Map of the month – 150 years of the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge – County Series 1:2500 1886-1896

Clifton Suspension Bridge
150 years ago today on the 8th December 1864, the Clifton Suspension Bridge had its grand opening. The bridge spans the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. The bridge is built to a design by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw, based on an earlier design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

In 1753 Bristolian merchant William Vick had left a bequest in his will of £1,000 (equivalent to £130,000 in 2014), invested with instructions that when the interest had accumulated to £10,000 (£1,330,000), it should be used for the purpose of building a stone bridge between Clifton Down.

By 1829, Vick’s bequest had reached £8,000, but it was estimated that a stone bridge would cost over ten times that. A competion was held to find a design, but all the designs, including a final one by Thomas Telford failed to gain aproval because of either looks or cost.

An Act of Parliament was then passed to allow a wrought iron suspension bridge to be built instead of stone, and tolls levied to recoup the cost. In 1831 a second competition was held with new judges. The winner was declared to be a design by Smith and Hawkes of the Eagle Foundry in Birmingham. Brunel then had a personal meeting and persuaded him to change the decision, The committee then declared Brunel the winner and he was awarded a contract as project engineer with his design being finalised by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw . The winning design was for a suspension bridge.

Folklore says that a rope was taken across the gorge by kite, or even by bow and arrow! The simple and much more likely event was that common hemp ropes were taken down the side of the gorge, across the river by boat and pulled up the other side.

The towers are built principally of local Pennant stone. The chains and suspension rods are made of wrought iron with the chains anchored in tapering tunnels, 25 metres (82 ft) long, on either side of the bridge. After completion of the chains, vertical suspension rods were hung from the links in the chains and large girders hung from these. The girders on either side then support the deck, which is 3 feet higher at the Clifton end than at Leigh Wood. The construction work was completed in 1864 — 111 years after a bridge at the site was first planned.

to buy this map or maps of your area go to Cassini Maps

Map of the month – Euston Station

Euston Station
Euston Station, London (Town Plan 1:1,056)

Euston was the first inter-city railway station in central London, opened on 20 July 1837 as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway.

The site was selected in the early 1830s by George and Robert Stephenson, engineers of the London and Birmingham Railway. The area was then mostly farmland at the edge of the expanding city of London. The station was named after Euston Hall in Suffolk, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Grafton, who were the main landowners in the area.

Before Euston was built the trains from Birmingham had an unsatisfactory endpoint at Chalk Farm, built in 1833. It was George Stephenson who planned the original station at Euston Grove with just two platforms, one for arrivals, one departures, sheltered beneath a massive wrought-iron roof. The building was designed by Philip Hardwick, fronted by a 72’ high porticot. This portico acquired the name Euston Arch.

There was a notable engineering oddity about Euston from its opening on July 20 1837: because Lord Southampton, master of the Quorn Hunt, Conservative grandee, and a major landowner locally, objected to the potential noise and dirt, no locomotives were allowed between Euston and Camden Town. Instead trains were pulled from the terminus to Camden by a cable device until 1844, when engines were at last allowed.

The station grew rapidly over the following years as traffic increased. It was greatly expanded in the 1840s, with the opening in 1849 of the spectacular Great Hall, designed by Hardwick’s son Philip Charles Hardwick in classical style. It was 126 ft long, 61 ft wide and 64 ft high, with a coffered ceiling and a sweeping double flight of stairs leading to offices at its northern end.

The pioneers who established the railway network built Euston Arch, the massive Doric portico, outside the first terminus in London, Euston Station; in the 1960s their ancestors knocked it down in what many consider to be an act of cultural vandalism. Perhaps there is hope for this generation as a campaign now exists to have the Euston Arch restored.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

Map of the month – Port Richborough

Port Richborough
Port Richborough, Kent
(Map; Popular Edition 1920. Original scale 1:63,360 or One Inch to the Mile)

Situated amid the East Kent marshes Richborough is perhaps the most symbolically important of Roman sites in Britain. It is thought by many that the four invading Legions under Aulus Plautius assembled in Richborough after landing in Britain during the Claudian Invasion of A.D. 43.

Fast forward nearly 1900 years and troops were heading back into Europe. In January 1916 during the height of WWI, it was decided to develop Richborough as a depot and base for inland water transport to service the troops. At this time Richborough consisted of a short length of quay suitable for barges, and one solitary dwelling house.

