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Staffordshire National Mapping Programme project

The Staffordshire National Mapping Programme (NMP) project was designed to sample four landscape blocks in two phases. The blocks have been defined to target sand and gravel and coal-producing areas, as well as areas where the existing archaeological record was limited. The mapping and records resulting from the project will enhance the management of the historic landscape and inform future archaeological investigations and survey work.

The Staffordshire NMP project is being undertaken by Archaeological Research Services Ltd in conjunction with the Staffordshire County Council’s Historic Environment Section.

Colour aerial photograph showing extensive parkland with small woods, a lake and numerous paths
Parkland surrounding Wootton Lodge photographed on 08-JUL-2005; this is one of many designed landscapes within the project area (NMR 20343/19) © Historic England


Prior to this project Staffordshire had been subjected to limited aerial investigation and survey. Parts of the county have great archaeological potential from an aerial photography perspective, and it is likely that a significant number of sites await discovery. Meanwhile unrecorded archaeological remains in areas undergoing mineral extraction, increased cultivation and urbanisation may easily be lost. The project will enhance the county Heritage Environment Record (HER) by providing high-quality, mapped archaeological data derived from aerial imagery. The maps and records will not only assist development control requirements but will improve the understanding of Scheduled Monuments and their wider landscape settings. The results will help enable the development of appropriate management strategies for these heritage assets.

In recent decades the extraction of mineral resources has resulted in a number of significant archaeological discoveries. This includes a rich ceremonial and burial landscape near the Trent-Tame confluence in the Trent Valley, a pattern now being mirrored along the River Dove where Late Neolithic/ Bronze Age burial and other sites have recently been uncovered. Archaeological work in advance of quarrying in the Trent-Tame confluence has also revealed evidence of the late prehistoric and Romano-British landscape. A little to the north, investigations at Catholme examined an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and contemporary settlement.

The Phase 1 project is focused on mapping and identifying heritage assets over two key sand and gravel and coal-producing areas. The first area, joining up with the National Forest NMP, will provide extended coverage along the Trent Valley north of Rugeley, as well as assessing the potential for survival along the River Blythe. The second area incorporates the western side of the Dove Valley, an area considered to be of high archaeological potential which is relatively poorly understood. Phase 2 of the project will then sample the agricultural landscapes in the west of the county and some of the sandstone areas.

Colour map showing the project area as green blocks against a stylised map with the main rivers and certain key towns
Map showing progress for the Staffordshire NMP project © Historic England

Phase 1: Eastern River Confluences

The first phase of the project was completed in July 2014 and targeted two very different landscapes. One adjoined the former National Forest NMP project area, extending the coverage of the cropmark-rich landscape of the Trent Valley as far as Stafford. This low lying, and intensely farmed arable landscape, contrasts with the varied landscape of the second study area, centred on the Weaver Hills. This mapping area extended as far north as the southern boundary of the Peak District National Park, incorporating the Churnet Valley and the western side of the Dove Valley.

Later prehistoric activity

The additional mapping of the Trent Valley has further highlighted the archaeological potential of the region. Around the Mavesyn Ridware causewayed enclosure, the later prehistoric landscape displays a diverse array of Bronze Age round barrows, a possible Neolithic bank barrow and several other rectilinear and curvilinear enclosures all visible as cropmarks.

Colour aerial photograph showing an arable field with a road and some farm buildings; within the field are some well defined cropmarks
Later prehistoric enclosures, Bronze Age round barrow ring ditches and a probable Iron Age/Roman pit alignment, visible as cropmarks on 08-JUL-2005 (NMR 20339/15) © Historic England

Post-medieval and modern extraction

The Weaver Hills have experienced extensive limestone quarrying, the largest of which are the Caldon Low Quarries which remain in use today. The large-scale extraction and transportation of limestone in this area began in the second half of the 18th century. A series of tramroads were constructed at this time to transport the limestone to the Caldon Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Black and white vertical aerial photograph showing extensive quarrying across the landscape ranging from small scale to very large
The Caldon Low Quarries were already extensive by 17-JUN-1945. Several phases of extraction are visible, including earlier small-scale extraction and associated lime kilns. Tramways extend westwards towards the canal (RAF/106G/UK/398 4057). Historic England RAF Photography

Phase 2: Western Areas

The second phase of mapping is on-going. The two survey blocks target an area of coal extraction centred on Kidsgrove and an area of rural farmland towards the west of the county.

One site of note from this phase of mapping is Ranton Abbey, a moated medieval Augustinian Cell. Examination of  the air photographs and lidar has revealed that the surviving earthworks are much more extensive than previously recorded. Field boundaries, boundary banks, extractive pits, the likely southern precinct boundary, and a number of water channels were recorded in the grounds surrounding the moat.

The mapping of Phase two is due for completion in June 2015 and a second summary report will be produced to present the findings.

Colour aerial photograph showing parkland with a small lake and numerous stands of trees with some ruined buildings
The Augustinian cell at Ranton Abbey, photographed on 02-MAR-1994, has been subject to little or no investigation outside the moated enclosure, where several new features have been recorded (NMR 14987/24) © Crown copyright. HE
Staffordshire: Aerial Survey of Gnosall, Kidsgrove and Talke

Staffordshire: Aerial Survey of Gnosall, Kidsgrove and Talke

Published 1 July 2015

A summary report on the air photo and lidar mapping undertaken for Staffordshire National Mapping Programme - Phase 2 Gnosall, Kidsgrove and Talke (6613)

Staffordshire National Mapping Programme - Phase 1 Eastern River Confluences

Staffordshire National Mapping Programme - Phase 1 Eastern River Confluences

Published 1 July 2014

A summary report on the air photo and lidar mapping undertaken for Staffordshire National Mapping Programme - Phase 1 Eastern River Confluences (6613)

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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