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28th November 2022
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HomeProperty ArticlesKitchener's survey of Cyprus

Kitchener’s survey of Cyprus

British Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916), later 1st Earl Kitchener, is probably best known for his WWI recruitment poster. But he was also a surveyor and cartographer and undertook archaeological work in Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt.

In 1878 the British High Commissioner of Cyprus, Sir Garnet Wolseley, requested a rough map of Cyprus from the Foreign Office. Kitchener, a junior officer at the time, was borrowed by the Foreign Office and instructed to make a Survey of Cyprus.

Kitchener reached Cyprus in September with a party of Royal Engineers and equipment – and submitted his proposals to Wolsey for a comprehensive survey of the island. But Wolseley saw no need for a detailed map and ordered Kitchener to map a number of villages that could be pieced together.

Kitchener protested but Wolsey insisted; Kitchener had no option but to appeal to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Minister, Lord Salisbury, wanted a detailed survey to be carried out on the model of the trigonometrical Ordnance Survey in England.

The trigonometric survey was constructed around a baseline proposed by Kitchener to the north of Nicosia. This baseline was accurately surveyed and constructed in October and November 1878. Piles of whitewashed stones were built at each end of the line. Measurement of the baseline was carried out using a 100-foot chain supplied by the Ordnance Survey.

But within a few months Wolsey recommended that the survey should be discontinued due to the dwindling revenue of the island. Kitchener ceased operations on 13 May 1879 and returned to England. He was then seconded as a vice-consul to Anatolia, where he remained until early 1880.

But Cyprus, now under a new High Commissioner, Colonel Biddulph, was pressing for an accurate Survey on which to base a measure of land registration, and the choice of Survey Director again fell on Kitchener.

In March 1880 Kitchener wrote to his friend Walter Besant in Palestine saying:

Here I am back at my old work of surveying. I think I was wrong giving up the diplomatic line, but I could not let another pull my points about here, so when the General offered it me again I could not well refuse, as he put in increased pay and better position. I have now been gazetted Director of the Survey, and hope soon to get my men out again. (He was reportedly paid £672/annum – equivalent to approximately £89,851 today.)

On his return to Cyprus, Kitchener picked up from where he’s left off. From each end of the baseline he’d constructed earlier, observations were made of clearly defined adjacent triangulation points. A network of triangles was constructed outward from the baseline and over time the whole island was covered with a series of 137 linked and angularly measured triangles.

The project faced many difficulties. The mountainous areas of the island and the unexplored areas in Paphos were particularly difficult sections to record. The piles of stones that the crews set to mark trigonometric points were often destroyed so that measurements had to be repeated – and this caused great delays.

The maps, which were completed in 1883, were first full triangulated survey Cyprus. They are very detailed, marking roads, tracks, and telegraph lines, and locating vineyards, monasteries, ruins, sheepfolds, springs, wells and aqueducts. Towns and villages are identified as being Christian or Muslim, and are given both their Greek and Turkish names.

The set of maps consists of a title sheet and 15 map sheets at a scale of one inch to the mile, and are supplemented with a single-sheet index map at a scale of five miles to the inch. The 15 map sheets were engraved on copper plates; when mounted together as one map it measured 12 feet 6 inches by 7 feet. Its accuracy is estimated below 200 metres.

Kitchener’s trigonometric network has been used in subsequent surveying work and formed the basis for the development of the geodetic network still in use today.

Kitchener left Cyprus at the beginning of 1883 and two years later, in a Memorandum, he referred to the conditions of the Island under British rule:

Cyprus was handed over to Great Britain by Turkey in a thoroughly exhausted and ruined condition. The system for centuries had been to take as much as possible out of the Island, giving nothing in return. All public works and every institution in the Island were in the last stage of decay.

Every department of government has been thoroughly reorganised, and it only requires a glance at the map to see that money has been liberally expended on much-needed roads, bridges, piers, etc. Doubtless some result is already being reaped from these increased facilities of communication, and much more may be confidently prophesied for the future.

Justice is now impartially administered by most competent magistrates, and the re-organisation of the Land Registry Department has been a boon to all landed proprietors. The system established in Cyprus might indeed be adopted with advantage as a model for what is much needed in England – a registration of titles and mortgages, and a complete arrangement for the immediate transfer of landed property without the intervention of the conveyancer.

(The Department of Lands and Surveys of Cyprus, which is also known as the Land Registry, started operations in 1858 and is considered to be the oldest governmental department of the public sector in Cyprus.)

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4 COMMENTS

  1. A 140 years later the last paragraph certainly puts into perspective how times change. Can I ask if the set of maps are available from the relevant department in Cyprus?. Or one area?.

    • If you click on ‘The set of maps consists of a title sheet and 15 map …’ in the article, it will take you to the relevant page of the National Library of Scotland where you can view all of the maps on-line.

      You can order copies of the maps. Prices for each sheet range from £6.24 to £30.00 depending on the size.

      I expect they’ll have copies of the maps somewhere in Cyprus.

  2. A fascinating potted history of the first map making in Cyprus. If anybody knows where one could lay hands on an original or even to be able to view one it would be great.

    • If you click on ‘The set of maps consists of a title sheet and 15 map …’ in the article, it will take you to the relevant page of the National Library of Scotland where you can view all of the maps on-line.

      You can order copies of the maps. Prices for each sheet range from £6.24 to £30.00 depending on the size.

      I expect they’ll have copies of the maps somewhere in Cyprus.

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