A historic event has been marked in Langton Matravers in Dorset with a Purbeck stone plaque – the first time ever that planet Earth’s three norths have converged in the UK.
Langton Matravers made map-reading history in November 2022 by being the first place ever recorded where true north, magnetic north and grid north met at a single point.
Ordnance Survey guest of honour Rob Andrews with the special limited edition map
Limited edition OS map produced
In a ceremony attended by dozens of villagers, the specially commissioned monument was unveiled at the exact spot where the groundbreaking geospatial event occurred – a front garden on the corner of the High Street and The Hyde.
And a special, limited edition Ordnance Survey map was released at the same time, featuring Three Norths in Langton Matravers, along with the rest of the Isle of Purbeck.
It was a chance for parish council vice chair Pete Christie to set the record straight, having misled a reporter from The Sun newspaper who then sent hundreds of visitors off to marvel at the wrong spot.
Parish councillors Pete Christie (left) and Ian Vaughan Arbuckle with the new memorial
“Made up the facts as I went along”
Welcoming the village to a very special occasion, Pete Christie said:
“I was volunteered to do an interview with the BBC when the three norths first aligned, but I didn’t realise it was at 6.30 am and then pretty much made up the facts as I went along.
“Then I got a phone call from a Sun reporter who was in the pub and wondering where the exact spot for the three norths was, so of course I said I knew and quickly looked on Google maps.
“I took him to a spot which turned out to be wrong and when he asked why it wasn’t marked I put my hand in my pocket, pulled out some gaffer tape and put a line across the road, holding up a bus through the village so that the Sun could take a photo.
“Afterwards, I thought I should check out my information, so I phoned the Ordnance Survey, asked exactly where the spot was and was sent a map by return with the real location, which was not really where I showed the reporter.
“Now we have a plaque in the right place for people to see – well, technically it should be where the tree stump is, but I thought that was too much like hard work, so it’s just in front of it!”
Langton is expecting a rush of map reading fans to visit the spot where it all happened
The blue plaque marks the correct location in the village
A big deal for map readers and Santa
True north is the line of longitude on maps which leads directly to the geographic North Pole, but it differs from grid north, the blue line on an Ordnance Survey map, as it takes account of the Earth’s curvature.
Magnetic north, the direction in which a compass needle points, shifts gradually over time due to the Earth’s fluctuating magnetic field – all of which is a big deal for map readers and Father Christmas, whose North Pole address is technically always on the move.
As expert map readers will know, when navigating with a compass there is a difference between magnetic north, where the compass points, and grid north – the vertical blue grid lines shown on OS maps.
After always being to the west of UK grid north, the last few years have seen magnetic north move eastward and in November 2022 reached the ‘special line’ where grid north and true north meet, converging with them for the first time in history at Langton Matravers.
Shirley Priddle, who has lived in Langton all her life, unveiled the plaque
A one off event that’s never happened before
Guest of honour Rob Andrews of the Ordnance Survey said:
“It is no exaggeration to say this is a one off event that has never happened before. Magnetic north moves slowly, so it is likely going to be several hundred years before this alignment comes around again.
“It was amazing to see how much interest there was in the event – it made the national press and was one of the biggest engagement stories we ever had on our social media.
“It was a world first and I hope that this lovely monument is really good for the village and continues to attract visitors.”
Councillor Paul Loudoun and Simon pictured putting the plaque in its place
Quite a crowd gathered to watch the unveiling ceremony
A real community effort
The Purbeck stone used was produced by Stan Bonfield whose family run business HF Bonfield and Son has quarried in the area since records began in 1651.
The monument was put in place by local farmer Paul Loudoun after parish councillor Ian Vaughan Arbuckle persuaded colleagues to mark the historic spot.
It was unveiled by Shirley Priddle, who has lived in Langton Matravers all her life and whose late husband Norman was the parish council chairman for many years.
The three norths point is always moving and having gone through Dorset and Wiltshire is now just south of Birmingham. It will pass through the Pennines and eventually leave Great Britain at Fraserburgh around July 2026.
Due to the unpredictability of the magnetic field over a long time scale, it is not possible to say when, where or even whether the alignment of the three norths will happen again.
A limited edition Ordnance Survey map commemorates the great event
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