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Cotswold Hills National Mapping Programme project

This survey was carried out to National Mapping Programme standards with the aim to discover and better understand the archaeology of this iconic landscape. This better understanding will help to inform planning decision made for this area and offer better protection for these sites.

The project area extends from Wotton-under-Edge in the south-west to just south of Stow-on-the-Wold in the north of the Cotswold Hills.  The project was funded by the former Historic Environment Enabling Programme (Project No. 4755) and was carried out by Gloucestershire County Council Archaeological Service. The key results of the survey are available in the NMP report.

Colour aerial photograph showing a landscape with a mix of pasture and arable fields, plus trees and parkland
An oblique aerial photograph of Lodge Park and the surrounding Cotswold Hills Landscape taken on 18-JUN-1999 (NMR 18340/2) © Historic England

Prehistoric sites

Mapping in and around the Cirencester revealed an interesting wealth of archaeological features which date from the prehistoric periods to the Second World War. Numerous ring ditches were visible as cropmarks, and were interpreted as the levelled remains of probable Bronze Age round barrows.

Although no settlements have been identified dating to this period, the presence of the many funerary sites and field systems, which may be contemporary, is indicative of a Bronze Age population.  The area continued to be settled during the Iron Age, as suggested by ‘banjo’ enclosures, rectilinear enclosures, hill forts and unenclosed settlements.

Colour aerial photograph showing two green circular features in the middle of an arable field with hedges
Two ring ditches visible as cropmarks near Preston, Gloucestershire and photographed on12-JUL-1999 are the probable remains of Bronze Age round barrows (NMR 18406/09) © Historic England

Roman period

The Cotswold Hills are also well-known for Roman sites, and many have been identified by the aerial survey. There is a wealth of evidence for Roman-period activity within the project area, as the long-lasting Roman influence made significant changes to how the landscape was structured.

New types of site, such as villas, towns and the extensive road network, were constructed across the region. Large numbers of villa sites and other settlements are mostly visible as cropmarks, such as that at Barnsley Park, which is associated with an extensive system of field boundaries.

Black and white aerial photograph showing the white outlines of a rectangular structure in an arable field
A Roman villa near Eastleach Turville photographed as a cropmark on 02-JUN-1990 (NMR 4634/86) © Crown copyright. HE

Medieval and post-medieval

The most common form of archaeological evidence across the study area were the remnants of the medieval and post-medieval agrarian landscape. Extensive areas of ridge and furrow cultivation were visible as earthworks on the historical aerial photography, although much of this has subsequently been levelled by ploughing.

The Cotswold Hills region was extensively cultivated in the past, as it still is today. Aerial survey can reveal some of the innovations and changing farming practices which were adopted in the agricultural revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Along many of the valley bottoms there are extensive and well-preserved water meadows dating to the post-medieval period.

Colour aerial photograph showing an area of parkland with a river to the bottom and various houses around the edges
Parchmarks in Abbey Gardens, Cirencester photographed on 01-SEP-1995 reveal evidence for the location of Cirencester Abbey, at the top of the image, together with elements of the 17th to 19th century landscape gardens (NMR 15383/07) © Crown copyright. HE

Second World War

The Cotswold Hills contain a number of Second World War military camps, airfields and hospitals, many of which were located within large-scale parks and gardens requisitioned during the war.

In Cirencester Park, immediately to the west of the town, a pair of American army hospitals are visible on the historical aerial photography.

Black and white vertical aerial photo showing numerous buildings arranged in a regular pattern with roads and linking paths
The Second World War American army hospital within Cirencester park, photographed on 28-MAY-1947. Hospitals like this were set up in advance of Operation Overlord, and staffed by the US Army Medical Corps (RAF CPE/UK/2098 4461) Historic England RAF photography.

You can read more in the project report:

An Archaeological Aerial Survey in the Cotswold Hills

An Archaeological Aerial Survey in the Cotswold Hills

Published 4 August 2011

NMP report from the Cotswold Hills Project

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project, please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

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