Nicholson Guides

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A Nicholson Waterways Guide

The Nicholson Guides are a set of books now published jointly by Bartholomew and the Ordnance Survey as guides to the navigable waterways of England and Wales (and, more recently, Scotland).

The large-scale Guides are mainly intended for people traveling by boat along the river or canal. Generally, each page includes a map of a section of the waterway with features such as bridges, locks, boatyards and services. Each section of the map includes references to nearby pubs, towns and villages, roads and railways.

The Guides were first produced, in the 1970s, by Robert Nicholson Publications and were published by British Waterways. The first edition sold for 75 pence; but by the early 1980s the price had increased to £1.50.

The format was a tall thin book which had the canal running top to bottom of each page, with the location north being adjusted to suit this format. Often pages had the canal 'straightened' mid page, with the location of north changing at the split point.

The first edition came out as four Guides:

1 South East
2 North West
3 South West
4 North East

A fifth Guide, The Midlands, came out in the early 1980s.

In 1981 the 'second revised edition' can in only three chapters; 3 North, 2 Midlands, 1 South and dropped the British Waterway Board affiliation. This edition was printed in two colours, black and blue, with the line of the canal being picked out in blue on an otherwise black and white map.

In 1985 the 'second edition' , now titled 'The Ordanace Survay Guide to the Waterway' published by Nicholsons had four chapters; 3 North, 2 Central, 1 South. Thames (and Wey).


The fifth edition in 1991 included 5 books:

1 South
2 Central
3 North
River Thames
Broads & Fens

7th Edition 1995, by this time Nicholsons had being an 'Imprint' of Harper Collins and was back down to four books, with a fifth publication being the first foldout small-scale map covering Great Briton.

1 South
2 Central
3 North
River Thames
Guide to Great Briton


The 1997/2000/2003/2007 editions were extended to 8 books:

1 Grand Union, Oxford & the South East
2 Severn, Avon & Birmingham
3 Birmingham & the Heart of England
4 Four Counties & the Welsh Canals
5 North West & the Pennines
6 Nottingham, York & the North East
7 River Thames & the Southern Waterways
8 Scotland, the Highland and Lowland Waterways (only in the 2003 edition)

There are also two small-scale fold-out maps, one covering Great Britain in its entirety, and one of Scottish waterways.

From 1997 the maps became A5 format, and maps where in full colour, with the canal overlaid onto the current OS map of the time, north was fixed as being at the top of each page.



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