Birmingham – as it was 60 years ago

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Birmingham, the UK’s 2nd city with a population of around 1.1 million, has changed enormously over the years. The maps here date from approximately 60 years ago, which was around the time that a major redevelopment of Birmingham was planned to start.

From our library of old maps at PCGraphics, we’ve scanned some extracts from Geographia’s map of Birmingham and, as a comparison, the same area as shown on Google Maps today.

birmingham cover

You can click on any of the maps to view a larger version of the image.

First we’ll look at the area around Bournville, built by Cadbury in 1879 as a model town to house workers from their chocolate factory.

birmingham 4
birmingham 4 google
(Top: extract from 60 year old Geographia map of Birmingham. Below: Google map of the same area today. © Google 2015)

Next, an area covering Aston Park (next to Aston Villa Football Club) across to Gravelly Hill (now a major motorway junction, nicknamed spaghetti junction).

birmingham 1

The next four images form four quadrants around the central area of Birmingham.

The north west, Snow Hill station to Hockley.

birmingham 3.1

Going eastwards to Saltley.

birmingham 3.2

South west quadrant, New Street station to Ladywood.

birmingham 3.3

The south east, Moor Street to Bordesley and Small Heath (Small Heath being the original name for Birmingham City Football Club).

birmingham 3.4

This Geographia map of Birmingham is just one of many old maps we hold at PCGraphics. We originally acquired full coverage of the UK in 50 year old, royalty free mapping to give us a base to work from when creating copyright free maps.

You can find out more about how we create our maps at PCGraphics by following this link to our website.

There are also other pages of old maps here on this blog:

More old maps
London 1939
Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Edinburgh
Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Glasgow

If you pop over to our Pinterest boards, along with loads of samples of up to date maps produced by PCGraphics, there’s also a whole board dedicated to old mapping.

Walk Maps

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Writing in our blog recently about  Walk the Wight, part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival, it gave us the idea of looking back and seeing the variety of walk maps we’ve produced at PCGraphics over the years.

Walk Maps are always popular and we’ve done a number of these, some for publishers others for Local Authorities.

The map below was actually produced for the Isle of Wight Walking Festival a few years ago and is the index page to all the main walk routes on the Island.

Route_Index

One of the earliest walk maps we produced was for Shetland Island Tourism. This was a series of walks around Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands. The maps were produced royalty and copyright free, meaning we had to visit the Island and walk every street to ensure we didn’t infringe copyright. Shetland is more than 100 miles (160 km) off the north coast of mainland Scotland and, as we were based in Surrey at the time, quite a trip for our cartographers.

Lerwick_Walk_Map

We’ve produced a quite a few maps for The History Press (Pitkin Publishing) and the example below is one of a number of London Walk maps we created for them. With busy areas such as this it’s best to keep the detail to a minimum (i.e. not showing all the roads) otherwise the route can easily become lost amongst all the other detail. Major landmarks and main roads are all that is usually required.

Walk B

Pica Design commissioned these maps of Kingston and Chessington in Surrey from us back in 2009 as part of a series of six maps. Other maps included Richmond Park and a Thames Walk map.

Basic CMYK  Basic CMYK

For Thomas Cook Publishing we produced literally hundreds of maps to go in their guide books (City Spots, Hot Spots and Drive Around guides). The example below is of a walk route around Taormina in Sicily.

Taormina

For Isle of Wight Tourism we produced a complete booklet of walks around the Island including text, photographs and graphics. As with most walk maps, these were custom designed and produced royalty or copyright free, meaning that we had to walk all these footpaths ourselves. The maps folded down to a pocket sized DL booklet and are still offered as digital downloads from the Visit Isle of Wight website.

yarmouth-brighstone

 

A different style of walk map now, this time what we call a pictorial map. This particular map is of a walk route in Usk, south east Wales, and was one of a number of maps created for Monmouth County Council.

USK

 

Over the past few months we’ve been producing a range of walk maps for Assura for display in the reception areas of Health Centres, Doctor’s Surgeries etc to encourage patients to take more exercise. These are short walks around the local area and are printed at A1 size and encapsulated in acrylic for display in the reception areas. Each map has two walks and also includes a QR Code so that people can download the walk onto their mobile devices.

Basic CMYK  A4 Assura Template

 

The walk maps for Assura are based on Ordnance Survey data, meaning that we don’t have to go out and actually walk around each route – which is a bit of a shame sometimes as some of the walks are quite pleasant and we were getting just a little bit fitter.

