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Aerofilms

The Aerofilms Collection is a unique air photographs archive of international importance. It includes 1.26 million negatives and more than 2000 photograph albums. 

Dating from 1919 to 2006, the total collection presents an unparalleled picture of the changing face of Britain in the 20th century. It includes the largest and most significant number of air photographs of Britain taken before 1939.

The collection is very varied including urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial scenes. This provides important evidence for understanding and managing the built and natural environments.

Find out more about the ‘Britain from Above’ project to conserve, digitise and share 95,000 of the Aerofilms images below.

Wembley Stadium, 1935

Wembley Stadium, 1935 ©English Heritage. NMR 

Background to the collection

The collection was created by Aerofilms Ltd, a pioneering air survey company set up by First World War veterans FL Wills and C Grahame-White in 1919. In addition to Aerofilms’ own imagery, the firm expanded its holdings with the purchase of two smaller collections – AeroPictorial (1934-1960) and Airviews (1947-1991).

This very large collection of historical air photographs was bought by English Heritage, in partnership with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Scotland, from Blom ASA in 2007.

This was possible because of generous financial support from English Heritage’s donors and supporters, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of National Libraries.

Britain From Above Project

This is a four year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the Aerofilms collection, those dating from 1919 to 1953.  Once conserved, they’ll be scanned into digital format and made available online for everyone to see.

English Heritage is working in partnership with the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales on the project which started in 2011. The project has been made possible due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from The Foyle Foundation and other donors.

The new Britain from Above website was launched in June 2012 with thousands of images online. The website will give you the opportunity to share and record your memories of the places shown and also to help us identify some of the locations and buildings.

The project will finish at the end of 2014.

Where is the collection?

The negatives, albums and associated documentation are in specialist archival storage in Swindon. The albums containing photographs are held in England, Wales and Scotland according to their coverage (see the addresses below).

For further information about the Aerofilms Collection please email Aerofilms or telephone 01793 414600.

It is not possible to photocopy albums.

At present there’s a limited service for researchers:

  • English Aerofilms Collection: Please contact Archive Services, English Heritage, The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon SN2 2EH. archive@english-heritage.org.uk
  • Welsh Aerofilms Collection: Please contact RCAHMW, Plas Crug, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 1NJ. nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk
  • Scottish Aerofilms Collection: Please contact RCAHMS, John Sinclair House, 16 Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh EH8 9NX. info@rcahms.gov.uk

Ordering

Orders for print or scan copies of images found in the albums can be made, subject to the availability/condition of the original negative.

If you already have an Aerofilms, AeroPictorial or Airviews image reference number then prints or scans can be supplied (subject to the availability/condition of the original negative) according to English Heritage price list, and terms and conditions.

To place an order please contact:

Archive Services
English Heritage
The Engine House
Fire Fly Avenue
Swindon   SN2 2EH
Tel: 01793 414600
Email: aerofilms@english-heritage.org.uk

If you already have a copy of an Aerofilms, AeroPictorial or Airviews image which you’d like to publish or web-mount see contact details below.

Policy for local archive repositories

Archive repositories, local studies libraries, museums, Heritage Environment Records (HERs) and similar institutions who may have copies of oblique air photographs from the Aerofilms Collection can now make use of them without reference to Blom ASA.

This policy covers oblique aerial photographs taken by Aerofilms, AeroPictorial and Airviews and marked as the copyright of those companies.  In the note below this is described as 'Aerofilms material'.

1) Any requests for publication, reproduction or web mounting of Aerofilms material should be referred to:

  • English Aerofilms Collection: Please contact Archive Services, English Heritage, The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH. archive@english-heritage.org.uk
  • Welsh Aerofilms Collection: Please contact RCAHMW, Plas Crug, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 1NJ. nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk
  • Scottish Aerofilms Collection: Please contact RCAHMS, John Sinclair House, 16 Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh EH8 9NX. info@rcahms.gov.uk

2) Any request for a photographic print or a scan of Aerofilms material should be referred to Archive Services, English Heritage, whatever the subject of the photograph (see above for contact details).

3) Archives, libraries and other repositories can provide photocopies to users for their private use and research, provided that the copy is marked with the appropriate copyright statement:

  • for photographs of England and non-British areas:  ©English Heritage
  • for photographs of Scotland: Crown copyright: RCAHMS
  • for photographs of Wales: Crown copyright: RCAHMW

(This information will be updated in the future, if you have any queries please contact the copyright holder.)

4) Where repositories have policies which allow the use of cameras by researchers we will permit Aerofilms material to be copied, provided that researchers have signed an acknowledgement that their photography is solely for the their own private use and research and may not be published or used commercially.

Other aerial photograph collections taken by the RAF, the Ordnance Survey, Meridian Airmaps Ltd, and our own flyers are held by each of the organisations for England, Wales and Scotland.  Please contact them direct for more information about access to these collections.

CONTACT

The English Heritage Archive
t: 01793 414600

Donate

You can contribute towards Britain from Above: the Aerofilms project by donating online.

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