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“Hattie’s Map” Unveiled At Last

by Richard Elen on 8 Aug, 2011

in Art

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August 6th saw the unveil­ing of some­thing rather spe­cial in our NW Cam­bridgeshire town of Somer­sham: a free-stand­ing graph­ic pan­el in Church Street, some­what mys­te­ri­ous­ly titled “Hat­tie’s Map”.

The Hat­tie in ques­tion is Hat­tie Skeg­gs, long-time res­i­dent and mem­ber of the Parish Coun­cil, who passed away recent­ly. Her knowl­edge of the town and the orig­i­nal names and loca­tions of places was leg­endary, and the Map com­mem­o­rates her and the long his­to­ry of the town.

The pan­el is dou­ble-sided: one side shows a map of foot­paths around Somer­sham, pro­vid­ed by Cam­bridgeshire Coun­ty Coun­cil, while the oth­er depicts an aer­i­al view of the Parish, for which I was very pleased to be invit­ed to cre­ate the art­work. Indi­cat­ed on it are around 50 places in and around the town, pri­mar­i­ly of his­tor­i­cal inter­est, along with some pic­tures of the cen­tre of town and the Sta­tion area tak­en from old post­cards, and a brief his­to­ry of Somer­sham.

Putting it togeth­er has tak­en quite a long time, not least because of the dif­fi­cul­ty in obtain­ing and licens­ing the aer­i­al imagery around which I based the Map. When I was orig­i­nal­ly invit­ed to cre­ate the pan­el, it was­n’t spec­i­fied how it should be done, and I looked at a num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties. The one that appealed to me most was the idea of show­ing the Parish from the air rather than sim­ply draw­ing a map. I con­tact­ed numer­ous com­pa­nies that offered aer­i­al imagery with the appro­pri­ate licens­ing, and obtained quotes, some of which were with­in the kind of bud­get the Parish Coun­cil had in mind for the project. I did a mock-up using Google Earth imagery and pre­sent­ed it to the Coun­cil’s Work­ing Group on the project, and they liked it and gave me the go-ahead to cre­ate the art­work.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, now hav­ing had the idea agreed, when I went back to the poten­tial sup­pli­ers to order the map­ping they had pre­vi­ous­ly quot­ed me for, the prices were mys­te­ri­ous­ly now sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er, despite the fact that I had been metic­u­lous in my spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the project. Some claimed they had updat­ed their imagery since I had asked for the quote and the new imagery they were offer­ing was much more detailed and bet­ter in every way – a priv­i­lege one had to pay for. Oth­ers simpy denied they’d pro­vid­ed the pre­vi­ous esti­mate or that it was only valid for a sur­pris­ing­ly short time or that the per­son I spoke to had got it wrong. One of the new fig­ures was ten times the price I’d been quot­ed orig­i­nal­ly.

I con­tin­ued to try one com­pa­ny after anoth­er as time ticked by, and con­tin­ued to look for oth­er sources – includ­ing the Coun­ty Coun­cil, who had every­thing I need­ed but not the licences – but even­tu­al­ly I found one, GetMap­ping, towards the end of last year, which not only offered the res­o­lu­tion I need­ed but came in well with­in bud­get. They also had an excep­tion­al­ly help­ful staff mem­ber in the shape of Jake Laud­er, who bent over back­wards to get me what I need­ed. And when a lit­tle lat­er we had to make some revi­sions due to bound­ary changes that extend­ed the area for which I required imagery, they very kind­ly sup­plied a new, larg­er area file at no addi­tion­al charge. Kudos to GetMap­ping and Jake in par­tic­u­lar.

Click on the map above to see a larg­er ver­sion.

I worked on the project in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent graph­ics appli­ca­tions. I’d ini­tial­ly brought the rough Google imagery into Adobe Illus­tra­tor as a tem­plate and over that drawn and labelled the major roads and oth­er fea­tures – like the course of the two rail­way lines that used to pass through Somer­sham. I also con­sid­ered how to indi­cate the places of inter­est. I decid­ed to go with num­bered call­outs in cir­cles with a line point­ing to the exact loca­tion.

