What Was the First Map Issued by the Ordnance Survey?

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The Ordnance Survey was established on June 21, 1791 as Great Britain’s mapping agency. The impetus to create the Ordnance Survey was born out of a need to create military maps of Scotland following the Jacobite rising of 1745.

The first map created by the Ordnance survey wasn’t until ten years after the founding. The first map was issued in 1801 by Captain William Mudge (1762-1820), a military surveyor, and was titled, “An Entirely New & Accurate Survey Of The County Of Kent, With Part Of The County Of Essex.”

The map is also the first modern survey of any portion of England and used the Trigonometrical Survey to map out topography.

Map: "The County of Kent, with part of the County of Essex" via the David Rumsey Map Collection.
Map: “The County of Kent, with part of the County of Essex”, originally published in 1801, this version was published in 1809 and includes the Royal Military Canal, via the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Kent, England’s most south-easterly county, was considered particularly vulnerable to a French invasion and in the 1790s the map was commissioned. Created at a scale of 1″=1 mile, the map features roads, towns and villages, farmlands, and topographical features based using the trigonometrical survey. The map contains hill shading to aid with interpreting the landscape.

The wall-sized map (122cm x 177.5cm, 48″ x 70″) covers the entire county of Kent sectioned into four foldable panels.

A look at the detail on the 1801 Kent Map from the Ordnance Survey.
A look at the detail on the 1801 Kent Map from the Ordnance Survey.

The dedication in the lower right corner of the Kent map reads, “To the most noble Charles Marquis Cornwallis and the rest the principal officers of His Majesty’s Ordnance this map is respectfully dedicated by their most obedient & faithful servant W. Mudge, Drawing Room Tower, January 1st 1801”.

Dedication on the 1801 Kent map from the Ordnance Survey.
Dedication on the 1801 Kent map from the Ordnance Survey.

Updates to the Kent Map

A later update to the 1801 Kent map in 1809 included the mapping of the Royal Military Canal on the map which was built between 1804 and 1809.

The presence of the Royal Military Canal (built between 1804-1809) on the 1801 Kent map suggests that it was published in 1809.
The presence of the Royal Military Canal (built between 1804-1809) on the 1801 Kent map suggests that it was published in 1809.

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