More Maps: Ordnance Survey in Ireland

Given my love of the history of maps, I was excited to hear a segment on the creation of Ordnance Survey maps for Ireland on the RTÉ History Show a few weeks ago.

In the 1700s, when the Williamites wanted to flush out Jacobite fugitives in Scotland, they were hampered by the fact that they had no maps of Scotland, and so they started to make some. Later, in the 1800s, when the revenue people in London wanted to list all the townlands in Ireland that might generate an income for the crown, their first job was to do a major survey of the whole country.  And so, while an early generation of surveyors, the Williamites, arrived with guns, the Victorians arrived with clipboards.

You can find the full segment on the RTÉ Radio Player here:

The History Show: The Story of Ireland’s First Ordnance Survey Maps


Cashel on the historic Ordnance Survey – Source:

The Ordnance Survey office was established in Ireland in 1824, intended to update land valuations for tax purposes. Under the direction of Major Thomas Colby, the survey was completed in 1846, on a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile. A large portion of the historiography is devoted to debate over the impact of the Ordnance Survey on the anglicization of Ireland, the Irish language, and Irish placenames.

In 1922, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland was created, originally part of the Department of Defence. All staff were military personnel until the 1970s. The current Ordnance Survey Ireland, which has joint public service and commercial functions, was established in 2002.

Take a look at the OSI Mapviewer, which can be found here, to see the historic Ordnance Survey in detail.

Ordnance Survey Source Round-Up:

Ordnance Survey Ireland History

National Archives of Ireland – Guide to the Records of the Ordnance Survey

Royal Irish Academy

J.H. Andrews, A paper landscape: the Ordnance Survey in nineteenth-century Ireland, (Oxford, 1975).

J.H. Andrews, Shapes of Ireland: Maps and Their Makers, 1564-1839 (Dublin, 1997).

J.H. Andrews, History in the Ordnance Map (Kerry, 1993).

P. Boyne, John O’Donovan (1806-1861): a biography (Kilkenny 1987).

Charles Close, The early years of the Ordnance Survey, (Newton Abbot, 1969).

Frank Cullen, Dublin 1847: city of the Ordnance Survey, (Dublin, 2015).

Angélique Day, Glimpses of Ireland’s past: the Ordnance Survey Memoir drawings: topography and technique, (Dublin, 2014).

Angélique Day and Patrick McWilliams (eds.), Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, (40 vols, Belfast, 1990-1998).

Gillian M. Doherty, The Irish Ordnance Survey: history, culture and memory, (Dublin, 2004).

Patrick McWilliams, Index to Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Series: people and places, (Belfast, 2002).

M. O’Flanagan (ed.), Ordnance Survey letters 1834-1841, 43 vols. (Bray 1928-1934)

Richard Oliver, The Ordnance Survey in the nineteenth century: maps, money and the growth of government (London, 2014).

Eileen Battersby, “Mapping a Major Adventure,” Irish Times (13 Jul 2002).

Gillian Smith, “An Eye on the Survey,” History Ireland 9, no. 2 (Summer 2001).

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