... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

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... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby hujev » 8 Sep 2016, 9:32pm

Hi - american here with 'mid 20th century British cycling' (small c) kink. I'm a Big fan of ~1920s-1980s British cycle writing, cycles, tours, CTC history, etc.

My latest study topic is Bartholomew's 1/2" maps...

After reading here & there about them (and seeing old adverts), I recently bought a nice set of (mostly) 1930s, in fancy leather cases (one for 'England' [and Wales!], and one for Scotland) from a UK bookseller. They're beautiful! (I'm also a geographer who has studied and does some cartography) Most have the CTC winged wheel on them, by the way, since the CTC and members were consulted on updating the data.

I've been testing myself on British geography with them a bit (unfold may without looking at number or name: can I place it?). Also imagining myself riding along those Patterson countrysides, stopping at the Inns and running into Kuklos or Reg Shaw or Harold Briercliffe, etc. (or those toothy old guys pictured by Patterson in the pubs!) Maps are literature, after all.

So what I'm interested in are any opinions, anecdotes, complaints, stories, etc. I'm just interested in the history and place in culture (esp. cycling culture) of these maps.

I've found a few technical articles, etc. on the web about them (such as determining print date), but are there any cycling-specific readings?

In particular, from searching here I have seen an oblique reference to perhaps an article in the CTC magazine from ~2005 by Chris Juden on Bart's maps, but have no more info. Anybody know the citation, or better yet able to scan a copy (if it exists) for me? Not too many libraries here in Alaska have this periodical for reference... I could probably get a copy via interlibrary loan at least with a issue/page info. Any good older articles?

I've managed to get the BBC "Map Man" episode wherein Nick Crane cycles around on a period bike using them, too! Sort of funny to see him play dumb in a cycle shop when he (cyclist of many great adventures) goes to get it looked over and listens politely with a puzzled look when the shop mechanic tells him it's a little old and rough for cycling the Lake District.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby geomannie » 8 Sep 2016, 10:59pm

Hi Hujev

I too am a massive fan of the 1/2" Bartholomew maps. Every time I plan or ride a route I wish I had an up to date version to hand. The scale is just right for cycle touring.

They were indeed beautifully produced and I understand that were the originators of the green-brown-white elevation shading that is used by so may cartographers today.

If you want to feed your "habit" see if you can buy a copy of the 1912 Bartholomew Atlas of Scotland. It is now available in facsimile http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Bartholom ... SwIgNXthpN but not having seen it I don't know if the print quality is any good. My copy is an original.

Unbelievably, most of the original and unissued plates are still available from http://www.caledonianmaps.co.uk/1912-or ... 02x2396160 and lovely they are too.

I am sorry that I can't help with your specific questions but its nice to come across another Bartholomew's 1/2" enthusiast.


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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby Brucey » 8 Sep 2016, 11:05pm

I've seen one or two even older Barts maps too; these are often riddled with spelling mistakes, and have special cyclist friendly features such as lots of red arrows on them indicating very steep hills. These were marked I think not because they were difficult to get up, but because they were dangerous to come down; early bikes had poor brakes and some designs (such as the 'ordinary') were just plain unstable on any kind of steep downward gradient.

Interestingly, many of these older maps were marked as covering a specific area. Often the area wouldn't occupy more than about 2/3rds of the square area of the map sheet. With modern maps you tend to get the surrounding area mapped in the same kind of detail, but not with these; the surrounding area would be mostly blank, with little more than the main roads and towns indicated; they really didn't want to miss out on the sale of an adjacent map!


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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby Grandad » 9 Sep 2016, 1:00am

When I started club riding in the 1950s there was a fairly even split between the users of the Barts half inch and Ordnance Survey one inch users.
OS were better for very minor roads - the "white roads" on a Barts map could be anything from a narrow tarmac lane to a track across a field or through a wood.

When we were shown a proposed route on a Barts map the "tea stains" were always of particular interest. (Higher ground was indicated by ever darkening shades of brown).

I still have copies of them covering my local area - it's interesting to see the changes to some roads and trace where some old railways once went.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby ANTONISH » 9 Sep 2016, 9:07am

It was sad to see their demise. To be able to have a map which covered a sizeable area at a reasonable scale was ideal for cycling.
I've often wished that they were still available when riding an audax which requires four OS maps.
I'm reduced like many others to taking pages out of the cheaply produced three miles to the inch road atlases.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby Grandad » 9 Sep 2016, 10:48am

The current Golden Eye maps are the nearest to the old Barts one but they do not cover the whole country

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby TrevA » 9 Sep 2016, 12:08pm

I have a club mate who had almost the whole country in the blue Barts 1/2 inch series. Whenever I used to tour in the 70's and 80's, I'd borrow the maps from him. I still have a few of the Barts Black and Red 1:100,000 series and still use them for route planning.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby meic » 9 Sep 2016, 12:19pm

I notice that Sustrans also have 1:100,000 maps in areas. They no longer do their "strip" maps for their routes but I dont know if the maps are good for the whole area or if the detail fades away as you get further from the Sustrans' paths.

