Water Babies and an exclamation!

Westward Ho!, Devon (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:10,000 – published in 1903)
Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! is a seaside village near Bideford in Devon, England and faces westward into Bideford Bay.

The village name comes from the title of Charles Kingsley’s novel Westward Ho! (1855), which was set in nearby Bideford. The book was a bestseller, and entrepreneurs saw the opportunity to develop tourism in the area. The first hotel built was named the Westward Ho! Hotel, and the adjacent villas were also named after the book. As further development took place, the expanding area incorporated the name of Westward Ho!

During WWII Bailey Bridges were tested at Westward Ho! as part of the Mulberry Harbour project, as well as the The Great Panjandrum. The Panjandrum is probably best know for being depicted in the Dad’s Army episode, “Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel”, about a large, rocket-propelled, explosive-laden wheel. Unfortunately the real wheel had as many problems as the tv version and the idea never saw service.

Westward Ho! is also home to the Royal North Devon Golf Club, the oldest golf course in England and Wales.

The exclamation mark is obviously an intentional part of the village’s name. It is the only such place name in the British Isles, but although it may be unique in the UK Westward Ho! is out-exclaimed by Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Quebec, which has the distinction of having two exclamation marks in its name.

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New Town Plans – 50% Off.

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Published from the mid 1800’s to the 1920’s

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These maps were published for larger towns and cities at scales of 1:500, (c.10′ to 1 mile), 1:528 (exactly 10′ to 1 mile) and 1:1056 (5′ to 1 mile) from the mid 1800’s onwards. An immense amount of detail is shown, down to every lamp-post and every pillar-box, even paths, trees and sheds in peoples gardens.

Cassini’s Town Plans are the most detailed historical Ordnance Survey maps available and are easy to find and download. For those who are particularly interested in local history and genealogy, the town plans are essential research tool – now half price.

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Ballot Box, Balls and a Roman

Ballot Street, Smethwick (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:500 – published in 1887)
Ballot - Town Plan Maps

The map above is an example of one of Cassini’s newly available Town Plans. A great number of English towns, those with a population of over 4,000, were surveyed on the large scale of 1:500. Other early plans were published at scales of 1:528 and 1:1056, but from 1855 onwards the scale of 1:500 was settled on and most were surveyed only once. The maps, published between 1855 and 1920’s, show an immense amount of detail, down to every lamp-post and every pillar-box, even paths, trees and sheds in peoples gardens.

As we have chosen Ballot Street, here’s a bit of history you may, or may not, know. A ballot is a device used to cast votes in an election. It was originally a small ball used to record decisions made by voters. The word ballot comes from Italian ballotta, meaning a “small ball used in voting”. The first use of paper ballots to conduct an election appears to have been in Rome in 139 BC.

The coin shown above is Roman from around 63 B.C. Issued by Cassius Longinus, who became a proconsul in 48 B.C. and a Tribune of the Plebs in 44 B.C. The reverse of the coin shows a voter about to deposit a voting tablet marked V (meaning yes – ‘as you ask’) into a voting urn.

The first British secret ballot using ballot papers and a ballot box was held in Pontefract on 15 August 1872, under the terms of the recently enacted Ballot Act 1872. In a ministerial by-election following his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Hugh Childers was re-elected as MP for Pontefract. The original ballot box, sealed in wax with a liquorice stamp, can still be seen in Pontefract Museum.

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Special Offer – 30% Off all Cassini Maps

30% OFF! Easter Special OfferEaster Sale! – 30% Off all maps
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Zeppelin Raids – The birth of the Blitz.

St. Peter’s Plain, Great Yarmouth (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:500 – published in 1885)
Zeppelins over Great Yarmouth

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Zeppelin air raids on the UK.

On the 19th January 1915 two Zeppelin naval airships, 190 metres long, were heading for Humberside but were blown further down the east coast by strong gusts. They were forced to switch their attacks to the coastal towns of Norfolk. Zeppelins L3 and L4 crossed the coast of East Anglia, north of Great Yarmouth. Zeppelin L4 flew on towards Kings Lynn while Zeppelin L3, piloted by Kaptain Lt. Hans Fritz, turned back towards Great Yarmouth.

The first bomb dropped by L3 was an incendiary which landed in a waterlogged field in Little Ormesby, the second fell on a lawn in Albermarle Road near Wellesley. The first explosive to be dropped struck the pavement in Crown Road, but failed to explode, but the fourth and most destructive of the bombs to land on Great Yarmouth fell in St Peter’s Plain and burst with devasstating effect instantly killing Martha Taylor and shoemaker Sam Smith, while two more people were injured. By the end of the night two more people had been killed in Kings Lynn.

By the end of the First World War Zeppelin’s and other airships made about 51 bombing raids on England, killing 557 and injured another 1,358 people. More than 5,000 bombs were dropped on towns across Britain, causing £1.5 million in damage. 84 airships in all took part, of which 30 were lost, either shot down or lost in accidents. At the start of the war there were few weapons capable of combatting the Zeppelin threat. Conventional bullets would pass harmlessly through the aluminium frame and gas-bags. Not until the invention of incendiary bullets was there an effective way of bringing the Zeppelins down.

