Magdalen Road at night

Magdalen Road at night
December 2010

Saturday, 9 July 2016

How St Leonard’s was put on the map



Have you ever noticed … how St Leonard’s was put on the map?

Just imagine … how would you draw a map of St Leonard’s?  There are maps of the walled city of Exeter dating from the Middle Ages, which show how the roads and buildings are laid out, but the oldest printed maps would not be accurate if you wanted to know about distances.  The farmers and landowners who lived in this part of the countryside outside the city needed to know the layout of their fields, and some of their maps survive.  But it was the coming of the Ordnance Survey (OS) in the 19th century which led to accurate maps which showed the layout of streets and buildings and – as a new factor – the altitude of those important features.  The OS today uses aerial photography and GPS equipment, but their Victorian predecessors (and those in the first decades of the 20th century) didn’t have such tools and surveyed our neighbourhood, and the whole country, with land-based teams.

Scattered around St Leonard’s you can find one type of reminder of their efforts, the OS bench marks.  But, be warned, they are very small, and need to be searched for.   Each one has a known height above sea level, so that contours on a map can be drawn.  Surveying teams started from a mark whose height was known and then used that with their measuring equipment to find the direction and height of other features in the landscape from those starting points.  Although there are several different types of these reminders of their work, cut bench marks are the most widely used and familiar of all bench marks. Surveyors cut a horizontal line in an upright brick or stone surface, with a broad arrow (like that which traditionally appears on prison clothing!) below that line, pointing upwards. The centre of the cut line at the point of the arrow is the height reference.  A surveyor’s bench could be aligned with the cut, and then used with a measuring staff and theodolite (or modern equivalent) to develop the map of the locality.  Across the country there are about two hundred fundamental bench marks, which are very high accuracy, and our local ones are located relative to these – our nearest is at Bridford in the Teign Valley.

Those in St Leonard’s are no longer used and the OS does not maintain them, and many have disappeared with the development of housing and changes in the roads.   And some are covered with ivy and vegetation.  Close to the village, you can find two in the one-way section of Wonford Road on the west side – for some odd reason, there are two within a short stretch of wall.  There’s another in the one-way section of Spicer Road, just by one of the lamp-posts.  A further one is at the end of College Avenue, on a brick wall next to a boundary stone; that stone marks the former Exeter City and Municipal Boundary (before Heavitree was included in the city).  That corner was also the site of Magdalen Gallows.  There is a worn arrow in the brick wall diagonally across the crossroads from the Mount Radford, and another worn one in the stone wall of Magdalen Street, opposite Pavilion Place. 

Further afield, here are a few to look for: in Topsham Road, by the pedestrian entrance to County Hall; on the Quay, if you stop for a drink or a meal at On The Waterfront, you could find one which is partly hidden by a large planter.  Another has been created on the Scouts’ building, with a curved bar, so not useful for surveying.  There’s a second bench mark further along Spicer Road, by a parking meter, another in Magdalen Road, by the bricked up arch opposite the speed hump, one at the corner of Victoria Park Road and Lyndhurst Road, and a further one on the west side of Lyndhurst Road.  In Holloway Street there’s one by the Kingdom Hall.

There may be others; I have used old maps to try and find them, and the OS has a list online, which they warn is not to be relied on.  Please let me know – via the blog – of any others you find.

(published in St Leonard's Neighbourhood News, July-August 2016)

Picture 1


Picture 2

Picture 3


picture 4

picture 5

picture 6

picture 7


picture 8

picture 9
picture 10
picture 11

picture 12
picture 13
picture 14

picture 15


picture 16

 Now - for those who want to look, this is the Ordnance Survey list of bench marks for the Neighbourhood



