Scottish Series 7 1″ maps


Essentially the Scottish Series 7 Ordnance map is the same as the English and Welsh- but the cover is different – bearing the Rampant Lion Arms and not the full Royal Arms (of either country). Numbering is continuous over the entire island. So there is some ambiguity for sheets which cross the border: Scottish Cover?, English Cover? Two forms of the map?

The National Grid is standard and the False Datum off the Scilly Isles is used for Scotland.

Series 7 maps tended to be about 27 inches by 32 inches and show an area of 40 km of longitude by 45 km of latitude.

The projection is a Transverse Mercator Projection which is suited for the island of Great Britain: the Standard Mercator: being true proportions on the equator, would be too distorted at this latitude. On the Transverse Mercator, rhumb lines form arc, they are not straight to the map: so an OS map is not a sea chart.


The maps were lithographed. It is said that South of Birmingham the masters were already Lithographic, but north of that latitude the base maps were still electrotyped: so there should be subtle differences between these two grounds. The age of the Engraved or electrotyped map is gone.

There were 190 maps in the Series, numbered north to south. No 1 was North Shetland; No 190 was Truro. The last maps published were Shetland, and one often reads on the back cover an “expected completion date” for the entire series which was 1961.

The Datum for Scotland is HWMMT at Newlyn in Cornwall: one wonders whether a datum so far away throws up any cartographic distortions. Ireland always used, and still uses its own at LWMMT Pool Beg Lighthouse Dublin Bay. The datum allows all grids in Britain to be positive: eastings or northings only. The one exception is Rockall which is west of the 00 False Datum. The National Grid from this datum is metric, the squares are kilometres.

The Ordnance Seventh Edition was essentially the first Survey after the 2nd World War. Usually published from Chessington following bomb damage to the Southampton OS Office.

It does not cite revision from earlier survey work.

The standard dates are c1952 with revisions to c1966

The scale is expressed as 1 inch or 1:63,360. Scales in yards and Kilometres are also given. For many decades the Ordnance Survey had been metric but the maps were given an Imperial Measurements gloss for the public.

The datum for measurements of altitude is not stated except as “Mean Sea Level” but since 1915 this was LWMMT at the Tidal Observatory, Newlyn, Cornwall. Series 7 is fully relevelled, so no reference is made to the older Liverpool Datum.

This relevelling to the new datum at Newlyn LWMMT from the old datum at Liverpool LWMMT was slow; often large scale maps cite dates as late as 1950-52 for re-levelling.

Series 7 did sometimes revise using Aerial Photography. Aerial Reconnaissance had introduced this science in the 2nd World War.

Contours are surveyed in 100s of feet: 50 ft contours are interpolated.

Contours are russet brown but shown with thinner lines which could clutter Series 6 maps. Submarine contours are still shown to 5 and 10 fathoms.

Generally Series 7 maps look less busy than Series 6 because there is much less black and much finer colours. The paper us usually more bleached. The outer border cites degrees and minutes of longitude and latitude.

The series is published from Chessington in Surrey or Southampton in Hampshire. Series 7 maps and the whole Ordnance Survey project, date from a period when the Island of Britain was largely considered a unitary state with shared values, a shared parliament and in which the political, cultural and aspirational dichotomy and divergence was less pronounced than in the modern era. In the field of cartography, one doubts that the political will for such projects would exist today in either England or Scotland; or if the universal reach of the great Scottish Cartographers: Johnson, Gall & Inglis, John Bartholomew, would have come about. An interesting comparison is to be made with the Ordnance Survey of Ireland before the Revolution and the OS of Northern Ireland and An Learscailioct Eireannin in the Republic after the Revolution. Future political changes will probably occasion a similar break away of the Scottish Survey.


In this series, RAF and RNAS airfield from the 2nd World War are shown, usually if they are redundant. Operating Military airfields may still be redacted, as are Naval Bases. Old RAF fields are shown blank and crossed by footpaths with the word “Airfield” on them. Thus some research is needed to establish the Airfield Name, which might not have been that of the nearest village. A few are named thus: “Wattisham Airfield”. Such bases are rare in Scotland, where as in Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire they might be seen ever 5 miles across the map surface.