By 1918, the enormous feat had been completed of transforming Richborough  into a large and well- equipped seaport, of 2,000 acres, complete with all services and capable of handling 30,000 tons of traffic per week. 2,300 ft of new wharf was built for the cross-channel barge service, in which, at the end of the war, 242 barges were employed, including ten of 1,000 ton capacity.

Among the new ports features was what we we today call a “roll-on, roll-off” ferry – for railway trains. Among the many tons moved from Richborough were complete trains carrying tanks, direct from the factories to the British army on the front line. The use of train-ferries greatly reduced the amount of labour required in the transport of these items. It took only 30 to 40 minutes to load or unload the 54 railway wagons and fifty or sixty motor vehicles that could be carried by these train-ferries. An analysis done at the time found that to transport 1,000 tons of war material from the point of manufacture to the front by conventional shipping means involved the use of 1,500 labourers, whereas when using train-ferries that number decreased to around 100 labourers.

So well camouflaged was the port, that it became known as the Mystery Harbour. All port buildings were one-story, their walls and roofs were painted to match the general background of a low-lying area. B Type War BusThe military secret was so strictly and carefully observed by the British, that the existence of the port had been unknown to the Germans during the whole war; the port was often overflown by the aircraft heading to drop bombs on London, where the bombs were striking civilians, but no bombs were ever dropped on Richborough.

After the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, train ferries were used extensively for the return of material from the Front. Indeed according to war office statistics, a greater tonnage of material was transported by train ferry at Richborough in 1919 than in 1918. The returning train ferries had space for motor transport as well as railway rolling stock, thousands of lorries, motor cars and “B Type” buses also returned via this route. It’s a little known fact that buses transported troops to and from the Front Line and were put to use as ambulances and even mobile pigeon lofts. Nearly 1,200 London General Omnibus Company vehicles went on war service, most to France and Belgium, with some travelling as far afield as Egypt.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

The Cutty Sark, a witch and a horses tail

Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series 1866
Cuttysark
The tail of the Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. Launched at Dumbarton on November 23 1869 for the Jock Willis shipping line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.

The opening of the Suez Canal (also in November 1869) meant that steam ships now had a much shorter route to China, so Cutty Sark spent only a few years on the tea trade before turning to the trade in wool from Australia, where she held the record time to Britain for ten years. In 1954 she had ceased to be useful, even as a cadet ship, and was transferred to permanent dry dock at Greenwich, London where she is on public display.

The name Cutty Sark comes from  Robert Burns poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’.
Cutty-sark (hyphenated) was a nickname given to the character of the witch Nannie Dee, after the garment she wore – Cutty (short) and Sark (Nightshirt). The figurehead of the tea clipper Cutty Sark is named after the character and yes, for all of you who are wondering, the Tam o’ Shanter hat is also named after the poem.

The story goes that the hero Tam, while riding home from the pub on his horse, happens upon strange goings-on in a church yard. Among the dancing figures is a particularly beautiful young witch named Nannie Dee. She is described as wearing a harn (linen) sark (nightshirt) which fitted her as a child but is now rather too short for her. Tam is so enthralled by the erotic spectacle that he cannot contain himself and, not knowing her name, yells out “Weel done, Cutty-sark!”. The witches on hearing his cry turn and pursue him and Tam flees, heading for the River Doon as, according to folklore, witches cannot cross running water. He makes it across the bridge to safety, but not before Nannie has torn the tail from his horse. To this day Nannie, the figurehead of the Cutty Sark, can be seen with a horses tail hanging from her hand.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

SS Great Western & Bristol Docks

Map: Ordnance Survey County Series 1:2500 – 1886
SS Great Western
SS Great Western – the largest vessel in the world.

19th July 1837 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s 236 ft steamship, the Great Western, was launched at Bristol. She was the largest vessel in the world. On the same day in 1843, his ‘Great Britain’, the first Atlantic liner built of iron, was launched at Wapping Dock.The Great Western was an iron-strapped, wooden, side-wheel paddle steamer, with four masts to hoist the auxiliary sails. The sails were not just to provide auxiliary propulsion, but also were used in rough seas to keep the ship on an even keel and ensure that both paddle wheels remained in the water, driving the ship in a straight line. The first steamship purpose-built for crossing the Atlantic, and the initial unit of the Great Western Steamship Company. She was the largest passenger ship in the world from 1837 to 1839.

In 1838 after sailing to London, where she was fitted with two side-lever steam engines. the Great Western set sail for Avonmouth to start her maiden voyage to New York. The ship hadn’t gone far when a fire broke out in the engine room. During the confusion Brunel fell 20 feet, and was injured. The fire was extinguished, and the damages to the ship were minimal, but Brunel had to be put ashore at Canvey Island. As a result of the accident, more than 50 passengers cancelled their bookings for the Bristol-New York voyage and when the Great Western finally departed Avonmouth, only 7 passengers were aboard.

