Historic England launches new aerial photo archive with images of Roman camps and WWII defenses still visible in Yorkshire

Taken over the past 100 years, they can be compared to modern images to show changes in the landscape as well as archeology hidden beneath the surface and only visible from the air.

Records include the outline of the Roman military camp at Malham in the Yorkshire Dales, coastal erosion near Kilnsea, the steelworks of East Hecla which were demolished to make way for Meadowhall, the foundations of a First World War II in North Yorkshire and WW2 footage of defenses such as barrage balloons and a fake airfield.

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Over 400,000 images from 1919 to the present day have been added to the tool, covering almost 30% of England.

The remains of the Ford Godwin wartime battery at Kilnsea

Some of the war photos were donated by the RAF.

Duncan Wilson, Managing Director of Historic England, said: “I am delighted that our new online tool will make it easy for people to access our wonderful collection of aerial imagery and enjoy the historic photography that our team uses every day to unlock the mysteries of England’s past.

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Incredibly well-preserved Roman brooch found on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales

The outline of the ancient Roman camp at Malham in the Dales

A blanket of snow helps spot the earthworks of a Roman camp in the hills above Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. This type of camp was built by the Roman army during its maneuvers.

WW2 decoy airfield at Bossall, Ryedale (taken 1940)

Deception strategies were developed during the war to direct enemy fire away from real airfields. The image shows three wooden dummy planes, perched atop a medieval ridge and furrow. Close inspection reveals the wooden struts supporting the wings of the farthest plane.

The location of the Chain Home radar station can be seen in the top right of the image

WW2 Tholthorpe Airfield, near York

Tholthorpe Airfield was a nearby RAF Linton-on-Ouse substation and had grass runways. An attempt to disguise the airfield from the air was made by softening the edges of the runway although it appears in the photo as a striking dark diagonal mark. The darker lines extending from the runway are also painted on the grass and were intended to confuse those flying overhead into thinking the area was covered in fields.

WWII Chain Home Low Radar, Bempton (taken 1941)

Chain Home was the code name for early warning radar stations built by the RAF before the Second World War. Early Chain Home Low sites had separate transmitters and receivers, but after 1942 sites such as Bempton had the transmitter and receiver combined and housed in a single block with the antennas mounted on top. This 1941 photo shows the entire site inside a fence and protected by several circular gun emplacement around the central cluster of camouflaged radar transmitter/receiver block and administrative buildings. This site was dissolved in 1945.

The foundations show where army huts once stood at Camp Leighton, where the Leeds pals trained during World War I

Leighton WW1 Camp, North Yorkshire

This image shows the remains of the Leighton construction camp at Breary Banks in North Yorkshire. It was originally built to house construction workers from Leighton Reservoir but became a training camp for the Leeds City Battalion (the ‘Leeds Pals’) and from 1917 it was used as a POW camp. The camp had lodging huts, a hospital, a mission hall, a school and even its own sewers.

Sheffield, images show East Hecla and Meadowhall steelworks in 1946 and 2007

The photographs, taken more than 60 years apart, illustrate the dramatic change in use of this area of ​​Sheffield.

The East Hecla Steelworks was an important factory for the production of artillery shells during World War I, producing 289,200 shells. From 1917, part of the factory’s capacity was converted to the manufacture of 60-pounder guns. Shells were also made there during World War II.

The East Hecla Steelworks was closed in the 1980s and the Meadowhall Shopping Center was built on the site between 1990 and 1992.

Chain Home radar base in Bempton during World War II

Rotherham, barrage balloon WW2 – 1940

Aerial photography from 1940 shows a barrage balloon between Rotherham and Sheffield. The balloons were attached to a ring of concrete blocks and raised and lowered from a winch mounted on a truck.

Barrage balloons were an important part of airborne defense. They were bred to fly enemy aircraft higher over their targets and make bombing runs less accurate, while forcing a route that brought them within range of anti-aircraft guns.

Fort Godwin, Kilnsea, World War I and World War II battery

East Yorkshire’s coastline is eroding rapidly and many yards of land can be lost during years of extreme weather. This image shows the remains of Fort Godwin, a coastal gun battery that was active in both World Wars. Originally built inland, the retreat from the coast now means that some buildings are perched on the cliff while large parts are on the beach, including one of the circular gun emplacement.

A WWII decoy airfield with fake planes in Ryedale
A barrage balloon over Rotherham

Jack C. Nugent