What it does: based in Swindon, York and Cambridge, the teams undertake analytical field survey extensive landscape survey. We apply close observation, critical analysis and accurate measurement based on wide experience to support carefully considered interpretations. By doing this we help people appreciate the richness of place, make the obscure clear and encourage all to appreciate, value and protect historic places. We work with relatively small complexes of earthworks and ruined structures, and with wider landscapes, often incorporating remains of many different periods from the prehistoric to 19th and 20th century industrial and military complexes. Sometimes we work with whole regions, usually those whose landscape history is poorly understood. These may be vulnerable to substantial change or extensive neglect and our surveys guide protection against threats or the taking of opportunities to improve management. Other extensive surveys may be in protected areas, like National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or World Heritage Sites, where the surveys will support improving presentation and enjoyment. Landscape is urban as well as rural and we apply the same principles of landscape survey to towns and cities. We also carry out and commission historic landscape, historic seascape and urban characterisation work.
Research/innovation goals and objectives: we collaborate closely with our colleagues in Aerial Investigation and Mapping, and in Geophysical Survey in the development of survey techniques. We also collaborate closely with our Architectural Historian colleagues in urban and industrial survey and characterisation projects, notably in Heritage Action Zones. We contribute to guidance documents and to advice and training for the wider sector.
Why it is important: one of the fathers of local history, W G Hoskins, famously noted that ‘the landscape is the richest historical record we possess’. Historic England employs some of the most experienced and knowledgeable landscape archaeologists and historians to interpret what that record contains. Our results are shared with professionals and the public through the Historic England Archive and through a variety of publications. Our work typically involves partnerships with government agencies, local authorities, academics, charities and the general public. Through these partnerships and our programme of outreach and training we aim to deliver increased awareness, understanding, enjoyment and protection of the historic environment. This approach encourages a layered view of places, providing insights into the changing use of the land over thousands of years – a vital viewpoint for heritage protection, setting the management of future change within the context of past land use.
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