Talk:Ordnance Survey

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Former featured article candidate Ordnance Survey is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.


The article reads as if members of the OS are editing it. They defend some critisisms and clarify points that make them look good. Dear Civil Servant: I am paying your wage, go back to work and leave this article POV please.

Clarification: Ordnance Survey employees are not civil servants. They are paid from profit generated, not from taxes. Comments suspected to come from Ordnance Survey employees should be treated in the same way as any other limited company.


Fell upon this page and thought it was great and would like to push it towards Featured, I'll help where possible if others want to do so too - have any previous editors got references? --PopUpPirate 23:23, September 7, 2005 (UTC)

What should To prevent very large values metre values the grid is divided. say? Andy Mabbett 09:50, 25 May 2004 (UTC)

See my edit - I think it's about right. Acanon 22:38, 21 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Examples of OS maps[edit]

I posted sthg to WP:VP Dunc_Harris| 20:32, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Is there a wiki template to get a map given a grid ref[edit]

I thought it was <<Coor|osgb36|TQ390775>> (using << for {{ ) but that doeesn't seem to work? --Red King 15:27, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

TYVM. What I was trying to remember was {{oscoor|TQ388728|Old Greenwich observatory}} as in an undistinguished set of streets in Catford / Hither Green. A few metres further south east is more interesting: Ector, Mordred, Pelinore and Persant Roads are some of the last examples of post-war "pre-fabs" still standing.
Oops! I meant TQ 388 773 Old Greenwich observatory bleedin' Streetmap mutter mutter .
For the record we've agreed elsewhere that that you aim to extend {{oscoor}} and/or do a Template:iremaprim to include the Irish national grid reference system.
  • Noted. And yes I have agreed to do something for Ireland. -- RHaworth 16:50, 2005 May 13 (UTC)

MasterMap notes[edit]

Replaced "The Future" section with something on MasterMap (which deserves its own page really). I also added a page on TOIDs. Sources: source for MasterMap launch date; the Guardian article is the source for the number of TOIDs; source for size of database -- Hotlorp 19:39, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

Cartography and Trig. points[edit]

The present article is in error I think in saying the original survey used the 4-sided concrete columns we know and love as 'trig points' - they didn't come until the 2nd survey (in 1935) surely. Linuxlad 13:34, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

If you were to completely re-order this article....[edit] that it would be a feasible Featured Article candidate, how would you structure the headlines?

I'm more than willing to heavily edit the article, just looking for guidance! --PopUpPirate 00:44, 25 February 2006 (UTC)

Criticism of OS[edit]

Is the OS still in the position of monopoly supplier?? - I thought that Harveys say use their _own_ survey data, not the OS's? Bob aka Linuxlad 22:14, 14 May 2006 (UTC)

There is certainly growing competion - the Intermap 5M DSM for example and the NavTech road network. I guess the large scale survey is still a monopoly - but who else would be able to do it? Most private companies would cherry pick the large urban areas.

Google and Nokia HERE are now substantial mapping providers for business and consumer use, and outperform Ordnance Survey in some applications. They still have a monopoly on printed low-scale maps used for off-road activities and planning, but this is a small percentage of the overall map/map data market.


The critisms section mentions that "[OS] dominance in the UK market prevents the development of independent sources of geographic data that proliferates in the US"

I've often heard this arguement but would be interested to have some examples, i.e. a US data set that has not got a UK equivalent because of OS dominance. Can any one suggest some?

I think you miss the point. The point is that OS's data is undoubtedly of an extremely high quality but is this appropriate for a large quasi-public organisation? For decades British Telecom (formally GPO) had a monopoly on the telephone service making it impossible for potential competitors to enter the market. After all they had all the wires under the ground. Like BT, OS has decades, if not 300 years, of infrastructure. Like BT, shouldn't OS be forced to open up its infrastructure, built on decades of public funding, to open competition? I'm not a big fan of blanket privatisation, but government organisations operating like commercial companies, with unfair market advantages, are a big no-no in my book.


Well I do have some sympathy for you viewpoint - the problem seems to be that the Government (Treasury?) does not seem to want to pay for the fundemental data collection and management. Therefore OS are forced to operate in a strange twilight world between public service and cost recovery. This does result in them insisiting on charging for it's data. Now if the government were to pay for the cost of survey and data management from direct government funding then OS would have very little arguement for continuing to charge.

I do feel that two arguements are being bound together which need to be seperated. The first is the on about whether it's right for OS to charge for it's data or not. If OS is fully funded by tax payers then certainly not. If not then it's clear that not just tax payers money has gone into maintaining the survey over the last few years so it starts to get a bit fuzzy - it can't be simply said that it has all been funded by the tax payer because that is no longer true and increasing less so.

The second arguement is whether this has seriously inhibited the development of the private market. This is what my original question was trying to determine. Having had some experience of the US market I would say that although there are many more products they are typically of less detail and quality so it's difficult to compare like with like. Where OS does have competion in this country then the quality of that competition is general better than US data sets - I would guess this is in part due to the fact that they have to compete with high quality OS data. The NavTech road network data is an example. However I would be interested to know if there are good examples that would support the arguement that OS really does inhibit the market.