The main cartographic difference is perhaps the Bathymetric Survey of Scottish Lochs which took place in the late Victorian and Edwardian Age. In Scotland alone does the depth of fresh water occasionally descend below the Continental shelf.

The chief visual difference must be language and most Scottish maps contain isoglots: lines which divide language as seen in place-names. These are particularly difficult to establish for the place name forms were possibly fixed with the early surveys of the 19th century: freezing toponyms in that period. Series 7 maps are presumably correct to the full revision dates – the 1950’s.


The place-name languages of interest in Scotland are: Old Western Norse and its influence on Gaelic; Norn in the extreme North, which was a dialect of Norwegian that became extinct perhaps as late as the 19th century; Gaelic in the North and West. Scots in the South and East and remnant British (Old Welsh) the ancestral language of the country. Some local languages such as Doric may have influences of place-names. Norman is present but much less influential than in England. The interest with Gaelic-Norse toponyms is one of layers: is Gaelic overlying Norse? Is Gaelic overlaying Norse which overlaid Gaelic? There are, conjecturally, three main forms of Gaelic toponyms: one is pure and the other is that in which a great deal of Norse geographical terminology had been absorbed. The third is “remembered Gaelic” written in a Scots orthography. Scotland,on an OS map, is country of isoglots: where Scots meets Gaelic; where remnant Welsh is common and were it is not found. A good example of the later may be seen with Aberdeen and Inverness: the prefix meanings are identical (mouth of a river) and they share a vague geographical region: but the former is a Welsh remnant and the second is not.

There are also interesting differences between remembered language and spoken language: typified by Ben: Beinn (for a high fell) for example. Words which point to isoglots include: Lochan/ Lochanan :Loch (for a tarn); Abhainn: Water/ River; Allt: Burn (for a beck or gill).

Gaelic composite toponyms do not follow the Welsh form of only capitalising the first word: thus “Cae ‘y ceiliog” in Wales but “Inbhair Garvhain” in Scotland.


Another unique aspect of Scottish landscape in the context of the Island of Britain, is closed land, shooting estates, private roads and large regions of no public access.

 The Church of Scotland is a disestablished Presbyterian church, from which Free Presbyterian communions formed. Some regions and islands are entirely Roman Catholic or entirely  CofS or FP, and some places are divided geographically by religion in a manner not seen in England and more reminiscent of parts of Ireland. Thus, one cannot assume, as one does in England, that a main village church is Church of Scotland. The common occurrence of two large churches in a small community may indicate two substantial established communities in one town, where as in England one would tend to assume they were parishes within an Anglican community. The OS does not cite denomination: the OS of Ireland did- marking a place of worship as “Presbyterian Meeting Hall, Church (COI), or RC Chapel”. 


The greatest ambiguity on this and any Series 7 map is land use. Arable is not differentiated from pasture and orchards are not differentiated between Apple, Pear, Cherry, Plum, and Damson. Trees are shown as Deciduous or Coniferous (or mixed) but this does not show age. On English maps one can assume that a coniferous wood is a plantation as the tree is not endemic.

Woods are now shown as deciduous, coniferous or mixed (this is a change), Parks are grey stippled as are tidal reaches. A botanical difference must be that where as in England one can assume a pine wood to be a plantation, this is not the case in Scotland where the tree is endemic. A particularly interesting aspect of the cartography of Scotland is the depiction of remnant forest: geriatric trees from the former Caledonian Forest, standing without the enclosed woodlands, too large to be destroyed by grazing but unable to reproduce. Series to series one can plot the extinction of this forest.


In Series 7 Scottish Maps were still has a different Arms on the front cover: a Lion Rampant. In other respects the same form covered both Kingdoms and the Principality. Original Series 7 covers are vermilion and off-white with red and black lining and lettering, the Arms do not say either GR or ER. The edition number was at top right and on the front cover was a cartouche map. The cover aesthetic was not unlike that of Penguin Book. OS not used gloss covers in only the later Series 7 maps.

