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Restored aerial photographs give stunning views from yesteryear

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 26, 2013

By Toby Meyjes

  • Clockwise from left: The town quay and north quay, Falmouth, 1928; The South Devon cricket ground and the town centre, Newton Abbot, 1930; Lantern Hill, the harbour and the town, Ilfracombe, 1930; Queens Hotel, Torquay, 1947; The town and river, Fowey, 1928; and Lanhydrock House, Lanhydrock, Cornwall, 1928. All feature on the new website

  • St Michael's Mount, 1938, is just one of thousands of images dating between 1919 and 1953 stored on the new 'Britain From Above' website, compiled by English Heritage

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These stunning photographs of the Westcountry captured in a bygone age have been released alongside thousands of others documenting the nation from above in a pivotal era in its history.

A panoramic view of St Michael's Mount, a bustling Falmouth North Quay and a post-war Torquay are just some of countless images of the region now stored on the Britain from Above website.

The online archive was launched earlier this summer by English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales, and contains more than 15,000 aerofilm images dated between 1919 and 1953.

Many of the earliest plate glass negatives, due to their age and fragility, were close to being lost forever.

Rebecca Bailey, head of education and outreach at the Royal Commission, said: "The history of aerofilms is inextricably linked to the history of modern Britain. The original pilots and photographers were veterans of the First World War, and they brought specialist skills learned in the conflict to the task of capturing the nation from the air.

"Between 1919 and 1953, there was vast and rapid change to the social, architectural and industrial fabric of Britain, and aerofilms provides a unique and at times unparalleled perspective on this upheaval.

"We hope that people today will be able to immerse themselves in the past through the new website, adding their own thoughts and memories to this remarkable collection."

The photos were acquired for the nation six years ago and since then English Heritage and the Royal Commissions, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Foyle Foundation, have embarked on a programme to conserve, catalogue and digitalise the collection and make it freely available online.

Outside of the Westcountry, highlights include the 1935 FA Cup final between Sheffield Wednesday and West Bromwich Albion at Wembley Stadium and the infamous Thames Flood of 1947. By the project's completion date in 2014, it is expected 95,000 images taken between 1919 and 1953 will be available online, with more of the Westcountry expected to be uploaded.

Anna Eavis, head of archive at English Heritage, said the aerofilms collection embodied all that is exciting about aerial photography.

She said: "What is equally remarkable is the skill of the expert staff in England, Scotland and Wales who have saved and conserved these vulnerable negatives and prints and converted them into the high resolution images you see on screen today.

"We are pleased that the items have been given safe, long term homes, and that each of the organisations involved has been enriched immensely by their addition."

For more information visit www.britainfromabove. org.uk

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