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Map Man

All Episodes 2004 - 2005

  • Ended
  • BBC Two
  • 2004-09-16T04:00:00Z
  • 30 mins
  • 8 hours, 0 mins
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Documentary
Nicholas Crane maps the maps, talks the talk, and walks the walks of cartographic history. Armed with a combination of ancient drawings, modern carto-technology, and of course his trusty umbrella walking stick, Nick uses the tools of his trade to discover how mapmakers have charted mountains, shrunk oceans to measurable drops and reduced sprawling cities to navigable diagrams. Covering the whole of Britain by foot, horseback, four-wheel drive, bicycle, tube train, motorbike, canal-boat and sailing ketch, Nick circumnavigates Wales, treks Scottish peaks and Norfolk fens, tramps the Pennines, meanders through the West Country and burrows deep beneath London's City streets.

16 episodes

1x01 William Roy’s Military Survey of Scotland (1747-53)

  • Series Premiere

    2004-09-15T23:00:00Z — 30 mins

Following the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the British Army desperately needed accurate maps of the Scottish Highlands if it was to govern the area. Young military engineer William Roy was given the task of producing them. Will his maps see Nick safely through the treacherous terrain?

1x02 John Ogilby's Britannia (1675)

  • 2004-09-22T23:00:00Z — 30 mins

Can Nick use the first ever road map - a 329-year-old document - to lead him over the notorious Trans-Pennine Pass? With the help of experts he tries the journey on his mountain bike in midwinter, having ago at dimensuration (road surveying), and finding old roads might fade away, but never disappear.

The 1933 tube guide revolutionised the face of underground mapping and travel for ever. Having realised two years before that circuit diagrams were a perfect model for a new map of the network, electrical engineer Harry Beck created the blueprint that's wholly relevant today. Why did he exclude everything at street level? What dictated his choice of colour for each line? Minding the gap, Nicholas Crane checks out the facts.

1x04 The Gough Map (1360s)

  • 2004-10-06T23:00:00Z — 30 mins

Created in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th-century Gough map of Britain was a landmark in map-making and was still in use 200 years after it was drawn. But what do the red lines signify along the coast, and why is there a massive green wilderness dominating the centre of Wales? While exploring these mysteries, Nicholas Crane attempts to use the map to find his way on foot from Snowdon to St David's.

Before the late 1700s sailors couldn't fix their position at sea and had to sail close to land, increasing the risk of shipwreck. So when Greenville Collins' charts of Britain's coastline were published in 1693, hundreds of lives and ships were saved. Explorer Nicholas Crane navigates Cornish waters in a square-rigger of the period to reveal the extent of Collins's achievement.

No one thought rocks were that important until they studied Smith's revolutionary, multi-coloured geological map of Britain. Years before Darwin, Smith overturned all the existing ideas about mineral prospecting, fossils and the origins of the Earth. Modern explorer Nicholas Crane's investigation examines how Smith arrived at his ideas.

In just five summers, Saxton produced the first national atlas, providing Elizabethans with thirty-four beautifully engraved, hand-coloured county maps. But maps are created for all sorts of reasons and as he motorbikes across Norfolk (Saxton's first map), Nick discovers that Saxton's survey was as much about identifying possible political troublespots as rivers and windmills. Nick comes up with fascinating evidence that Norfolk was the heartland of Catholic conspiracy-making in the late 1500s. He also tries to solve the puzzle of Saxton's amazing omission from his Norfolk map: the Norfolk Broads.

Being an OS surveyor in the 1930s was back-breaking work, as Nicholas Crane discovers. Braving the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, he conducts his own triangulation survey - will his efforts measure up to the exacting standards demanded by Britain's national mapping agency?

2x01 Bartholomew's Cycling Map of England and Wales (1896-1903)

  • Season Premiere

    2005-09-04T23:00:00Z — 30 mins

Journeys around Britain using historic maps as a guide. Nicholas Crane starts by investigating the work of Victorian cartographer John Bartholomew, who capitalised on the popularity of cycling in the 1880s with his series of maps charting the best routes, and retraces his guide to the Lake District.

Nicholas Crane retraces the steps of 16th-century cartographer Timothy Pont, who marked out the first detailed maps of Scotland. At that time, this was a dangerous task since wild wolves roamed the countryside and rival clans didn't take kindly to outsiders on their territory.

Nicholas Crane harks back to the 1740s to follow in the footsteps of Murdoch Mackenzie, an Orkney schoolmaster who mapped the treacherous waters between the north coast of mainland Scotland and the islands. Crane uses Mackenzie's original methods for setting up baselines on land and frozen lochs.

Nicholas Crane follows the routes recorded by 17th-century cartographer John Speed. The maps are unusual in that they don't list any roads, recording instead county boundaries. The presenter uses these documents to find his way along the England-Scotland border, before heading to Berwick, a town which Speed measured exactly in 5ft paces.

2x05 John Cary's Inland Navigation (1796)

  • 2005-10-02T23:00:00Z — 30 mins

Nicholas Crane examines John Cary's 18th-century maps recording the routes of Britain's canals. These documents were noted for their remarkable geographical accuracy, but finding the waterways proves difficult, since many have been filled in or turned into railway lines.

Nicholas Crane examines the first Ordnance Survey map. The epic task of plotting out an entire nation to a scale of one inch to one mile fell to Lieutenant William Mudge, who began the project in Kent and Essex before moving on to Devon - the most likely targets for French attack during the Napoleonic era.

2x07 Mrs P's A-Z (1936)

  • 2005-10-16T23:00:00Z — 30 mins

The story of how writer and traveller Phyllis Pearsall single-handedly created the first London A-Z. Setting herself the task of walking the capital's 23,000 streets for 18 hours a day, she completed her mammoth task in 1936. Nicholas Crane tries to find his way around the city using only her map.

Nicholas Crane examines a map commissioned in 1625 to settle a property conflict in which cartographer Thomas Raven was hired to resolve the situation once and for all. Nick attempts to trace the disputed boundary, and also discovers what became of a mysterious village.