Suffolk Coast National Mapping Programme
An examination of aerial photographs, to National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards, provided a comprehensive record of archaeological features that are visible on aerial photographs in Suffolk's coastal zone, river estuaries and the surrounding areas
The NMP project formed part of the Suffolk County Council Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey (RCZAS), which also involved a field survey project of the inter-tidal areas.
Intertidal, coastal and estuarine archaeology
The archaeology of the Suffolk coast has been influenced and affected by a variety of factors. These are both historical, such as the medieval drainage and reclamation of the salt marsh, and on-going such as coastal erosion and accretion, river dredging and housing development.
The NMP project was particularly focused on the coastal and inter-tidal zones, where sites are often located in areas that ground-based surveys find difficult to reach. Reviewing historic photography dating from the 1940s onwards enabled the recording of features in zones that have since been lost to erosion or obscured by shifting river silts.
On the eroding coast most features surveyed related to coastal anti-invasion defences from the Second World War, whilst in the areas of reclamation there were Roman salt production sites and features relating to post medieval drainage.
In the inter-tidal zone of the estuaries timber structures of varying dates were recorded along with post medieval oyster pits. On the higher ground above the estuaries, fragments of extensive prehistoric or Roman ditched field systems were visible as cropmarks.
The project also mapped and recorded some of the archaeology that is located inland of the coast and estuaries in order to give a broader understanding of Suffolk's coast. Therefore it has been possible to accurately record, for the first time, some of Suffolk's earliest historic landscapes that were visible as cropmarks on the aerial photographs.
The NMP results paint a picture of a coastline with a complex topographical and archaeological history and with huge potential for further research.
A brief but dramatic effect
The Second World War had a large impact on the Suffolk coast. Following the invasion of France in 1940, extensive coastal anti-invasion defences were rapidly constructed that stretched almost continuously along the coast.
It is possible to see these defences in great detail on contemporary wartime photographs, ranging from anti-aircraft gun batteries to barbed wire barriers and pillboxes.
Most of these defences were quickly removed once the war ended, but it is important that the complexity of their original form has been recorded to help us understand what remains today.
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.
Historic Places Investigation
Also of interest...
Read about the threats to our coastal heritage and what Historic England is doing to discover, record and protect that vulnerable heritage
We identify archaeological sites and landscapes using aerial photography, lidar, geophysics, earthwork analysis and excavation.
Historic England experts use airborne remote sensing methods to identify, record and monitor the condition of heritage assets
The Essex NMP project recorded remains from all periods of history and prehistory throughout the county.
The air photo interpretation survey of part of northeast Suffolk’s coastal hinterland was part of a programme of NMP projects in the East of England