This is the second in an occasional series highlighting the Ward-Lock Red Guide Books, which we used at PCGraphics until a few years ago as copyright free bases for UK map information. The books have a wealth of information and give an interesting insight into life getting on for 70 years ago in the UK.
Published in 1950, this particular Guide covers Bath, Cheddar, Wells, Glastonbury and the surrounding towns.
(Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2014)
The main map of Bath in the Guide (above, left) was a reprint of a John Bartholomew & Son map of the city. Above, right is approximately the same area today, taken from Ordnance Survey digital sources. You can see that the basic layout of the roads (plus the road names etc) are pretty much the same as they were 70 years ago, which is why these old maps have been an invaluable source for us to produce out of copyright maps from. We’ve illustrated this below by merging the 1950s map with the up to date Ordnance Survey map.
Similar to the Harrogate Guide Book which we covered previously, this Bath Guide also contains some, in comparison to today’s Guide Books, unusual advertisements. Take the one below, for instance. How many times do you see an advert for a light bulb in a Thomas Cook, Lonely Planet or Rough Guides tourist book? Pretty much never I’d guess. Well, 70 years ago, apparently this was pretty normal as Osram, the light bulb manufacturer, used to take a high profile advert on the back page in many of the Red Guides. Obviously, when you are away on holiday, one of the things you always needed to think about was light bulbs.
And then there’s the radioactive hot springs after which Bath was named. The level of radioactivity is, very probably, harmless but back in 1950 it was thought to be a positive selling point for the springs and had it’s own section in the Guide Book. It did give me cause however to look up the radioactive element radium on Wikipedia and it states:
Radium was once an additive in products such as toothpaste, hair creams, and even food items due to its supposed curative powers. Such products soon fell out of vogue and were prohibited by authorities in many countries after it was discovered they could have serious adverse health effects.
The French physicist Antoine Becquerel carried a small ampoule of radium in his waistcoat pocket for 6 hours and reported that his skin became ulcerated. Marie Curie experimented with a tiny sample that she kept in contact with her skin for 10 hours, and noted that an ulcer appeared several days later. Handling of radium has been blamed for Curie’s death due to aplastic anaemia.
Perhaps we’ll give the radioactive hot springs a miss next time we’re in Bath. Just in case.
But, luckily, if the radium in the springs does, unfortunately, have an effect on you, you’ll be pleased to find that there are at least six adverts for Insurance companies in the Bath Red Guide. Mind you, by that time it might be too late to be calling an insurance company.
Below is an extract from the road map included in the Guide, again produced by John Bartholomew & Son and used under licence. Not as user friendly as road maps produced these days, being only in black and white with a blue tint in areas of water. But then, motoring was probably a lot different too in 1950.
We’ll be continuing this series in the future with other Ward-Lock Red Guide Books from our library.
If you are interested in old maps of the UK, you may like to know that we are gradually selling off our collection of Ordnance Survey One Inch maps. We have collected almost a complete set of these over the years, all of them over 50 years old, and are selling these individually on eBay as time permits. The maps are in varying condition depending on how much usage they have had over the years. Most of these historic maps sell for around £10 – £15. If you would like to enquire about a particular map or to purchase one, please contact us.
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