HL Deb 12 June 1883 vol 280 cc329-33

rose to ask, What progress has been made by the Ordnance Survey during the past year; and to inquire whether, in view of the future increase of sale of land under the Settled Land Act of 1882, and consequent need of an official map to fix the acreage of landed estates, the Government will accelerate the completion of the map of England and Wales?


said, he had for a long time taken a great interest in this matter of the Ordnance Survey. Some 21 years ago, when he was a Member of the House of Commons, a Select Committee, of which he had the honour to be Chairman, was appointed to inquire into the whole question; and, as the result of their Report, the sum of money sot apart for the development of the Ordnance Survey was increased to something like £98,000 a-year, Sir Henry James, then the Director of the Survey, having stated that that was the largest sum which he could employ with any advantage. Twenty-one years had elapsed since then; but still, looking to the Report of the Ordnance Survey for the past year, it appeared that a large proportion of the Kingdom was still altogether, as regarded accurate survey, entirely untouched. A small portion only in these 21 years of the 25-inch scale had been completed, and only a very little of the 1-inch revision, and this had dawdled on in such a way that the 1-inch revision was itself getting out of date. The other day he purchased the sheet representing the few miles around the centre of London, and, although his examination did not go far, he found Wandsworth Bridge was not in it, nor the mile and a-half of road leading out to Ealing Common. Thus the 1-inch Survey, which was to give an accurate map of the country, was itself out of date, and by the time it was completed it would be perfectly useless. The progress with the 6-inch and the 25-inch scales was equally unsatisfactory. They were told the whole Survey would be completed in 1890; but he hoped it would be conducted on a more systematic plan than at present, because surely something could be done to make the work more quickly available.


, in reply, stated that in the year 1880 the attention of the Government was specially directed to this subject on the Report of the Committee upon Land Transfers and Titles, and the Government came to the conclusion that it was of importance that the Ordnance Survey should be accelerated. He was afraid the noble Viscount was in error in stating that the £98,000 which had been voted annually so many years was as much as could be used—the real fact being that it was owing to the amount of money not being larger that the Survey had been retarded. When it was resolved to accelerate the service, steps were at once taken to obtain larger Votes, so as to increase the number of people employed, and during the last three years the numbers had been greatly increased. At the present moment Scotland had the Survey completed, and the last man left there in November; and what had been done during the three years was this. In 1880 there were 224 men employed on the Survey, and they surveyed 1,070,000 acres; in 1881 there were 381 men employed, and they surveyed 1,500,000 acres; and in 1882 there wore 467 men employed, and they surveyed 2,174,000 acres. If they sought to accelerate the work, or to get it performed quicker than it was now being done, there would be a danger that they would not get that high standard of accuracy which was greatly to be desired in such a matter as this. As to the complaint that the Survey made some years ago was not now out of date, there could be no help for that; but it was the desire of the Government to have the present Survey completed as soon as possible, and when it was completed the necessary alterations might be made. In making arrangements originally for carrying out the Survey, it was found requisite for military purposes that particular districts in different parts of the country should be surveyed first. It was also considered that, in the public interest, preference should be given to the mineral districts. The work would now, however, be carried out in a uniform manner. He could assure the noble Lord (Lord Braye) that there was little doubt the Survey would be completed in 1890, and it was even hoped that it might be finished a short time before that date.


wished to press on the Government the necessity of the Survey being completed as soon as possible. Great inconvenience resulted from the existing state of things, especially to those interested in land, for the present maps were very incomplete and unreliable. Roads in Devonshire which had been in existence for half a century, to his knowledge, were not laid down on the maps. Ireland had long got the largest share of Government aid, and the Ordnance maps of Ireland saved the expense of having estate maps made. But it was too bad that wild moors in Scotland should have been mapped in the greatest detail for the benefit of their owners alone, and a few of the most picturesque scones only of some tourists; while the greater part of the cultivated lands of England were left by the Ordnance with nothing better than the old obsolete map on the 1-inch scale.


said, he could also bear testimony to the enormous amount of inconvenience which had been caused by the delay that had taken place in the publication of the 6-inch map. Any envy expressed of the superior facilities that foreign nations had of transferring land with little or no expense or difficulty was really hypocritical, as long as no measures were taken to furnish the maps which must be necessary for such purposes. They seemed to have gone on the principle of serving first those parts of the Kingdom which were the most disagreeable to the Government, and which were not in so much need of the maps as England. The most disagreeable part of the Three Kingdoms was Ireland, and, therefore, Ireland had a splendid map. Next to Ireland, Scotland was the most disagreeable part of the country to the Government, and, consequently, Scotland had a map; but poor, meek, humble, submissive England was necessarily left to the last.

In reply to Viscount BURY,


said, that the dates given for the completion of the Survey included the time of publication of the 25-inch and 12-inch maps, but not the 1-inch; and with regard to the complaint respecting the long delay in publishing the 6-inch maps, he pointed out that, owing to the invention of General Cook, the late Director General of the Ordnance Survey, of photo-zincography, the production of these 6-inch maps would be very much accelerated, and a saving of £100,000 made in their cost.