The Great western’s first voyage in April 1838 was set to be a race with the British and American Steam Navigation Company’s rival ship the SS Sirius but the fire delayed the Great western’s start. Even with a four-day head start, Sirius only narrowly beat Great Western, arriving in New York on 22 April. When coal ran low, the crew of the Sirius burned 5 drums of resin. The Great Western arrived the following day, with 200 tons of coal still on board. Sirius is often credited as the first winner of the Blue Riband (even though the term Blue Riband was not coined until years later) at 8.03 knots. However, Sirius only held the record for a day because Great Western’s voyage was faster at 8.66 knots.

Still capable of making record Blue Riband voyages as late as 1843. Great Western worked to New York for 8 years until her owners went out of business. She was sold to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and was scrapped in 1856 after serving as a troop ship during the Crimean War.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

The Battle of the Medway & Dutch courage

Chatham - The Battle of Medway
Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series – 1805

Battle of the Medway

Contrary to popular belief British shores have been invaded may times. The most damaging to our prestige and morale, since the Battle of Hastings, was a Dutch attack on The Medway in 1667, during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

Charles II’s Navy was in a reduced state due to recent expenditure restrictions. With London largely destroyed by fire the previous year (having already been ravaged by plague), Charles had his fleet laid up in Chatham. The Dutch decided this was the moment to attack, and it proved one of the boldest naval raids in history.

The Battle of the Medway, as it was to become known, began on June 10, as the Dutch, with a fleet of about thirty ships, attacked the Island of Sheppey. Under the command of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter the Dutch bombarded and then captured the town of Sheerness.

By the 12th June 1667 they had sailed up the River Medway towards Chatham. The Dutch fired upon the few poorly-armed and poorly-manned ships they encountered, broke through the six-inch thick iron chain stretched across the Medway to the East of Gillingham Fort (the English fleets the primary defence against invaders) and upon reaching Chatham the dockyard was set ablaze and Upnor Castle bombarded. Fireships caused havoc with the moored English warships, burning three of the four largest “big ships” of the navy and ten lesser naval vessels, as well as capturing HMS Unity and HMS Royal Charles, flagship of the English fleet, which they towed away as war trophies.

On the 14th June, fearing a growing English resistance, the Dutch decided to forego a further penetration and withdraw. After attacking several other ports on the English east coast, a failed attempt to enter the Thames beyond Gravesend and a Dutch marine force landed near Woodbridge north of Harwich, which was repelled, the Dutch fleet withdrew.

The raid led to a quick end to the war and a favourable peace for the Dutch was signed on 21 July 1667.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

Map of the week: Baker Street Tube, The Jam and the Royal family.

The Queen and The Duchess of Cambridge visited Baker St Tube Station in London this week to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the world’s first underground railway.
Baker Street tube

Map: Ordnance Survey 1:1000 mapping from 1872.

The first track ran between Paddington and Farringdon and was opened by the Metropolitan Railway in January 1863.
The original trains had three different classes, costing three, four and six pence for a single journey. The first-ever day of public service saw the new phenomenon enjoyed by 40,000 passengers.
Later Chiltern Court, the largest apartment block in London, was built over Baker Street station, where today a three-bed apartment will set you back £1.1m.

Today also marks the 33rd anniversary of The Jam’s single ‘Going Underground’ entering the UK chart at No. 1.

Map of the Week – Pont Britannia

Pont Britannia (Britannia Bridge)
Brittania BridgeMap: 1889 – County Series 1:2500

To celebrate St David’s Day, Cassini has been exploring our collection of historical maps of Wales and has found one of the ground breaking engineering feats of the eighteen hundreds.

Pont Britannia (Welsh for Britannia Bridge), a bridge across the Menai Strait between the island of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales, opened on 5 March 1850. When built it had the longest continuous wrought iron span in the world.

It was originally designed and built by Robert Stephenson as a tubular bridge of wrought iron rectangular box-section spans for carrying rail traffic.

In 1840, a Treasury committee decided in favour of Railway pioneer George Stephenson’s proposals, which included the Britannia Bridge, over those of Thomas Telford and final consent for the route was given in 1845. Stephenson’s son Robert was appointed as the chief engineer.

