”

The committee’s final report, released in 1987 under the chairman’s name Roger Chorley, emphasized the importance of accessible geographic information to the UK and proposed easing regulations on distribution and cost recovery.

Ordnance Survey was chastised in 2007 for hiring public relations firm Mandate Communications to study the mechanics of free data transfer and determine which lawmakers and advisers remained to support their current policy.

Historical material

Ordnance Survey historical works are widely available since the agency is protected by Crown Copyright: works more than fifty years old, including past surveys of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and much of the New Popular Edition, are in the public domain.

Finding relevant originals, on the other hand, remains a challenge because the Ordnance Survey does not distribute historical mapping on a ‘free’ basis, instead marketing commercially ‘improved’ reproductions in collaboration with businesses like as GroundSure and Landmark.

The National Library of Scotland has been working on expanding its archive in order to make Ordnance Survey maps for the entire United Kingdom more accessible via its website.


What is Ordinance Survey?

OS is the UK’s national mapping agency, producing a range of different maps and charts.

How do I find out more information about Ordnance Survey?

You can find out more on their website, call on 03456 050505 or email [email protected]

What does an ordnance surveyor do?

Ordnance Survey (OS) is the United Kingdom’s national mapping organization. It conducts the official surveying of the United Kingdom, giving the most precise and up-to-date geospatial data on which, the government, business, and individuals rely.

What is an Ordnance Survey in construction?

Ordnance Survey is the United Kingdom’s national mapping agency. Its roots can be traced back to the mapping of the Scottish Highlands following the 1745 revolt. It sells location-based products such as paper maps, digital map data, online route planning and sharing services, and mobile apps.

What is an Ordnance Survey plan?

The Ordnance Survey (OS) is the United Kingdom’s official mapping agency.

They create digital map data, online route planning and sharing services, mobile apps, and a wide range of other location-based solutions for businesses, governments, and consumers.

How big is an Ordnance Survey map?

1km x 1km (single km square) or 1km x 2km is the standard area covered (double km square). Summary: A standard topographical authority for a variety of purposes, particularly in rural areas. The most detailed OS series covering the entire United Kingdom.

How accurate are Ordnance Survey maps?

The equivalent relative accuracy of the lines on a “1:2500 scale Overhaul” map is 1.2 meters (4 feet) relative to other lines within 200 meters (656 feet).

How did Ordnance Survey start?

The name Ordnance Survey alludes to how it all started. The origins of Britain’s mapping agency can be traced back to military planning, with the mapping of the Scottish Highlands following a rebellion in 1745.

It took eight years, beginning in 1747, to construct what was known as the Great Map at a scale of 1:36 000. (1.75 inches to a mile).

How do Ordnance Survey maps work?

Every OS map has a grid, which is represented by faint blue lines. As they travel eastward, the lines across the bottom of the map are referred to as eastings. The lines running up the side of the map are known as northings because they travel to the north.

Can I use Google maps for planning applications?

All active planning applications in the area are displayed alongside a Google Map. The map itself shows the location of all the properties in question.

Each application shown on the map contains a link to the planning application on the local government’s website.

Are Land Registry maps accurate?

As a result, the accuracy of the Land Registry’s boundary data is restricted to the survey accuracy and scale of the source map originally lodged and upon which registration was based. The Land Registry is unable to tell you the exact location of a property boundary.

Do OS Maps show public footpaths?

Footpath. Footpaths with a public right of way are shown by a green dashed line (on OS Explorer maps) or a pink dashed line (on OS Landranger maps).

A landowner must acquire a formal order from their local authorities if they want to reroute a public right of way. Footpaths are typically marked with yellow or green arrows.

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