Mark’s History: Mapping and the old trig pillars of West Leeds

Leeds and Bradford Road (1)
Photo: Mark Stevenson

I don’t have much use for maps, I tend to just set off walking and hope for the best when I go out walking around Leeds, writes Mark Stevenson.

But that does not stop me appreciating the effort going in to making them and they are a useful research tool. With modern technology we can map the country in no time at all, but in the not too distant past it would take years.

The Ordnance Survey realised that the maps of the country needed updating as the country grew so did the need for more accurate maps.

On 18 April 1936, a group of surveyors gathered around a white concrete pillar in a field in Cold Ashby, Northamptonshire, and began the re-triangulation of Great Britain.

There used to be about 6,500 trig pillars, built by the early surveyors at OS.

Leeds and Bradford Road (2)
Details of the Leeds and Bradford Road pillar. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Two I know of still remain in West Leeds one is on Leeds and Bradford Road in Whitecote which first appeared on the maps in the 1950s (pictured above).

The other is at Bramley Reservoir, although this one has been moved from one side of the Reservoir to the other again first appearing on the maps in the 1950s.

Near Bramley Reservoir. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The mapping of the country using these pillars was so accurate that when it was done again using GPS they were only a few centimetres out.

Details on the Bramley pillar. Photo: Mark Stevenson


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