Britannia Box SectionThe design required the Menai strait to remain accessible to shipping and the bridge to be sufficiently stiff to support the heavy loading associated with trains, so Stephenson decided to constructed a bridge with two main spans of 460-feet (140m) long rectangular iron tubes, each weighing 1,500 tons, supported by masonry piers, the centre one of which was built on the Britannia Rock.

Two additional spans of 230-feet (70m) length completed the bridge making a 1,511-feet (461m) long continuous girder. The trains were to run inside the tubes. Up until then the longest wrought iron span had been 31 feet 6 inches (9.6 m).

When first conceived, the tubular bridge was to have been suspended from cables strung through the openings at the tops of the towers. However, after engineering calculations and tests of the finished tubes it was decided that they were strong enough by themselves to carry the weight of the trains.

The bridge was decorated by four large lions sculpted in limestone by John Thomas, two at either end. These were immortalised in the following Welsh rhyme by the bard John Evans (1826–1888):

Four fat lions
Without any hair
Two on this side
And two over there
Pedwar llew tew
Heb ddim blew
Dau ‘ochr yma
A dau ‘ochr drew

Continue reading

Maps, Genealogy and Local History

Many people today are interested in genealogy to understand not just where and when people lived, but also their lifestyles, surroundings and motivations. This often requires knowledge of old political boundaries, migration trends and historical social conditions. One important way to understand how one’s ancestors fit into the landscapes of the past is to place them in space and time by using historical mapping.

family

“My Mother’s grandmother came from Woolbeding, a tiny settlement near Midhurst. I found your map very useful when I went to visit the area because I could trace the original roads unobscured by modern developments. It was great to see the house where my great-grandmother’s twin sister was a dairy maid in 1871 and the tiny church next door still candlelit where they were baptised.” Miss Driscoll, Manchester
Genealogical research is a complex process that uses historical records to answer questions about ones ancestors, the time they lived in, the work they undertook and their surroundings. Reliable conclusions are based on quality sources and historical maps have an important part to play in discovering where and how your ancestors lived.

From the beginnings of Britain’s industrial past to the more sedate life of a victorian country village more detailed can help to put the lives of your ancestors into context. The interest In old maps is constantly growing as more maps become available and the ability to see more and more detail allows the researcher to view ever increasing details of the past.

For example – In the last 200 years Coventry has grown in population from 21,853 in 1801 to 310,500 in 2010. Many of the old outlying towns and villages have been absorbed into the conurbation we see today and the only way of understanding the landscape they used to live in is to view the maps of the time.

coventry2 coventry1
Old Series 1831          Present Day

“Old maps of the sort published by Cassini are an excellent introduction to local history throughout the United Kingdom because they focus the user’s attention on the sort of unexpected questions that act as starting points for research.  “Well, I never knew that there was a house in that location 200 years ago”.  “I never realised that xxxx Road followed a different course 150 years ago . . . why?”.  Of course, detailed local histories will probably contain the answers to some of these questions – but they hardly ever force them on you as vividly– and attractively – as old maps. And, in some cases, you will find yourself asking questions that even the standard histories do not answer.  So, before consulting those published histories, look at the maps!”    Peter Barber  MA, FSA, FRHistS Head of Map Collections, British Library

From the beginnings of Britain’s industrial past to the more sedate life of a victorian country village more detailed maps are now available to put the lives of your ancestors into context. The interest In old maps is constantly growing as more maps become available and the ability to see more and more detail allows the researcher to view ever increasing details of the past.

 

How Heath Row became Heathrow

How Heath Row became Heathrow

This brief overview looks at the history of Heathrow and the area on which it was built with the aid of four historical Ordnance Survey maps. In each case the present-day airport (pale pink) and the proposed expansion (pink) have been superimposed.

In May 2010, the new coalition government announced that the most recent plans for the expansion of Heathrow Airport, which both parties had opposed when in opposition, would be cancelled.

These bald facts conceal the story of how Heathrow was conceived by deception, born into uncertain times and yet grew into what is now the busiest international airport in the world. With the aid of a series of maps of the area, this article explores this unlikely

heathrowOSE

Extract taken from Cassini Old Series  176 – West London (1805 – 1822)

This map was created from Britain’s first national mapping project, Ordnance Survey’s One-Inch (‘Old Series’) maps which were first published between 1805 and 1874. They have all been carefully scanned, digitally re-projected and enlarged to match the present-day Ordnance Survey Landranger® series.

