The problem of surveying and recording Britain’s ever-changing
landscape – one inhabited by over 50 million people by 1951 – had been
exercising the minds of the government, the military and the Ordnance
Survey ever since the completion of the Popular Edition in the late
1920s, although the cartographic ambitions of these parties did not
The Fifth Edition of the 1930s was the result of
various experiments of projection, sheet lines and styling which
ultimately proved unsuccessful and the project was abandoned in 1939
with only a small number of sheets having been produced.
Its replacement, devised in 1938, but delayed by the war, was the New
Popular Edition, which first went on sale in 1945.
Initial publication was completed in 1947, but sheets covering south-east
England, including London, were republished with road and other revisions
(including bomb damage in the capital) between 1947 and 1950. The New Popular
Edition was a mixture of Fifth Edition-style material in southern England
and ‘old’ Popular Edition material elsewhere, with subsequent revision. It
was eventually superseded by the Seventh Series between 1952 and 1961.
The New Popular Edition was in many ways a departure from previous Ordnance
Survey series. Although still produced at the one-inch scale, it included
(as recommended by the Davidson Committee in 1938) a metric National Grid.
It was also the first series to incorporate Scotland as well as England and
Wales using a consistent numbering system (although the Scottish sheets
were not published), and was the first to be produced in portrait rather
than squared or landscape format, with sheets of 45km x 40km.