I tried looking for GoldenEyes, on line, I cant tell if the ones I found were area maps, special route maps or even just guide books.

I am blessed that Wales is covered by the OS Tour maps which are 1:175,000 and show every road that I would consider riding on.
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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 9 Sep 2016, 12:51pm

I wrote a little blogpost about this scale a couple of years ago: http://blog.systemed.net/post/4

But the real expert on all this is Richard Oliver from Exeter University, who is a historian of the Ordnance Survey and writes regularly in the journal of the Charles Close Society for the study of OS maps. His paper 'Mapping for Cycle Touring in Britain; Past, Present, and a Possible Future' is sadly behind a paywall, but I paid for it and found it fascinating and well-argued. You might also be interested in these pieces by him: https://www.charlesclosesociety.org/fil ... page19.pdf on Sustrans' national map series, and https://www.charlesclosesociety.org/fil ... page23.pdf on later OS half-inch maps.

Edit: The Charles Close Society also has this article on Barts maps: https://www.charlesclosesociety.org/fil ... page25.pdf (and you could get lost for an entire weekend reading through the various PDFs on their website...)
Last edited by Richard Fairhurst on 9 Sep 2016, 1:48pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby profpointy » 9 Sep 2016, 12:59pm

100,000 or half-inch is a perfect scale for cycling, and for local motoring for that mater. French do their Serie Verte which are great, but it's largely lapsed in the UK other than maybe a few specific sheets as others have mentioned. 50,000 are neither one thing nor the other - inferior tot he 25000 for walking, yet not different enough in scale nor covering enough area to (now) be worth getting as well. And 250,000 are OK for driving round the country, but not so good for cycling nor finding a village say. Pity. When I'm in charge, I'll get 'em to drop the 50,000 and do a 100,000 set instead

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby Bmblbzzz » 9 Sep 2016, 2:57pm

Sustrans maps cover almost the whole UK, omitting the Hebrides, West Coast of Scotland, Orkneys and Shetlands. I don't know if they're all at the same scale, the ones I checked were all at 1:110,000.
http://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/defaul ... 220116.pdf

I disagree that 1:50,000 is "neither one thing nor the other". IMO it's a pretty good scale for lots of cycling, particularly if you like to use bridleways and byways; you can often tell by the presence or absence of hedges on these whether it will be a decent ridable surface of just a muddy track across a field. I also like being able to distinguish fords, railway lines and bridges, and so on. And of course the contour lines! Having said that, a lot of the detail OS choose to include on their maps is not of interest to me (various 'leisure features') but then I'm not the only user! Sure, 1:100,000 would cover a greater area (well, four times the area on the same sheet of paper :wink: ) but at the loss of topographical detail. Great for a ride that sticks to largish roads or following a preplanned route (hence ideal for Sustrans network). Perhaps a decent compromise would be 1:75,000. Or, of course, an electronic map with variable scale; I do like printed maps though.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby wjhall » 9 Sep 2016, 3:57pm

They were a good scale for long tours. The main problem with them was that there was no clear distinction between untarmacced and tarmacced minor roads. (The OS 1/4 inch were more consistent for this.)

I suspect the reason was that they had not really been updated since about 1900. As an example, if you look at NW Stevenage, just outside Ripon Road, where there used to be a field and there is now a new suburb or two, you will find three roads all shown with the same marking, which were probably all unsurfaced about 1900 and in the 1980s were:

- Weston Road - which is tarmacced.

- A road along the N boundary of St Nicholas Park, which had reverted to the middle ages, very rutted.

- A road running North just above Rook's Nest farm, of which I never detected any trace.

The update seemed to comprise a red overlay for the dual carriageways in the New Town.

I looked at some of the Sustrans 1:110,000 in a shop recently. Useless, they lack the major and minor road markings.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby Kenn » 9 Sep 2016, 5:55pm

The Oxord Bike Works' website says that they have a long term plan to supply equivalent maps to the Barts series. I don't know what timescale they mean by long-term, but it looks promising.

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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby skicat » 9 Sep 2016, 6:00pm

I can't proclaim to have used Bart's maps but I do enjoy maps generally.

It occurs to me that it should be possible to produce a modern-day version of these maps using up-to-date data from OpenStreetMap combined with the content, colours and style that make the original Bart's maps so popular. It's quite a technical process, but I have built my own version of the OpenFietsMap map in the past, and I believe it should just be a question of messing with the TYP file (the file that dictates how things look on the map). It's not trivial but it would be an interesting project.
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Re: ... about Bart's 1/2" maps?

Postby SpannerGeek » 9 Sep 2016, 8:46pm

I remember being at a bike jumble last summer and there was a stack of Barts half inch maps about 5 feet high. Must have been a few hundred all told. No one wanted them. At the end of the jumble the guy was giving them away so he didn't have to hump them back home. I love the cloth feel of the old maps and remember using one in the 80's which my dad had used before me and annotated a route from York via Robin Hood bay. I've still got it, and it's pretty much good as new!