The land Heathrow occupies today is in the southern part of the London Borough of Hillingdon although historically it covers two of the ancient Middlesex parishes of Harlington and Harmondsworth. Domestic settlement in the area probably dates back to 500BC and a Roman camp existed on the site now occupied by the airport. The proximity to the major east-west route of the Bath Road (now the A4) doubtless influenced the development of all the villages and hamlets in the parish. Heath Row, as it was then known, was first mentioned by name in documents from around 1410.

The parish mainly comprised flat fields that were irrigated, and at times flooded, by several waterways that drained into the River Colne. Two of these, the Duke of Northumberland’s River and the Longford River, were artificial. The former was constructed in the 1530s to provide additional power for Isleworth Mill, the latter in the 1630s to improve the water supply to Hampton Court. The subsequent development, if so it can be called, of the parish was little more than the gradual increase of cultivated land centred on a few small hamlets.

The Ordnance Survey maps pick up the story in the early 19th century. As a study of other maps from this period will show (and those of the whole country are available from http://www.cassinimaps.com) the British landscape in the early and mid 19th century was typified by small farms and small villages, interspersed with woods and open countryside and linked by a network of ancient roads and tracks. The area around Heath Row was no exception.

In the late 19th century, orchards and market gardens began to replace arable land and some new buildings were constructed, but in general the character of the area altered very little. This was about to change.

heathrowRNC

Extract taken from Cassini Revised New Series 176 – West London (1897-1909)

This map was created from Ordnance Survey’s Revised New Series (in colour) maps which were first published between 1896 and 1909. They have all been carefully scanned, digitally re-projected and enlarged to match the present-day Ordnance Survey Landranger® series. 

This map was created from Ordnance Survey’s Revised New Series (in colour) maps which were first published between 1896 and 1909. They have all been carefully scanned, digitally re-projected and enlarged to match the present-day Ordnance Survey Landranger® series

Heathrow’s aviation history goes back to the First World War when the site was used as a military airfield, although little evidence remained by the time of the Popular Edition map of 1920. In this year the airport was closed for various logistical reasons including bad communication, the bumpy nature of the ground, its tendency to become boggy and muddy in winter and its frequent covering of mist. As the map showing the current expanse of the airport shows, these problems have since been overcome.

In the late 1920s the Colnbrook by-pass was opened which led increased industrial development in the area. One result was the re-opening of the airfield, as the Great Western Aerodrome, by Fairey Aviation as a centre for aircraft assembly and testing.

It had become clear by the 1930s that civil aviation would increase (though few would have predicted by how much), and the government began to make provision for the capital’s air services. The plan was to expand the two existing aerodromes at Croydon and at Heston, to the east of modern-day Heathrow, and to add two new ones, at Fairlop in Essex and Lullingstone in Kent. Heathrow’s flat terrain, proximity to London, good communications and comparative lack of housing must already have made this an attractive candidate for expansion, despite its other disadvantages. Work was under way on all these projects when war was declared in September 1939.

heathrowPOP

Extract taken from Cassini Popular Edition  176 – West London (1920)

This map was created from Ordnance Survey’s Popular Edition maps which were first published between 1919 and 1926. They have all been carefully scanned, digitally re-projected and enlarged to match the present-day Ordnance Survey Landranger® series.

It can be seen from the three preceding maps that the area of Heath Row experienced various, largely undramatic, changes during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although most of the settlements expanded only slowly, the character of the area was starting to reflect the growth of nearby London: the increased cultivation, the railways, the growth of East Bedfont (and the creation of its school), the emergence of Southville and the construction of the Staines Reservoir all show the area’s increased importance as a supplier of goods, services and labour to the vast metropolis that was expanding towards it at an alarming rate.

In late 1942, there was increasing demand from the Air Ministry for a base for the new long-range heavy troop-carrying planes, existing facilities in the south of England being inadequate. After some debate, this slightly boggy area of market-garden farms was chosen as the site of a wholly new airfield. Construction work began in May 1944 on land originally acquired from the vicar of Harmondsworth. Although the location was ideal, the terrain was not. 100 million gallons of water had to be pumped out of the ponds and 14 miles of pipes were needed to drain rainwater into a nearby gravel pit. Another task was the clearance and demolition of the hamlet of Heath Row. Few other places have become so posthumously famous.