I also think that OS has done a lot to more the whole agenda of the nature and quality of spatial data forward - something that is not seen in many other counties and those that follow appear to have similar models such as TDK in the Netherlands.


It is really difficult to argue against OS when it comes to quality of data. However, if the government is unwillinging to fund the fundemental data collection and management then OS should be fully privatised. Considering the way it operates now I can't see how this would make any difference to its business. The only difference is that it would remove any questions of conflicts of interest.

It has been my experience that government agencies acting in a commercial way (such as HMLR, MET Office, OS, HO) are still different and generally more desirable than if the organisaiton were simply privatised. This is because although they are asked to operate in a commercial manne rthe culture is still that of "serving the nation" and this does make a big difference.

Lastly, I do think that the quality issue cannot be simply dodged. Data quality is extermely important. The arguement against OS is that compared to the US competition and innovation is stifled, we all suffer because of the lack of access to data etc, etc. However, the reality appears to be not quite so clear cut. Is access to poor quality data really better than having to pay for better quality data? Are there not down stream costs from the use of poor quality or inappropriate data? Is the US really more innovative, many people seem to beleive that OS is a world leader.


I think we may get into the old arguement of privitisation versus public ownership. I do strongly believe that if a government agency is going to act in the commercial sphere then it should be privatised. Its a case of being "half pregnant" to try and do both. "Serving the nation" is the sphere of public organisations such as the National Health. In my experience government agencies acting as commercial entities are answerable to no one unless they get a bit of bad press.

High quality data is fine if you can afford to buy it. It's alright for Lloyds bank who earn £10,000 a second, but if you are a housing association or a hobbyist who just wants to include mapping on your website then it is an impossibility. In the end, I think users who want to put mapping on their websites will use google maps out of necessity - ironic on many levels. Its fine for OS to argue that the high cost of their data is due to all the work they have to do in maintaining their data, but this can only be justified in a genuinely competitive market. It's amazing how far costs come down once a market is opened up to genuine commercial competition. And genuine commercial competition includes the opening up of infrastructure amassed under government protection.

Property 17:15, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

The OS is in a similar position to the Met Office in that it provides a service to Government that has profound defence implications. This is not true of other 'privatised' services such as electricity and water.
The risks, and possible consequences in a worst case scenario, of getting the decision to privatise the OS wrong, are probably not the sort that any sane UK government is (or would be) willing to consider. These problems are probably not the sort that matter much to the man in the street, but are the sort of things that give responsible politicians and senior civil servants nightmares.
AFAIK there's nothing stopping any private competitor going out and doing its own mapping and then offering its data for sale. However, it should be born in mind that there are still large numbers of MoD estates and installations where access is likely to be difficult, if not impossible, for non-government agencies. Thus there is likely to be large areas of the UK that will probably not be profitable for any private mapping organisation.
Given the undoubted extremely high quality of OS maps there is unlikely to be any room for a private competitor to compete on quality. And as the OS has been doing mapping for several hundred years, it is unlikely that a private competitor is going to be able to compete on price, simply due to the costs involved in surveying, whether traditionally, or by aerial photography or satellite. If not willing or able to do its own surveying then the competitor is then forced to rely on using OS maps on which to base its own maps, and then questions of copyright come into question.
So the simple fact is that there is probably not room for more than one mapping provider in the UK, and as accurate mapping has very important implications for the defence of the country, there is unlikely to be any prospect of removing the UK's primary mapping organisation from government control.— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:55, 14 April 2012 (UTC)

Older pictures?[edit]

Would it be an idea, space permitting, to include one or two scans of historic OS maps with the article? A scan of (part of) the 1801 Kent map would be wonderful, but may be asking too much. However, since Crown Copyright lasts 50 years from the end of the year of publication, a scan from a New Popular Edition map (published around 1950, if memory serves) could be freely reproduced. Someone with access to such maps would have to do their own scanning, though, since most online sources (eg Lancashire County Council) insist that while the underlying maps are now out of copyright, they do hold copyright in the scans themselves and will not allow them to be used for commercial purposes - which Wikipedia images potentially could be. 15:29, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

(That was me; forgot to sign in.) Loganberry (Talk) 15:29, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

I own copies of three six inch maps circa 1862 covering areas near Godalming, Surrey. I have scanned and stitched them, but the files are too big for upload to Wikimedia Commons, i.e. they are bigger than 100MB. They are wonderful to browse, particularly on screen as they will stand considerable magnification, which makes them much easier to read than the hard copies. Is there or might there be a repository on a Wiki for such items? What series are there? I think mine might have been made as a result of the Palmerston French scare. I have come across a reference on a commercial site to 1909 maps, how much better it would be if Wikis had the lot! A small sample scan I uploaded to Commons and put on the Zincography page on Wikipedia SovalValtos (talk) 15:56, 27 April 2014 (UTC)

Good Article nomination has failed[edit]

The Good article nomination for Ordnance Survey has failed, for the following reason:

Use of the {{unreferenced}} template made it fail. Iolakana|T 18:58, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, it's nowhere near GA status.--HisSpaceResearch 20:51, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

This would be very useful if anyone's feeling rich![edit]

This Ebay sale (disclaimer: nothing to do with me) is of a complete set of OS maps, almost all 7th series. Printed 1946-59, says the listing, so most are already out of copyright and the rest soon will be. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 15:41, 12 May 2007 (UTC).