Square
Easting
Northing
Mark type
Description
Height
Metres above ground
Notes
SX
9208
9207
CUT MARK
BLDG THE QUAY SW FACE S ANG
7.715
0.400
 hidden behind a planter at the downstream end of the restaurant Pictures 13 and 14
SX
9211
9213
CUT MARK
PARA WALL SE SIDE COLLETON CRES 19.8m SW JUNC LUCKY LANE
24.030
0.800
Not found
SX
9216
9204
RIVET
RIVET WALL OPPOSITE JUNC WALL 5 6 COLLETON CRES
22.580
0.400
There is an odd piece of metal in the wall here.
SX
9225
9204
CUT MARK
WALL FRIARS LODGE MELBOURNE PLACE
24.329
0.800
 Not found
SX
9225
9253
CUT MARK
WALL N SIDE RD 2.1M NW JUNC WALL
39.566
0.500
 Not Found
SX
9226
9199
CUT MARK
WALL N SIDE JUNC RDS MELBOURNE ST
19.608
0.200
 Not Found
SX
9230
9210
CUT MARK
JUNC WALL 0.9M NW ENT of Jehovahs Witnesses, Holloway Street
21.220
0.200
 Easy to see; pictures 15 and 16
SX
9230
9230
CUT MARK
WALL MAGDALEN ST S FACE JUNC close to pedestrian crossing, towards Southernhay
32.251
0.500
 Not Found
SX
9232
9179
RIVET
RIVET PARA WALL JUNC LARKBEARE RD
7.321
0.800
 Not Found
SX
9242
9230
CUT MARK
WALL S SIDE MAGDALEN ST N FACE PRODN W FACE NO65 in wall overlooking Bull Meadow (opposite road to Friends Meeting House)
28.761
0.600
 picture 1
SX
9244
9194
CUT MARK
WALL SW SIDE TOPSHAM RD 3.7M SE JUNC LARKBEARE RD
22.677
0.300
Not found
SX
9249
9209
CUT MARK
NO33 RADFORD RD SE FACE S ANG
25.067
0.300
Not found
SX
9249
9222
CUT MARK
WALL SE SIDE FAIRPARK RD 4.6M N JUNC WALL
27.124
0.000
Found
SX
9255
9156
CUT MARK
P ENT NE SIDE WEIRFIELD PATH
6.767
0.500
Not found - this should be near the Port Royal
SX
9257
9174
CUT MARK
WALL NW SIDE RD 28.0M NE JUNC WALL
16.807
0.500
Not found
SX
9257
9204
CUT MARK
P ENT NO4 ST LEONARDS PLACE
30.751
0.200
Not found
SX
9264
9237
CUT MARK
NBM WALL ALMS HO DENMARK RD E FACE 5.8M N WALL JUNC
35.717
0.600
Not found - possibly lost in the rebuilding of the Almshouses or hidden behind the BT box
SX
9267
9227
CUT MARK
NBM WALL NO1 MOUNT RADFORD CRESCENT 1.5M SW JUNC WALL
34.214
0.300
Not found
SX
9268
9161
CUT MARK
WALL SE SIDE BUNGALOW LANE OPP JUNC FENCE
12.555
0.600
Lost in the redevelopment of Bungalow Lane, now Trews Wear Reach
SX
9268
9229
CUT MARK
P ENT GARAGE NO5 WONFORD RD
35.436
0.400
Pictures 2 and 3
SX
9269
9210
CUT MARK
P JUNC WALL NOS50 52 ST LEONARDS RD
33.970
0.100
Not found
SX
9282
9226
RIVET
RIVET WALL NO15 ST LEONARDS RD N ENT
39.307
0.700
Not found - possibly hidden by ivy
SX
9283
9237
CUT MARK
WALL JUNC MAGDALEN RD ST LEONARDS RD NW FACE
39.365
0.600
Very worn, but look hard
SX
9285
9160
CUT MARK
NBM P JUNC WALL W ENT DEVON COUNTY HALL
24.430
0.600
Easy to see - picture 10 (above the cycle helmet)
SX
9285
9260
CUT MARK
WALL JUNC NO8 SPICER RD NW FACE
44.123
0.400
By parking meter; picture 9
SX
9287
9246
CUT MARK
WALL JUNC NO9 COLLEGE RD NW FACE
42.114
0.200
Not found
SX
9296
9238
CUT MARK
WALL JUNC MAGDALEN RD COLLEGE AVE S FACE
43.989
0.500
By the boundary stone and site of gallows
SX
9297
9202
CUT MARK
NBM P ANG WALL NO1 LYNDHURST RD
35.963
0.400
Not found
SX
9298
9264
CUT MARK
ST LUKES COLL NE FACE N ANG
48.506
0.300
On the corner of the building near College Road: see pictures 11 and 12
SX
9304
9105
CUT MARK
NBM 22 SALMON POOL LANE SW FACE 0.9M W ANG
9.854
0.300
Not found
SX
9305
9212
CUT MARK
P JUNC WALL NOS8 AND 9 LYNDHURST RD
40.813
0.500
Picture 6
SX
9310
9220
CUT MARK
WALL NO13 LYNDHURST RD 2.7M S ENT
43.906
0.400
Pictures 4 and 5

SX
9311
9136
CUT MARK
NBM GARAGE NO147 TOPSHAM RD SW FACE S ANG
18.565
0.300
Not found
SX
9315
9239
CUT MARK
WALL N SIDE MAGDALEN RD S FACE 11.3M E WALL JUNC
48.210
0.400
Not found
SX
9324
9219
CUT MARK
WALL N SIDE LYNDHURST RD JUNC VICTORIA PARK RD
45.293
0.500
Worn but visible

SX
9335
9182
CUT MARK
NBM WALL JUNC SW SIDE WONFORD RD
32.726
0.400
Not found
SX
9343
9244
CUT MARK
SE ANG WALL NO163 MAGDALEN RD S FACE
54.614
0.500
pictures 7 and 8