Twelve year's work; fifty thousand photos, thirty thousand sites; mapping Cornwall's past.


Mapping Cornwall's Past

Flyingpast.org is the culmination of a twelve year project mapping archaeological and historical sites visible on aerial photos in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The project is part of the National Mapping Programme, a nationwide project run and funded by English Heritage. Cornwall’s National Mapping Programme was carried out by the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council. Work on the project began in January 1994 and was completed in the spring of 2006.

 

Mapping the prehistoric and historic landscape around Carnaquidden Downs in West Penwith. Features here include a round house settlement and field system from the Early Iron Age, part of a Romano-British courtyard house settlement, the remains of medieval strip fields, and eighteenth or nineteenth century tinners’ pits. Explore Cornwall’s Past to find out more about these remains.
Mapping the prehistoric and historic landscape around Carnaquidden Downs in West Penwith.  Features here include a round house settlement and field system from the early Iron Age, part of a Romano-British courtyard house settlement, the remains of medieval strip fields, and eighteenth or nineteenth century tinners’ pits. Explore Cornwall’s Past to find out more about these remains.

The aim of the National Mapping Programme is to enhance our understanding about past human settlement, by providing information and syntheses for all archaeological sites and landscapes visible on aerial photographs from the Neolithic period to the twentieth century. To achieve this all archaeological sites identified on aerial photography in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were mapped and interpreted to a consistent standard, and the resulting information was incorporated into the county Historic Environment Record and National Monument Record databases.

 

Within Cornwall and Scilly there had already been a limited amount of mapping from aerial photos and the project built on this by plotting all sites to a high degree of accuracy and by bringing together information from a wide range of photos - more than 50,000 were consulted - into a coherent whole.

 

This was a huge task and the project produced an enormous amount of data. We mapped and recorded some 30,000 archaeological features. Of the sites identified during the project 75% are new discoveries and more than 24,000 site records in the county Historic Environment Record were created or enhanced as a result of the mapping. Our work has completely transformed not only the amount of known information about Cornwall’s archaeology, but also the way in which it can be accessed by both archaeologists and the general public. As a result of the project, coupled with the use of GIS (a digital mapping system), whole historic and prehistoric landscapes have been mapped and can be viewed in their entirety.

 

We have mapped large numbers of Iron Age and Romano-British enclosed settlements in lowland Cornwall, such as those at St Enoder, shown here. Read Farms, Villages and Towns to find out more about these enclosed settlements.
We have mapped large numbers of Iron Age and Romano-British enclosed settlements in lowland Cornwall, such as those at St Enoder, shown here. Read Farms, Villages and Towns to find out more about these enclosed settlements.

 

There are four key outcomes where Cornwall’s National Mapping Programme has added significantly to our knowledge of Cornish archaeology, has broken new ground, or has contributed significantly to other major archaeological research in the county.

 

The first key outcome is a substantial enhancement of our knowledge of the nature and extent of the archaeology in lowland Cornwall. Of particular importance is the identification of more than 1,000 new enclosures from the late prehistoric or Romano-British period. Many are likely to be enclosed settlements, and a reappraisal of the settlement pattern in Iron Age and Roman Cornwall would be a fruitful topic for future research arising from the project.

 

The second key outcome is the detailed mapping of Cornwall’s extensive mining remains. Throughout all the tin and copper mining districts of Cornwall we have mapped thousands of individual features associated with these internationally important industries. This data was a vital source of information in the development of the Cornwall and west Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site project. The designation of World Heritage Site (WHS) was awarded to Cornwall’s mining landscape in July 2006. As part of the project that put together the WHS bid, the nature and extent of the archaeological remains of the mining industry needed to be defined and our mapping provided 40% of the data collated by the WHS team.

 

In a similar vein we identified and mapped large numbers of early mining features. In particular we recorded almost 300 previously unsurveyed tin streamworks; some are likely to have their origins in the medieval period and represent the earliest recorded tin workings in the county. Find out more about Cornwall’s industrial past in The Industrial Landscape.

 

Remains of tin streamworks at Little Brynn, Roche; one of 300 previously unsurveyed streamworks which we mapped during the project
Remains of tin streamworks at Little Brynn, Roche; one of 300 previously unsurveyed streamworks which we mapped during the project

 

Mining remains mapped during Cornwall’s National Mapping Programme in west Cornwall, showing the density of the features we plotted.
Mining remains mapped during Cornwall’s National Mapping Programme in west Cornwall, showing the density of the features we plotted.

 

The third key outcome is the systematic recording of defensive and military features dating from the Second World War. At the outset very few features of this type were recorded in Cornwall’s Historic Environment Record; we mapped more than 500. Of particular importance are a number of temporary installations, of which the best example is the series of tented camps housing troops in the build-up to the D Day invasions of 1944. These were photographed by the United States Air Force in the area north of Falmouth. Wartime aerial photographs are the only effective source for the location of ephemeral features such as these. Read more about the archaeological legacy of the Second World War in Defended Cornwall.

 

Mapping the military airfield and anti-aircraft training camp at RAF Cleave in north Cornwall. Consulting RAF photographs taken in the 1940s enabled us to identify and map temporary features which were in use during the Second World War and which are labelled in this image.
Mapping the military airfield and anti-aircraft training camp at RAF Cleave in north Cornwall. Consulting RAF photographs taken in the 1940s enabled us to identify and map temporary features which were in use during the Second World War and which are labelled in this image.

The fourth key outcome is the recording of new examples of prehistoric sites which are rare in Cornwall or which were previously unknown in the county. A number of prehistoric unenclosed round house settlements have been recorded in lowland Cornwall, for instance. The best example is that at Lellizzick, near Padstow, which was verified by follow up geophysical survey. More unusual sites recorded during the project include several possible henges, a possible long barrow or mortuary enclosure, and a possible cursus monument. Further close analysis of the enclosures mapped during the project is likely to throw up more examples of rare types of site and this will be an important topic for further research arising out of our work.

 

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