7th series is slightly risky (we do have a few scans from that series) new popular edition is safe copyright wise but older.Geni 22:18, 10 August 2007 (UTC)
These are reasonably readily available. I Myself have a hundred or so. What is not so readily available is the individual's application to scan, stich and upload them. Is there any move to create such a Wiki library? See my remarks concerning older six inch maps. SovalValtos (talk) 17:56, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

Northern Ireland[edit]

Does anyone have any idea why the standard OS map series (Explorer and Landranger) do not cover Northern Ireland? (talk) 23:50, 7 March 2008 (UTC)

At least originally they were completely seperate surveys.Geni 00:47, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

These maps are based on Transverse Mercator projection, which is good only for relatively narrow bands of longitude. The GB grid has its central meridian at 2 degrees west, and the Irish Grid (used by OSNI and OSI) at 8 degrees west. If the two grids are overlaid they appear rotated with respect to each other, so producing a single set of maps would be very artificial. OSI and OSNI adopt the more sensible approach of producing various series of maps covering the whole island of Ireland in a unified manner. I'm probably out of date, but last time I bought an Irish map OSNI produced 1:50,000 maps called 'Discoverer' and OSI produced 'Discovery'. These use a common set of sheet lines and numbers, though differ in their colour scheme, symbols etc. Pterre (talk) 09:13, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

List of National mapping agencies[edit]

Any objections to creating a List of national mapping agencies to de-clutter this article? Pterre (talk) 14:16, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

How they map?[edit]

Does anyone know how Ordnance Survey map areas? Tracing over aerial photos? Or maybe even satellite photos? I presume they don't drive around with GPSes? It would be useful if this information were in the article. (talk) 01:10, 19 September 2009 (UTC)

These days they mosty rely on aerial photos for updates.©Geni 22:19, 3 October 2009 (UTC)
Aerial photography units using cameras to get 3D data. Approx 200 field surveyors using handheld GPS units. They occasional post information on the blog. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:14, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

OS OpenData[edit]

Don't know whether it's possible to update some of the (old) examples of OS maps with this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:15, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Can someone who understands the OS OpenData project please explain what the different classes of data are and how they can be used? Some of the data sets such as Strategi, Meridian 2 etc are incomprehensible to the amateur. See —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:54, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

File:Ordnance Survey HQ Adanac Park.jpg Nominated for speedy Deletion[edit]


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Factual Errors[edit]

First time user so... I'm not going to edit the main page, rather I'll put a comment here and see what others think.

The OS page describes Ordnance Survey as both an Executive Agency and a Non-Ministerial Department. They are two quite different things. Moreover, the source given lists the OS only as an Executive Agency and not a Non-Ministerial Department.

FranklyDull (talk) 18:04, 14 December 2011 (UTC)

Can it not be both? Both Pages and sources can be wrong. SovalValtos (talk) 17:59, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

Duplicate Material[edit]

Is it necessary to have both the Grays Thurrock and Penistone images in the article rather than commons? SovalValtos (talk) 21:47, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

they show the evolving map style. From the new popular edition to the 7th series.©Geni (talk) 13:41, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Evolving style, would be an ideal use of a gallery. In order to point the differences the chosen images would need to be of the same area.SovalValtos (talk) 15:05, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
I am removing the Penistone image as the purpose of showing evolving map style is now as well served by the complete sheet scan. I do not have a new popular edition of sheet 170, so will scan another sheet, unless someone else can do a sheet 170? SovalValtos (talk) 18:36, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

Grid Square TF Image[edit]

A useful image, but it would be much more so if it included the legend and the caption had the date of publication.SovalValtos (talk) 18:48, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Broad Arrow[edit]

I'm removing the statement about "inclusion of the War Department's broad arrow in the agency's logo up until 2015" as dubious and in need of verification. Looking at the front cover of a Landranger map of 1986 the logo looks more like a classic North pointer than the broad arrow. The upright is about 5 times the height of the "arrow head", whereas the MoD's logo has one barely 20% longer. Further, the OS logo has an East-West line which the MoD one does not. If anyone can provide a reliable citation for the claim, please put it back; otherwise I think it comes into the "urban myth" category. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 19:21, 26 March 2016 (UTC)

Principal Triangulation of Great Britain[edit]

I am currently revising Principal Triangulation of Great Britain. There is a great deal of potential overlap with the History section of the present article and I suggest transference of some of this material to the triangulation article. My feeling is that this article should concentrate on map production aspects since, by the middle of the nineteenth century, primary triangulation and map production via secondary surveys were different activities. Please let me have comments on whether I should proceed or not. Peter Mercator (talk) 14:58, 30 March 2017 (UTC)