In this series the standard Scottish floating cover is replaced by the hinged cover. Covers were 8 ¼ inches by 5 inches. Some early ones are shorter and fold the bottom margin in-to accommodate the same sized sheet.

All editions cited revision and publication dates on the cover. Note the Edition date is not the printing date which was generally later.


Series 7 maps are British Railways maps. British Railways was formed in 1948 under the Attlee government and dismantled in 1997 under the Major government. It was an amalgamation of the big 4 1923 companies: L&NER, LM&SR, SR and GWR, as well as some smaller networks such as the Midland and Great Northern Railway, Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Committee Railway, and Cheshire Lines. From 1995 it was known as BR.

The Series 7 maps are contemporary to the phasing out of steam traction- the last steam hauled train was in 1968. Lines were electrified or changed to diesel traction. The Southern Region used the 3rd Rail system whereas the rest of the country used overhead lines and pantographs. On the map double lines are shown with a continuous black line and single lines with a black and white dashed line. Principal stations are rectangular, other stations are round- both being marked red. Level crossings are no longer marked with a red diagonal cross which was a remnant, on Series 6 maps, of their subsidiary used by War time flyers of the ATA.

Until 1962 the network was technically “The Railways of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission”.

This was the first and last survey to show the full British Railways’ network. So the company names have gone and “British Railways” is unnecessary- being universal. The maps are contemporary to many line closures and these are marked with white dots at the stations. Occasionally the map post dates an early closure and the line is shown only by “track of old rly”. A line with white marked stations is not necessarily a closed line- for it may have remained open for freight use.

A few branch lines are open on Series 6 but gone by Series 7. It is common on series 7 maps to see a line being “rolled back”: closed with white station over part of its course and “track of old rly” over another part. This provides interesting historical information- showing the process of closure and track lifting. Some of the large old companies of Scotland, lost after 1921-23 include the North British Railway and the Caledonian Railway.


Series 7 maps named A & B roads with their MOT numbers. A roads are red, B roads are bisque brown and none numbered minor roads are yellow. Unmetalled roads are white and footpaths, tracks and bridle paths are shown with a dashed black line.

Motorways are rare but can appear on late revisions of the 7th Series.


Series Seven maps do not show Admiralty soundings , as much earlier terrestrial Ordnance 1” maps had done. But the shallows and tidal flats are shown in great detail in a grey stipple- and the major tidal flats are named. The marine contours of a Series 7 map are 5 and 10 fathoms. Note that inland waters are measured in feet not fathoms (if measured at all).Bathymetric surveys can be quite old- 1870’s-1900’s and are not often repeated. Some inland waters are cited with a height above sea level at the water surface. Fathoms are measured from the same datum as land altitude: LWMMT Newlyn. A sea chart defines: “Chart Datum is the level below which the tide never falls”. Note that this is not quite the same as the terrestrial LWMMT (Low Water Mark of Medium Tides). A fathom is 6ft (1.8288 metres), anciently defined as the distance between a man’s outstretched arms; so the two contours on a Series 7 OS map equate to 30ft and 60ft sea depth. A “shallow” is water which can be measured by plumb line: called “sounding”. Water deeper than 100 fathoms is “beyond sounding”. Technically a Royal Navy fathom is 1/1000 of an Imperial Nautical or Sea Mile, which is 6.08 ft.

The importance of the 5 fathom line on a Series 7 map is that water less than 5 fathoms is measured in feet. Of course sea depth needs a datum, but fresh water depth cannot- for its surface never equates to a standard datum and can be at any altitude.


Urban areas are here grey with white roads. This allowed major buildings to be rendered black, named, and clearly seen: thus solving a major error on Series 6 maps which has rendered urban areas black.

1” OS Series 7 maps do not show bomb or war damage- though a considerable amount remained as this survey was being carried out. One has to fine 25” or 50” surveys- used by the Land Registry and Planners for the word “ruin” to be seen on buildings, plots and parcels of land, and “ruin” can be seen on maps into the 1960’s. Roman names (much less frequent in Scotland) are given under the modern name thus “CAMVLODVNVM”- using that Latin form.