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By Williams Houdge.
Read before the ROYAL SOCIETY, July 3, 1800.
AVING interspersed in the following Paper, with as much attention to brevity as the subject admits, every intelligence relating to the Trigonometrical Survey, I think it unnecessary to swell the bulk of the communication, by giving a long prefatory account of its progress since the year 1796.
The contents of the work now meeting the public eye, are important and numerous: I have divided it into sections. The first contains the calculations of the sides of the principal and secondary triangles extended over the country in 1797, 1798, and 1799; together with an account of the measurement of a new base line on Sedgemoor, and a short historical narrative of each year's operation. The second section contains the computed latitudes and longitudes of those places, on the western coast, intersected in 1795 and 1796, and also such others, since determined, as lie conveniently situated to the newly-observed meridians. This section also contains the directions of those meridians; one on Black Down, in Dorsetshire; another on Butterton Hill, in Devonshire; and another on St. Agnes Beacon,
in Cornwall. Among the contents are likewise to be numbered the bearings, distances, &c. of the stations and intersected objects, from the parallels and meridians
The third and last section contains the triangles which have been carried over Essex, the western part of Kent, and portions of the counties joining the former, Suffolk and Hertfordshire. It is with satisfaction I am enabled to state, that Mr. GARDNER, the chief Draftsman, with his assistants, has almost completed the Survey of this extensive tract, which, no doubt, like the map of Kent, will be given to the public: the materials for these different surveys are ample, and will be found in this section, which concludes with the altitudes of the stations and mean refractions.
Before I had advanced far in my work, I entertained ideas of condensing all the data in my possession, and distributing them in it; but, when I found my paper would, in that case, be too large for the Philosophical Transactions, I desisted, contenting myself with presenting little more than a moiety: it is even now, of inconvenient magnitude, but I could not, with propriety, still farther abridge it, for I have, in several instances, rejected important matter. I shall, therefore, take an early opportunity of compiling a fourth account, in which will be given the latitudes and longitudes of those places, in Essex, Kent, &c. found in the last section.
It is right, I should observe that, knowing from experience, how liable surveyors are to mistake the names of places, and also, how utterly impracticable it is to detect errors, till the interiors of the great triangles have been filled up, I have been cautious to give only the distances of such objects as could not be easily mistaken. I do not mean to insinuate that, among
the great number now published, instances may not be found of misnomers, or even wrong bearings; but I rely with great confidence on their general accuracy, and particularly on those constituting the surveys of Essex and the northern shore of the Thames, as the whole of them have been verified by Mr. GARDNER. Indeed this is to be understood as holding good throughout the last section, in which are 375 triangles. In our former accounts of this survey, we were particularly guarded in not-intermixing their contents with distances determined from numerous doubtful intersections; and experience has hitherto not detected above three or four errors arising from wrong bearings or misnomers. Previously, indeed, to the compilation of them, a great part of the objects in Sussex, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight, were verified by Mr. GARDNER, in process of an extensive survey, carried on by the order, and performed for the service, of the Board of Ordnance. This gentleman will also have it in his power to detect any errors, if such exist, in the names of places to the westward; as the Master General has been pleased to issue his directions for the survey of Devonshire, and as much of Somersetshire and Cornwall as will square the work.
I have mentioned, in the body of the account, that the President and Council of the Royal Society, were pleased to accede to the request made by the Honorable Board of Ordnance, to entrust to my care, the circular instrument used by the late Major General Roy, in his well known operation. It has already been found highly useful, and will shortly prove to be still more so, as one theodolite will be employed in carrying the above orders of Marquis CORNWALLIS into effect, while the other is used in carrying a meridional line through the country; an undertaking begun, and partly executed.
Before I close this Introduction, I am to announce, that Mr. ISAAC DALBY, no longer able to endure the fatigues incident to the service, has retired from it; and it would be a matter of injustice, if I were not to acknowledge the extent of his services, his unremitted labour, and attention. But, whilst I lament the loss of a man so perfectly calculated to assist me in this arduous undertaking, I derive every consolation from a knowledge, founded on experience, of the talents and abilities of Mr. SIMON WOOLCor, his successor.
1. Particulars relating to the Operations of the Year 1797.
The principal object proposed to be accomplished this year, was the determination of the directions of meridians at proper stations, in order to afford the necessary data for computing the latitudes and longitudes of places intersected in the surveys of 1795 and 1796.
From errors which are the result of computations made on the supposition of the earth's surface being a plane, it is expedient that new directions of meridians should be observed, when the operations are extended, in eastern or western directions, over spaces of sixty miles from fixed meridians. The distance from Dover to the Land's End being upwards of 300 miles, it becomes necessary, on this principle, that four directions of meridians should be observed; which, with that of Greenwich, amounts to five, dividing this space into six nearly equal parts.
Whatever be the stations farther to the westward, which offer
themselves as fit places for these observations, Dunnose in the Isle of Wight presents itself as highly eligible, not only because it is removed the necessary distance from the meridian of Greenwich, but also because it commands a most extensive view of the western coast: therefore, as the direction of the meridian was observed on this station in 1793, (see Philosophical Transactions for 1795, p. 517.) it became necessary to fix on three places only.
In the selection of these stations, it was our wish to have found such as should lie nearly in the same parallel, each intermediate one being visible from those east and west of it; by which means, the differences of latitude between their respective parallels would be accurately determined.
When the party was at Dunnose, in the year 1793, a hill at a very considerable distance, in a direction very nearly west, was seen just rising out of the horizon. It then occurred to us that this spot would, at some future period, be a very proper one for a station whereon a new direction of the meridian might be observed. Experience, in the Survey of 1795, led us to believe this hill was actually Black Down in Dorsetshire; therefore it was determined that our operations should commence at that station, and the event verified the truth of our suppositions.
The party took the field early in April, as observations on the Pole Star, for the purpose in question, are made with superior advantage at this season of the year, because the star comes to its greatest elongations from the meridian at those times, when the sun produces little tremor in the air, by which means, the staff to which the Pole Star is referred, in good weather, is easily perceived.
As the high land in the vicinity of Teignmouth, in Devonshire,