Ordnance Survey became involved with the mapping of rights of way as a result of the system of recording public rights of way set up under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949 and developed through subsequent legislation. The 1949 Act did not apply to the Administrative County of London, and some county boroughs; but the Ordnance Survey Archive may contain information relating to rights of way in these areas.
This series contains source material supplied to the Ordnance Survey by Central Government Departments and Local Authorities in England and Wales, and held within the Ordnance Survey Rights of Way Archive as 'Public Path Orders'.
The Ordnance Survey Rights of Way Archive is the record of all rights of way information received by the Ordnance Survey from various sources, in order to carry out its mapping task for England and Wales. It records how and when that information was applied to detail on the ground, and thus to the national mapping. Ordnance Survey agreed to show the rights of way information (as depicted on Definitive Maps created by the Local Authorities) on the national mapping of England and Wales, and did so from 1960.
The Definitive Maps are statutory documents which are intended to show the complete network of public rights of way in each local authority area at a given relevant date. Public Path Orders and Definitive Map Modification Orders generated by the Local Authorities are a vital source of rights of way changes approved between publications of successive editions of the Definitive Maps. The Ordnance Survey Public Path Orders Archive treated all types of order simply as mapping intelligence source material for derivation of map detail.
From 1965 Public Path Orders have been received at the Ordnance Survey on a daily basis and, subject to them being operative, have enabled revision of its public rights of way information for England and Wales without being dependent on the publication of new editions of Definitive Maps. Rights of way as shown on the Definitive Maps have legal authority under the 1949 Act, hence the use of a disclaimer by the Ordnance Survey on their own mapping since it was an interpretation of the legal position.
Public Path Orders supplied to the Ordnance Survey, vary in detail. In general each will carry a covering letter from the source authority, and a copy of the legal instrument, including a map and written description of the instrument (including any existing and new alignment of the right of way as appropriate). This will provide details of the applicable legislation under which the Order is made, and the operable date which will confirm the legal status. A schedule of conditions will be included as applicable.
The map contained within the Order, will have been created by the source authority, often using OS base mapping - usually at a scale of 1:2500 or 1:1250. The Ordnance Survey will have added the date of receipt of the Order; a library reference number to link it with the OS annotations to the definitive map; and the date on which action was applied to the Ordnance Survey's published mapping. The files in this series also include records of ongoing consultation between the OS and the local authorities regarding rights of way, as triggered by various map revision programmes. These records include sketch maps, diagrams and photographs of maps with annotations indicating changes which have been included in subsequent published mapping. Correspondence with the Ramblers' Association is also included.
On receipt of Public Path Orders, Ordnance Survey staff first checked the operative status (i.e. that it had been confirmed as effective or in force), labelled it with the details of the location of the area affected (the County in which it fell, or the relevant National Grid coordinates) and the sheet numbers for mapping series affected by the change (the one-inch series, the Landranger 1:50,000 series, the Pathfinder, Outdoor Leisure or Explorer series at 1:25,000, or Tourist maps).
Ordnance Survey has received Public Path Orders from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of the Environment, Ministry of Defence and The Welsh Office, as well as from local authorities (including orders made by Magistrates Courts). Their effects on the rights of way network have been indicated on copies of the Definitive Maps held by Rights of Way Section of the Ordnance Survey.
Because of the complexities of the legal procedures there are many different types of Public Path Order, and the wording varies according to the section of the Act under which the Order was made. Public Path Orders can authorise the creation of new rights of way, can divert or extinguish existing ways, and since 1968, can re-classify existing routes. They are the result of road and rail schemes, urban development, and more efficient use of agricultural land. These orders were categorised by the Ordnance Survey as 'Amending Orders' which change the status of the route on the ground.
Modification Orders, introduced in 1981, change the status of a route on the Definitive Map and thus facilitate continuous review of that map. Amending Orders and Modification Orders are processed by the Ordnance Survey in the same way, although some Modification Orders may duplicate corresponding Amending Orders which have already been received. This is likely to be reflected in the series content. A Validation Instruction confirms a Public Path Order as operative.