AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

CLOSE, Sir Charles Frederick Arden- (1865-1952)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0402 CFA
Held at: Royal Geographical Society
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: CLOSE, Sir Charles Frederick Arden- (1865-1952)
Date(s): 1934-1944
Level of description: Collection level
Extent: 3 boxes and 6 files
Name of creator(s): Close | Sir | Charles Frederick Arden- | 1865-1952 | Knight | geographer


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir Charles Frederick Arden-Close was born on 10 August 1865 at St Saviour's, Jersey; educated at a dame-school in Rochester, then Thompson's school, Jersey, and at a crammer, passing second into the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1882. In 1884 he passed out first, with the Pollock memorial medal, was commissioned in the Royal Engineers, and joined the School of Military Engineering, Chatham. After a year in Gibraltar, 1886, he was first attached to and later commanded the balloon section at Chatham, 1887-1888. He was next posted to India; engaged on topographic work in Upper Burma and geodetic triangulation on the Mandalay primary series (Toungoo-Katha) and the Mong Hsat secondary series up to the Siam border.

Returning to Chatham, Close was sent in 1895 to West Africa to survey the boundary between the Niger Coast Protectorate and the German Cameroons; was appointed to the Ordnance Survey and in 1898 was made British commissioner to delimit the frontier of British Central Africa and Northern Rhodesia with German East Africa for over 200 miles between lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika. Close collaborated with David Gill, HM astronomer at the Cape, in relation to longitude fixation of points on the German frontier; was appointed CMG in 1899 and in 1900 led a small survey detachment for the South African War, for which practically no maps existed. In 1902-1905 he was chief instructor in surveying at Chatham, introducing new methods and revising his earlier work, Text Book of Military Topography, part 2 (1898), to produce the Text Book of Topographical and Geographical Surveying (1905) which, with later revisions, remained the standard work for the next half-century.

In 1905 Close had become head of the topographical (from 1907 geographical) section, general staff, at the War Office, of which a major concern was overseas maps. He pressed, with success, for the formation of the colonial survey committee (August 1905) and for surveying in British colonies. Close and his directors in MI4, having experienced in South Africa the disadvantages of waging war without maps, took the unprecedented step of preparing maps of a probable European theatre of war. Due to the foresight of the geographical section, the British army entered World War One better supplied with maps than in any previous conflict.

Close was appointed director-general of the Ordnance Survey on 18 August 1911. He established three mean-sea level tidal stations, at Dunbar, Newlyn, and Felixstowe, and focused on the cartography of the Ordnance Survey with the intention of revolutionising the appearance of the map. In 1919, Close secured the appointment of a civilian archaeology officer, O. G. S. Crawford, resulting in a highly acclaimed series of historical maps of which the first was Roman Britain (1924). After the war Close had the task of implementing cuts in the Ordnance Survey establishment which had been recommended by the Geddes committee. A direct result of this was that the large-scale plans fell massively into arrears by the 1930s.

Close retired in 1922. He had served on the council of the Royal Geographical Society, 1904-1940, and was Victoria gold medallist, 1927, and President, 1927-1930. He was chairman of the National Committee for Geography and General Secretary of the International Geographical Union, being President in 1934-1938. He was first treasurer, 1919-1930, then chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1930-1945, and President of the Hampshire Field Club, 1929-1932 and 1935-1936.

Close was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1919; received an honorary ScD from Cambridge, 1928; was an honorary member of the Russian, German, Belgian, Dutch, Spanish, and Swiss geographical societies. He was appointed CB in 1916 and KBE in 1918; he was an officer of the order of Leopold, and a member of the Afghan order of Astaur. Arden-Close died in Winchester, on 19 December 1952. His contribution to the cartography and history of the Ordnance Survey was recognised in 1980 with the formation of a society named after him: The Charles Close Society for the Study of Ordnance Survey Maps.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir Charles Frederick Arden-Close, 1934-1944, comprise a copy of 'The International Congress of Geography', Warsaw, 1934; three scrapbooks of letters, notes and memos from 1927-1930, the period when Close was President of the RGS; one volume of papers on the Anglo-German Nyasaland/Tanganyika Boundary Commission, 1898; proof of a review written by Close for Nature on the RGS publication of English county maps, 1933; bound volume of printed papers, news cuttings and a photo of the 'centenary meeting' showing Close and the Prince of Wales all marking the centenary celebrations of the RGS, 1930; bound diary illustrated with photographs of the survey of the Niger Kamerun Boundary, 1895 and papers referring to the National Atlas Project 1940-1941.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged into six sewries as in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

Accessed via the Foyle Reading Room. Free of charge for Fellows, Members and those with valid academic identification. All other users pay a charge and must bring identification in order to register on arrival.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying at the discretion of the Archivist, and subject to completion of an 'application for copies' form. No reproduction or publication without the permission of the RGS-IBG Archivist.

Finding aids:

A detailed catalogue can be found online at Access to Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online.
Prepared by an archives volunteer using existing finding aids and edited by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
24 May 2001 and modified May 2008.

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"