This first raid marked a change in the face of conflict, with the bombings serving as a forewarning of what was to come during the Blitz in the Second World War.

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Map of the month – The Moon, Eclipse and Sun Rising

Moon, Shetland Isles Mainland – Map: Revised New Series 1:30,000 1911
Moon, Shetland Isles

The proportion of the sun covered by the moon in the Shetland Isles was expected to be 97% in today’s eclipse – not far off a total eclipse and was measured as the darkest place in the UK. The perfect place to have watched would have been Moon on the west coast of Shetland Mainland.

Records of solar eclipses have been kept since ancient times. Eclipse dates can be used for dating of historical records. A Syrian clay tablet records a solar eclipse which occurred on March 5, 1223 B.C. while a stone in Ireland is thought by some to record an eclipse in 3340 B.C. Chinese historical records of solar eclipses date back over 4,000 years and have been used to measure changes in the Earth’s rate of spin.

Places in the UK that reflect the main elements needed for an eclipse include the previously mentioned Moon in the Shetland Isles, Sun Rising in Warwickshire and Eclipse Street in Cardiff.

The UK will not experience a solar eclipse on this scale again until 2026 and there may be a lucky few, who are already born, who will live to see the next total eclipse in the UK in the year 2090.

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Bazalgette and the Woolwich Ferry

Woolwch Ferry

Woolwich and the Free Ferry –  Map: County Series 1:2500 1894

The Woolwich Ferry (sometimes also called the Woolwich Free Ferry) is a free vehicle ferry service across the River Thames in East London. There has been a connection between what is now Woolwich and North Woolwich across the Thames since the Norman Conquest. The area was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 63 acres belonging to Hamon, the steward. There is also evidence of a ferry service in the area since the early 14th century. In the first half of the nineteenth century a commercial ferry operated in Woolwich between 1811 and 1844, but the company failed and the service ended.

In 1880 local pressure began for a renewal of such a service provided by the town authorities, but costs were prohibitive, and eventually the Metropolitan Board of Works was brought in to manage the embryonic project.

Following the establishment of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had taken over toll bridges in west London and opened them to free public use, it was suggested that the Board should fund a free crossing of the Thames in east London. The service was instigated in September 1887 by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, famous for the significant impact he had both on London’s appearance and, through his design of an efficient sewage system, on the health of its inhabitants.

The service was officially opened on 23 March 1889, with the paddle steamer Gordon. Two days before the first service, the Metropolitan Board of Works was replaced by the London County Council (LCC), and the opening ceremony was conducted by Lord Rosebery instead of the expected Bazalgette.

The ferry typically attracts about two million passengers a year, although many cross-river foot passengers now take the foot tunnel beneath the river, alongside the ferry route. Further competition arrived in 2009 with the extension to Woolwich of the Docklands Light Railway, which crosses under the river to the east of the ferry route.

Sadly for history it seems inevitable that a bridge upstream of the ferry will be built, making crossing faster for the cars and lorries that use the service, with doubtless the demise of the ferry following the opening of that bridge.

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Lewes and the UK’s deadliest avalanche!

Lewes

Cliffe Hill Lewes  –  Map: County Series 1:2500 1875

Lewes is the county town of the administrative county of East Sussex. With a population of just over 16,000 the town sits in a gap in the rolling South Downs, cut through by the River Ouse.

William Morris is quoted as having said “You can see Lewes lying like a box of toys under a great amphitheatre of chalk hills … on the whole it is set down better than any town I have seen in England.”

All the more surprising then that on 27 December 1836 it was the location for UK’s worst avalanche disaster.

South East of Lewes looms Cliffe Hill, rising to 164 metres above sea level. The hill has a steep sloping western edge which dominates the eastern view from the town. In 1836, a row of seven flimsily constructed workers’ cottages called Boulder Row (or Boulters Row) stood immediately at the foot of Cliffe Hill.

The winter of 1836–1837 was exceptionally severe across the whole of Great Britain, with heavy snow, gale force winds and freezing temperatures. Very heavy snowfall began over the South Downs, on 24 December 1836, and continued unabated over the Christmas period. Strong winds at the same time created blizzard conditions, with reports of snowdrifts over ten feet high in some areas of Lewes. The accumulation of snow at the top of Cliffe Hill, driven by a particularly severe gale on Christmas night, had formed a large overhanging edge of snow on the hill’s almost sheer western edge. The inhabitants of  the cottages below were warned that they could be at risk and were advised to leave their homes, but for reasons known only to themselves they chose to ignore the warning.

At 10.15 on the morning of Tuesday 27 December the ridge collapsed, producing an enormous avalanche directly onto Boulder Row. The Sussex Weekly Advertiser, reporting an eyewitnesses account, stated: “The mass appeared to strike the houses first at the base, heaving them upwards, and then breaking over them like a gigantic wave. There was nothing but a mound of pure white.” A rescue operation by townspeople succeeded in pulling seven survivors from the wreckage, but eight other individuals were found dead.

A public house called the Snowdrop Inn (named in commemoration of the incident) was built on the site once occupied by Boulder Row, and still trades under the same name to this day.

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