Which just about brings us up to date with walk maps as we currently have a new map in production for Assura.

 

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Thomson Directories – a tale of 400 towns

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It was in late 2000 that we first started work for Thomson Directories (TDL) at PCGraphics. We had only formed the company two years earlier in 1998, so taking on a prestigious contract such as this for TDL was a big step for a small, newly formed cartographic company.

thomsonlogo      pcg_small

The contract was to produce more than 400 detailed maps of UK town and city centres which were to be used in the TDL Directories that are delivered annually to nearly every home in the country. The Directories at that time had up to four or five maps in each publication.

Previously, TDL had used the Automobile Association Cartographic Department for the supply of maps but, for a number of reasons, TDL decided to look elsewhere for a supplier.  Fortunately, PCGraphics were in a good position as several of our cartographic staff  had already worked on the TDL maps – the Automobile Association subcontracted the drawing of the maps to a cartographic company in Surrey where a number of us had worked previously.

The requirement was to create ‘royalty free’ maps of each of the 400+ locations. At that time, to produce a royalty free map (which means a map free of all copyright issues), we had to purchase aerial photography and, after taking it into a graphics programme (Macromedia Freehand initially and, later, Adobe Illustrator), trace all the roads and other linear features. The only way to obtain all the names of roads etc, without infringing any other publisher’s copyright, was to send staff to each location where they would annotate a printout of the map line-work with all the names from street signs etc.

This was obviously an extremely time consuming task as an average map could take up to one whole day of walking around every street writing down all the names – and we had more than 400 to do. Larger maps, such as London and other major cities, obviously took a lot longer. This street checking had to be done in sun, rain or snow as we had a tight schedule of map production to keep to.

Torquay-Battersea

Two of the smaller size maps created for Thomson Local Directories – Torquay and Battersea

Most of the production work – both the street checking and the actual map production – was carried out by permanently employed PCGraphics staff members. Several times though we did have to use freelance cartographers for elements of the work and, occasionally, this did cause us problems. One incident which is still indelibly burnt into our memories is where a freelancer, as far as we could make out, simply copied an old map of the town centre we asked them to produce, along with all the errors and omissions in that old map, and passed it back to us as a new map (which was supposed to have been drawn from scratch and street checked). This caused us enormous problems at the time as we had to independently check this freelancer’s work and then redraw the map ourselves.

One other error which slipped through the net was when a Sikh Temple in Huddersfield was wrongly marked on the map as a Mosque. This, understandably, provoked an adverse reaction from the Sikh community and the map had to be quickly amended. Interestingly, this map was also produced by the same freelancer as before. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t used that freelancer ever again!

But, fortunately, mistakes with the mapping were very few and far between. Keeping the majority of the work in-house meant we were able to apply a high level of quality control to the project which was essential with that number of maps and the tight schedule.

After the initial three year period producing the maps, the contract rolled on with updates to the maps, more new maps and improvements.

The contracts with Thomson Directories ran for nearly eleven years, the last work being done in 2011, and we are extremely grateful to Mike Callaghan, Steve Arnold and all the others at TDL whom we worked with over the years and who had faith in PCGraphics back in 2000 when awarding us that first contract.

Michael Callaghan, previously of Thomson Directories, writing on Linkedin:

Whilst working for Thomson Directories a few years ago, we had a requirement to change our cartographic supplier.
Speaking to Sally and Paul at PCGraphics we were impressed.
They were professional, realistic on timescales achievable, well organised, good communicators and the quality of their work was of the highest standard.
Our requirement was for over 400 town plan maps to be generated to a tight schedule.
Sally organised the ground surveys and generation of maps and we were very pleased with the end result which incidentally, was on time.
I would not hesitate to recommend Sally and the wealth of experience she brings to her work.

 

 

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The demise of royalty free mapping

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When we started PCGraphics back in 1998 one of the most common requests from clients was for ‘royalty free maps’. What people were looking for was maps which were produced from copyright free sources which they wouldn’t have to pay royalties on every time they used them.

At the time, Ordnance Survey would charge a royalty fee of around 5 pence per A3 size printed copy if the maps we produced were based on their sources. For a 10,000 print run this would add another £500 to the cost – and this would be payable every time they printed the maps, usually every 6 or 12 months.

royalty_fees

To get around this we were often commissioned to produce royalty free maps. These were initially more expensive to produce, but there were no on-going royalty or licence fees, and in the longer term they were more cost effective.

