Colonel Sir Charles Arden Close was Director-General of the Ordnance Survey from 1911 to 1922. A man of immense stature and accomplishment in his time, he was, moreover, a link between the traditions of the nineteenth century and the future practices of the twentieth. He was responsible for the inception of many of the maps now sought after by collectors, and injected into OS a measure of geodetic excellence which it had not experienced since the days of Clarke in the 1850s.
He is perhaps best known today for his book 'The Early Years of the Ordnance Survey', of which it has been said that 'in writing these historical and individual notes, Close performed a service to the Ordnance Survey as well as to British geodesy and British surveyors'. Much of the book was based on the papers collected by Major-General Thomas Colby, Superintendent of OS from 1820 to 1846, and of which Close had custody. He presented the papers to OS in 1927, but they were destroyed in the Second World War.
Chronology of events relating to Charles Close
1865 : Born one of 13 children.
1884 : Comissioned in the Royal Engineers. Then went to Gibraltar and the East and then the Survey of India where he carried out topographic work in Burma and the triangulation at Mandalay.
1895 : Transferred to Africa where Close surveyed boundaries through the bush in areas previously unmapped.
1898 : Returned to Africa as British Commisioner.
1902 : Became Chief Inspector in Surveying at The Chatham School of Military Engineering. Here he compiled his Text Book of Topographical and Geographical Surveying (First published
1905), whch was for many years the standard work on the subject.
1905 : Joined the War Office (aged 40) as Head of Geographical Section.
1911 : In August Close accepted the post of Director General of the Ordnance Survey.
1914 : First World War begins.
1913 : Married aged 48.
1918 : First World War ends.
1918 : Knighted for services during the First World War.
1921 : Close contributed a series of articles to The Royal Engineers' Journal about the origins and first years of Ordnance Survey. These were later collected together into a book and published as The Early Years of the Ordnance Survey. (republished in 1969)
1922 : Close stands down as Director General and retires from the Ordnance Survey.
1922 : Close becomes Secretary of the International Geographical Congress, and then later President a position he held until the Second World war.
1938 : Sir Charles took the name 'Arden-Close' under the terms of a bequest.
1952 : Close dies aged 87 and was survived by his wife for 3 months.
1980 : The Charles Close Society for the Study of Ordnance Survey maps is founded
This information has been collated from three books about the Ordnance Survey:
A History of the Ordnance Survey Edited by W.A.Seymour, published by Dawson 1980. ISBN 0 7129 0979 6
Ordnance Survey, Map Makers to Britain since 1791 by Tim Owen and Elaine Pilbeam, published in 1992 jointly by Ordnance Survey ISBN 031 900249 7 and HMSO ISBN 011 701507 5
The early years of the Ordnance Survey by Col Sir Charles Close, published in 1926 and reprinted in 1969 with an introduction by J.B Harley
See also the following Sheetlines articles available as PDF downloads:
Anon, 'Charles Frederick Arden-Close 1865-1952', Sheetlines 2 (1981)
C.I.M. O’Brien, ‘A Man for his time? Sir Charles Arden-Close 1865-1952’, Sheetlines 34 (1992)