Trig point used in mapping Britain now a beacon of thanks for NHS

Trig points like this one played an important role in Britain’s history, as a group of surveyors sought to accurately map the nation more than 80 years ago.

A trig point at Norr Hill. Photo: Bruce Rollinson. Technical details: Nikon D4, 42mm f2.8, 1/2000, 320 ISO.
A trig point at Norr Hill. Photo: Bruce Rollinson. Technical details: Nikon D4, 42mm f2.8, 1/2000, 320 ISO.

Largely redundant in modern times, they remain a popular sight amongst walkers - and this one has been decorated in support of the NHS during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Located on Norr Hill, above Cottingley village in the suburbs of Bradford, the trig point has been wrapped in blue material and painted with the letters NHS. It joins thousands of other tributes up and down the country, such as rainbows and graffiti art, that recognise the tireless efforts of those working in the healthcare sector throughout the outbreak.

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Trig pillars were first used in the retriangulation of Great Britain on April 18, 1936. Up until this point, map-making had been based on a collection of observations between 1783 and 1853.

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Triangulation is a mathematical process that made that possible. It involves determining the location of a point by measuring angels to it from various known points.

That’s where the trig pillars came in. More than 6,500 of them were installed at locations across the country to act as the known points in the mapping process.

On the 80th anniversary of the trig pillars being used, in April 2016, national mapping agency Ordnance Survey published a series of blog posts about their history.

One read: “OS surveying teams spent 26 years gathering measurements across Britain to create a highly accurate map of the country, but time and technologies have moved on enormously to the point where the traditional trig pillar is now obsolete in its original guise.

“They still act as a beacon for many an outdoors lover, but they no longer help shape our maps.”

Today, this one is becoming part of history again as a beacon of thanks during an unprecedented global crisis that will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come.

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