It quick­ly became evi­dent that build­ing the entire A0 pan­el in Illus­tra­tor was going to become too unwieldy. It was fine with the low-res­o­lu­tion Google imagery, but the real hi-res file would be enor­mous and rather too big to scale, rotate and posi­tion pre­cise­ly in Illus­tra­tor: it was so big that it would also slow the appli­ca­tion down no end. As a result, I decid­ed to build the pan­el in InDe­sign, and cre­ate the num­bered call­outs direct in the InDe­sign doc­u­ment on their own lay­er. This was also a much bet­ter idea for set­ting the text which, while not exten­sive, was much eas­i­er to man­age in InDe­sign.

Help­ful­ly, you can bring all kinds of files into InDe­sign with a great deal of flex­i­bil­i­ty – in par­tic­u­lar if they come from anoth­er Cre­ative Suite appli­ca­tion. So I could import the Illus­tra­tor file in its own .ai for­mat and turn dif­fer­ent lay­ers (such as the roads and labelling) on and off as required with­out hav­ing to re-export the image.

The Big Imagery File ulti­mate­ly arrived and was sur­pris­ing­ly easy to bring into InDe­sign, size and rotate to the cor­rect angle. To allow the imagery to be dis­played as large as pos­si­ble, I rotat­ed the entire map so that the Parish ran from bot­tom left to top right. This put North at around 45 degrees. It also left a large area bot­tom right for a key to the Places of Inter­est and top left for the his­to­ry of the town. Mean­while along the bot­tom there was room for a pair of pan­els to include pic­tures of Old Somer­sham, kind­ly pro­vid­ed by the local His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety.

The Work­ing Group deter­mined the final list of loca­tions. Some went back to the 18th cen­tu­ry (and a cou­ple back to Roman times), and while the obvi­ous ones were easy to find, some were much more tricky. And I also came to find out a lot more about the his­to­ry of the area and where some of the names came from. I was soon study­ing 1st Edi­tion Ord­nance Sur­vey map­ping, and ear­li­er maps too: hap­pi­ly a lot is avail­able on-line these days. I found the sites of old wind­mills; the ori­gin of the name “The Pyk­le” (it dates back to around 1200 and means a field rem­nant: it is noth­ing to do with Parkhall Road for­mer­ly being called “Parkle Lane” – Parkle was a vil­lage to the North of town – and indeed, the name Parkhall had noth­ing to do with the Manor Hall that stood on that road); and the site of a weir used for clean­ing cart­wheels. I also dis­cov­ered that nobody seemed to be able to agree on the exact loca­tion of the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Exec­u­tive airstrip that was active dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Evi­dent­ly its secret was main­tained. Fas­ci­nat­ing.

Final­ly the map was fin­ished and I was able to get my friends at local dis­play graph­ics com­pa­ny Cameo in St Ives to run up some full-sized proofs: the final result was approved and I gave the Parish Coun­cil a hi-res PDF for the pan­el man­u­fac­tur­ers to work from. We suf­fered a bit of a delay as the Coun­ty had to come up with their own foot­path map art­work, but even­tu­al­ly it was sup­plied and the project went into its pro­duc­tion phase. Ulti­mate­ly the pan­el was deliv­ered and a date was set for its instal­la­tion.

Sad­ly, dur­ing that time, Hat­tie her­self passed away. The map was erect­ed on Fri­day 5th by Michael Mur­ray, who kind­ly pro­vid­ed these pho­tographs, and it was unveiled offi­cial­ly on Sat­ur­day 6th August 2011, rep­re­sent­ing a fit­ting trib­ute to Hat­tie and recog­nis­ing her love and good works for the town and peo­ple of Somer­sham. Here’s a video of the unveil­ing, and you can read more about it here.

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