Online tool allows Britons to search for old photos aerial photosMarch 22, 2022
Bird’s eye view of an ever-changing Britain: From pre-war Birmingham to Blitz-hit London… online tool has 400,000 aerial snaps taken over the last century… see how YOUR home town has changed
- Aerial Photograph Explorer, released by Historic England, lets the public search for their areas
- Many of the images highlight the damage caused by German bombs in the Second World War
- One shows the devastation caused by German bombs on the centre of London around St Paul’s Cathedral
- Also shown is an image of Sunderland in 1949, when it was one of the world’s leading shipbuilding centres
A new online tool allows Britons to see historic aerial images of cities, towns and villages across the country.
The Aerial Photograph Explorer, released by Historic England, lets the public discover the changing face of England’s urban and rural landscapes.
Over 400,000 photographs have been made available to view for the first time, covering major areas of England such as London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
Many of the images highlight the damage caused by German bombs in the Second World War, including one of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1946 that shows the surrounding empty space caused by the razing of buildings in the conflict.
Another image shows Birmingham in 1931, with the tiny St Martin’s Church standing close to where the famous Bullring shopping centre was opened in 2003.
A third photo shows Sunderland in 1949, when it was a shipbuilding hub of the world.
Other images reveal dozens of football grounds around the country, including Newcastle United’s St James’ Park in 1927.
Also shown are Manchester town hall and its surrounding area in 1934; the port of Sunderland in 1949 during its shipbuilding heyday; and Liverpool’s Albert dock in 1948.
The earliest photograph in the collection, which was taken in 1919, shows the London Aerodrome, in Hendon, in north London. Historic England hopes that people will use the new tool to research their local areas and offer an insight into a century of changes and development.
Regional Director of Historic England, Rebecca Barrett, said: ‘I am delighted that our new online tool will allow people to access easily our wonderful collection of aerial images and enjoy the historic photography that our team uses every day to unlock the mysteries of England’s past.’
Historic England’s aerial investigation and mapping team, which was established in 1967, took 75 per cent of the images provided on the online platform.
The remaining 100,000 images derive from the heritage body’s archive of aerial photographs, some of which were taken by the Royal Air Force.
To search the platform, click here.
A new online tool allows Britons to see historic aerial images of cities, towns and villages across the country. The Aerial Photograph Explorer, released by Historic England, lets the public discover the changing face of England’s urban and rural landscapes. Above: London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and the surrounding area in 1946 and 2015. The 1946 image reveals the extent of the bomb damage on the capital
Over 400,000 photographs have been made available to view for the first time, covering major areas of England such as London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. Pictured: This image of the port of Sunderland in 1949 shows the newly-completed vessel the MV Andulo at the dockside. Sunderland was once one of the most important shipbuilding centres in the world. It is also pictured on Google Maps in 2022
The area in which Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre was built is seen left in 1931 and right more recently. The heart of the city has changed extensively, although St Martin’s Church still stands in the same spot
Spot the difference: Derby city centre is seen in 1921 and 2021. It is clear how much the city has changed. The original image was taken from a plane that was flying at a very low height. This is no longer allowed, but today’s cameras are capable of taking a similar image using drones or a more powerful camera between photos taken in 1921 and 2021 looking up Corn Market and Iron Gate. The 1921 photograph was taken at a very low level. Flying at that height is not allowed today
Manchester Ringway airport was constructed in the 1930s and saw active service during the Second World War. The airport was a centre for aircraft manufacture and it was also a base for the Air Transport Auxiliary’s No 14 Ferry Pilot. The black and white image was taken in 1946. A more recent image shows how the airport has expanded to accommodate thousands of civilian flights each year
This post-war view of Coventry taken in 1948 shows the effects of the blitz and acts as a reminder that bomb damage was a feature of many British towns and cities long after the war had ended. The ruined cathedral is at the centre of the image. The remains of cellars and narrow property boundaries can be seen within the cleared bombsite at the bottom of the photograph. Also seen is a recent Google Maps rendering of a similar area. Also seen is a similar aerial shot, taken in 2017
Newcastle United football club’s home ground, St James’ Park, is seen above in 1927 and also in 2006. In 1927, only the west stand was covered. Newcastle United entered the 1927/28 season as the First Division champions, which was their fourth and last league title, led by their prolific goal-scoring captain Hughie Gallacher. St James’ Park has been extensively redeveloped in the decades since it was built
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Sandford Parks lido, in Cheltenham, is seen being enjoyed by thousands of sun-seekers in 1947. The lido was opened in 1935 during the golden age of lido construction. It is seen right on a recent image taken from Google Maps
This vertical photograph was taken in 1948 of the Custom House, Liver building, Albert Dock area of Liverpool. At this point what is left of the Custom House, having been damaged in the Second World War, is in the process of being demolished. Also seen is a recent birds’ eye view of the dock taken from Google Maps
Bristol Temple Meads railway station in 1938 and 2015. The station was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the terminus of the Great Western Railway’s London to Bristol line established in 1839-41. The line was subsequently extended to Exeter and the station expanded
Cambridge University Library. The building was constructed between 1931-1934 by Giles Gilbert Scott. Though it has been extended to over the years, the outward appearance of this distinctive grade II listed building remains unchanged. It is also seen above in 2013
Manchester Town Hall, library and Albert Square are seen in both 1934 and 2008. Regional Director of Historic England, Rebecca Barrett, said: ‘I am delighted that our new online tool will allow people to access easily our wonderful collection of aerial images and enjoy the historic photography that our team uses every day to unlock the mysteries of England’s past’
The ‘five towns’ (actually six) of Stoke-on-Trent are famous for pottery production. This aerial photograph shows the typical components of an industry that flourished here for several centuries. This 1934 view is of the Encaustic Tile Works, The Royal Staffordshire Pottery and the Newport Pottery, in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent
Hampton Court Palace in 1941 with anti-aircraft obstructions made up of short sections of ditches and mounds of earth, designed to damage enemy aircraft if they tried to land in large open areas. Also look for a couple of Second World War bomb craters near the 17th century canal called The Long Water and a strip of allotment gardens
This RAF reconnaissance photograph of Coventry was taken about 6 months after the devastating air raid of November 1940. Large open areas mark the cleared bombsites and show as light grey areas amongst the darker pattern of surviving buildings
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