To give an idea of the scale of the demand for royalty free mapping, one client alone spent over half a million Pounds with us on royalty free maps. This was, obviously, for a large number of maps and huge print runs but it does go to show the lengths some companies were forced to go to in order to avoid paying royalties to Ordnance Survey.

Then, of course, came web maps and no-one was printing quite so many maps anymore. Things had to change and, in 2010, Ordnance Survey changed their licensing and much of their data became free to use.

Almost overnight this brought to an end the requests for royalty free mapping.

These days, nearly all our customised UK maps are produced from freely available Ordnance Survey data and we rarely, if ever, get asked to produce a map ‘royalty free’ anymore. We’d guess that the days of half a million Pound contracts to produce maps free of royalties are a thing of the past. But, as with all things, you should never say never!

You can read more about royalty free maps and Ordnance Survey on some of our other blog entries:

How do we make maps?
A few words about Ordnance Survey

 

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A few words about Ordnance Survey

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A few words about Ordnance Survey – and Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown probably wouldn’t be top of many people’s lists of favourite Prime Ministers (in fact, according to many of the lists I’ve seen, he’s fairly close to the bottom) but he did do one thing during his short reign at the helm which has helped us at PCGraphics along with, indirectly, many of our UK clients.

Ok, it’s not earth shattering in the great scheme of World affairs, and it did nothing to further his career as the man who, almost single handedly, ‘saved the world.’ But in March 2010 he announced plans to free up much of the data held by Ordnance Survey (and paid for over the years by UK tax payers).

GordonBrown
(The man who saved the World – Public Domain photograph)

This meant that, from 1 April 2010, large tracts of O.S. data would be free to use by commercial companies such as ourselves. The idea was to give a push to growth in the digital economy.

Now, you would have thought that this was something which would have received universal acclaim throughout the cartographic world. Detailed data of the UK which we’d had to licence from O.S. on behalf of our clients which, quite often, doubled the price of a job. What’s not to like about getting that for free? Unfortunately not everyone thought so. There were a few cartographic companies in the UK who voiced their disapproval of Ordnance Survey data becoming free to use, mainly it seemed because these were companies which had built a business model based around charging clients on behalf of the O.S. to use the data.

But, enough of the doomsayers. As of April 2010 we could use O.S. data without a licence or royalties. All we needed to do was add a simple credit line at the bottom of the map, like the one at the bottom of this page.

Ok, some of the file formats that Ordnance Survey make their data available in are not suitable for home users (ESRI SHAPE files anyone? Or how about MapInfo Tab data? Or even DXF?) but for cartographic companies such as PCGraphics it opened up a whole new, much more cost effective, market.

rydeOS
(Four levels of Ordnance Survey data, now free to use commercially)

Prior to April 2010, to get around the payment of licence fees and royalties, we would produce royalty (copyright) free mapping. This entailed acquiring aerial photography and sending cartographers out to the towns or areas to be mapped to gather all the street names etc. Remember, Google Street View of the UK was only went ‘live’ in 2009 so before then, to be copyright free, we had to physically visit every location.

So, thanks to our friend Gordon Brown (did I actually write that?), we now had a way of producing Ordnance Survey based mapping of the UK without much of the cost and red tape that we had to endure previously.

Perhaps surprisingly though, now we have Google Street View to check it against, we’ve found Ordnance Survey are perhaps not quite as accurate with their mapping as they would have us believe. Over the last few years we’ve noticed many incorrect street names and other inaccuracies with what O.S. have produced.

It’s funny because, as a cartographer, I remember being told that Ordnance Survey always used to add ‘fingerprints’ (or deliberate mistakes to you and me) to their maps to help catch those who were copying them. Now, maybe they added so many of these ‘fingerprints’ to their maps over the years that they’ve lost track of where they all are or, possibly more likely, there were quite a few unintentional errors in what they were producing? Whichever is right, it’s certainly true that Ordnance Survey maps are perhaps not quite as accurate as we were led to believe.

But hey, maybe we shouldn’t complain about Ordnance Survey maps because things could be a lot worse. A lot, lot worse actually. Imagine if Apple were in charge of UK mapping? Imagine whole towns and cities being left off the map of the UK? No, perhaps we’ll stick with the occasional error in the Ordnance Survey’s work, especially since our great friend Gordon Brown signed the papers which made large chunks of it free to use.

Three cheers for the man who ‘saved the World.’ Hip hip…….ok, let’s not go too mad.

 

(Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2013)

 

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