At the time, the Air Ministry’s case must have seemed unanswerable, but doubts exist as to whether there was ever any intention to use Heathrow for military purposes. The fortunes of war were shifting in the Allies’ favour, so making large-scale troop movements by air less likely; whilst the argument for a large new civil aerodrome was clear to those who were considering how post-war Britain might be shaped. Due largely to wartime innovations, aircraft were now far bigger. Commercial air travel before the war was still a novelty – when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain left nearby Heston Aerodrome for the first of his ill-fated meetings with Hitler in 1938 it was the first time he had been in a plane, which excited little comment at the time – but demand seemed likely to increase substantially in the future. The 1930s plan of four small airports around the capital was now inadequate. Instead, the contemporary logic ran, one larger hub was needed which could be purpose-built for the new aircraft and would be capable of future expansion as the need arose.

The main problem was that any civil project on this scale would have led to protracted planning enquiries and divisive financial wrangles within Whitehall. Using wartime powers to requisition the land offered a more certain outcome. The then Parliamentary Under-Secretary Harold Balfour later admitted that he had misled the cabinet on this point in order to expedite the process. Were military use the only requirement, many existing RAF bases could have been converted with far less time and effort. Whatever the real motives, Heathrow was allowed to slip into being almost unnoticed, in marked contrast to the glare of publicity which attended many of its later developments. Heathrow would not have been the first project by a national government promoted under the guise of military exigency, and is unlikely to be the last.

In the event this potential conflict of interests and purpose never materialised, for construction was still not complete by the end of the war. The military origins of the project were quietly forgotten and work continued on building what was now unambiguously a civilian airport. This was officially opened in May 1946 with a flight to Buenos Aires via Lisbon, the departing passengers enjoying terminal facilities that consisted of little more than a large tent. At the time, Heathrow’s managers stated, with rare prescience, that it would eventually become the largest airport in the world.
heathrowPlaneThe next few years did little to justify this optimism. Numerous problems were encountered with the construction of terminal buildings and the second runway, not helped by post-war restrictions in obtaining suitable materials. As late as mid-1948, Northolt (which Heathrow was intended to supersede) was actually handling more travellers. Yet all these problems were eventually overcome. In 1953, Heathrow handled a million passengers (about the number of people that used it every five days in 2010), and this had increased to 20 million by 1973. Now it is the world’s busiest international airport with over 61 million international travellers in 2010 (roughly the population of the UK) and is the daily workplace of over 76,000 people (roughly the population of Basingstoke). It is the largest single-site employer in the country. Other statistics are more bizarre, though perhaps in their own way no less revealing. 10% of the UK’s perfume sales are made at the airport; a bottle of whisky is sold there every seven seconds; the annual turnover of Heathrow’s shops (about half a billion pounds) is more than the entire GDP of American Samoa.

In January 2009 the then Labour Government gave the go-ahead for a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow. The announcement followed several years of lobbying and planning by interested parties which had begun even before Terminal 5 had been completed. The result would have been to increase the annual number of flights from 480,000 to 700,000 and would have required the demolition of 700 homes in the borough of Hillingdon, including all of the ancient village of Sipson and parts of Harmondsworth and Harlington. The decision was not met with unanimous public approval.

The debate about expansion rumbled on until the 2010 general election, involving almost every major organisation in British public life. The advocates of the third runway and the sixth terminal – which included the Labour government, the BAA, British Airways, the CBI, the TUC and the British Chamber of Commerce – argued that expansion was essential and that the economic benefits to the UK’s economy would be in the region of £7 billion a year. The opponents – which included the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Mayor of London and his predecessor, Hillingdon Council, environmental campaign groups, residents’ associations, aid agencies, the National Trust, the RSPB and the local Labour MP – questioned whether the financial benefits (if realised) would outweigh the negative factors of disruption, pollution and noise.

In the event, the new coalition government acted swiftly. Within days of the election it announced that the plans for the expansion were to be shelved. The problem was solved – for now.

The history of Heathrow does not, however, suggest that the airport will stay out of the limelight for long. Opinions differ as to whether southeast England needs more airport capacity and, if so, where it should be situated. Future expansion plans cannot be ruled out. Heathrow seems set to be at the heart of the debates about the future of transport, development, environmental issues and government policy for many years to come. Expect more enquiries, more protests and more statistics: further blazes of publicity, in short, in contrast to the furtive way in which the airport came into being sixty-odd years ago.

heathrowNPO

Extract taken from Cassini New Popular Edition  (1945)

This map was created from Ordnance Survey’s New Popular Edition maps which were first published between 1945 and 1946. They have all been carefully scanned, digitally re-projected and enlarged to match the present-day Ordnance Survey Landranger® series.

Start discovering the landscape of the past for yourself. Every corner of England, Scotland & Wales is covered with a range of old maps dating from the late 1600’s to the Present day. Visit Cassini Maps