The 5th Series from the 1930’s which introduced two important aspects later to appear in the post war Ordnance maps. The general aesthetic of the post war 6th Series was established here: the size and the use of lithography. Also MOT road numbers were used, though the standard road colours of the post war years were yet to be established.

On this series in 1933, main roads (A roads) are a raw umber colour; B roads are ochre coloured and others are uncoloured. This, post war, was to change to red for A roads and yellow for B roads.

This map is perhaps double the size of the old Ellis Martin cyclists and walker’s maps of 1919+. This series shows, on the cover, a hiker in an idyllic English landscape. He was an updated figure and replaced Ellis Martins 1919 tweed clad cyclist who had epitomised the youing soldier returning from the tren ches of Flanders.

The Increase of size no doubt signifies recognition of changing techgnology: cars and motorcycles are now frequent and privately owned. Motor coach and bus travel is common and greater distances are travelled- not only to a destination of leisure- by train, but from that destination. It is , in a strange way, the return to a “touring culture” seen in the Victorian age by wealthy travellers- but now it was a mass phenomenon.

The railways of Series 5 are the Big Four which came into being in 1921-23: The SR, the GWR, the L&NER and the LM&SR.They are named on the lines.

Note a curiosity of these maps which continued, I think, onto Series 6 but not further: here, one cannot tell the nature of a wood from the simple green marking; they might be deciduous, coniferous or mixed. They might be ancient or plantation: the cartographers in this small period alone did not consider this to be important information.

Note also that there is a kind of National Grid but it is expressed in yards. Thus the south west corner of this map is 1,180,000 yards north of the Datum (off the Scilly Isles) and 760,000 east. This odd system lasted until the War when the General Staff Geological Section, War Office imposed the Cassini Grid and kilometre squares which was to become the standard on civilian maps on series 6 post war maps. The large grid squares on this map are 5,000 yards apart. The outer scale cited is in minutes of a degree. There is also a scale for kilometres, but this is not on the map edge. Thus the National Grid, as understood today, is a legacy of the war and the kilometre use a legacy of the army who had used metric measurements for some time. But interestingly, even then the maps were given an Imperial measurements gloss for public use: 1” to the mile etc.


This was the modern large series of the 1930’s. During this decade a new Series 6 was planned and was being prepared. During the war, the masters of the new Series 6 were lost in bombing raids on Southampton (they had not been photographed for security); and that Series 6, which appeared 1945+, was essentially, out of necessity, an update of these maps. Thus a generation of OS evolution was lost and the genuine new surveys of Series 7 (1950’s-60’s) were probably what was intended in the lost masters of the late 1930’s .

Thus, this mapping (new to c1930), became the stop gap for 1945+ with the slight alterations already mentioned: the road colours mainly.

There are unsatisfactory aspects of this cartography- most serious probably, being the opaque black used for urban areas which prevented the easy marking of important buildings like churches. No doubt the OS was working on correcting these aesthetic faults but then came the disaster of the War years and the continuation of this series in an adapted form, for another generation.

The Ordnance Survey had tried Chromo Lithography in the Edwardian Age with their Large Sheet topographically shaded series in white linen covers. Here the printing and colour intensity was problematic and probably led to the stalling of lithography for a time



Here is an idyllic landscape and distant coast which could be in many places in England and Wales. Cliffs frame an estuary and a wooded valley is in the middle ground. A man, a rambler, sits on a hill and surveys the scene and his map. He no longer has a bicycle which on a 1920’s version was propped against the bushes to his right. Here he sits with a rucksack and clothes clearly of the 1930’s- cardigan without sleeves, shirt with rolled up sleeves, turned up hemmed long trousers, shoes and no cap: gone are the tweed cap, a tweed jacket and gaiters with plus fours of the 1920’s cover: This is a young map who would have remembered the Great War mainly through the stories of his elders- not the older version which depicted a person who had endured the trenches, and was seen as a civilian in an idyllic English or Welsh landscape. Both young men- the cyclist of the 20’s and the rambler of the 30’s smoke pipes. Ellis Martin signed these pictures with his full name at bottom right: previously this image had been initialled at bottom left. To modern eyes this reworked plate has an added poignancy for in the early 1930’s, he, and society, did not know they would be at war with Germany again before the decade was out.

Ellis Martin was born in 1881 and died in 1977. He was the house designer of the Ordnance Survey from about 1913 (aged 33) through to the 2nd War in 1939. His greatly respected covers have become collectors item,s in their own right and his employment was a push by the OS to popularise their maps- both for commercial reasons and out of a sense of moral duty after the Great War. The first OS cover I know of was a Rolls Royce type open tourer on 1/4” motor maps which first appeared in 1913. Ellis Martin, before the First World War, produced posters and advertising designs for Selfridge’s and W.H. Smith and others. When the Great War broke out he went to France with the Royal Engineers and the Tank Corps, as an artist sketching the landscapes over which the army and its heavy vehicles would have to move. When the war ended, Martin was invited to join the Ordnance Survey which was struggling to enter the growing market in maps for ordinary people; and within a year the OS was reporting the highest map sales in its history. Martin helped make Ordnance Survey a household name; his cover designs are much collected today. He was 96 when he died as recently as 1977.

I have not seen a Scottish map using the Ellis Martin Covers: either this or the earlier cyclist version.