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Picturing our past
THOUSANDS of historic aerial images of Britain will be available online under a project by English Heritage in Swindon.
Britain From Above, funded by a £1.75m Heritage Lottery Fund grant aims to conserve, digitise and catalogue 95,000 negatives from 1919 to 1953.
Experts at the National Monuments Record Centre, in Churchward, have already processed dozens of the images since the four-year project started in February.
The result will be a dedicated website where people can view the photographs and share information about them.
Project manager Verity Hancock said: “It is such an early collection. In 1919, aerial photography and flying were new concepts.
“The collection covers such a wide area of the UK and some of the images are just lovely.
“If we weren’t doing all of this work those images would be left to degrade further.”
Britain From Above involves the oldest part of English Heritage’s Aerofilms collection, which totals 1.26m negatives taken of the British landscape between 1919 and 2006.
The collection, stored in a temperature-controlled archive in Swindon, was created by pioneering air survey firm Aerofilms Ltd.
Among the places featured in the earliest part of the collection are the old Wembly Stadium, St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, and the Royal Crescent, in Bath.
Photographs in the Swindon area include the Railway Works, the town centre, the Blunsdon greyhound track and Marlborough High Street.
Of the 95,000 images, the oldest 45,000 are glass plate negatives and the rest are film negatives.
Staff are working first on the oldest images because they are the most at risk.
English Heritage hopes to have the first 18,000 images online by the end of the year. Visit the website www.