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South East RCZAS NMP

Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by English Heritage (now Historic England) to undertake a Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey of south east England, with teams from Gloucestershire and Cornwall County Councils contributing to the National Mapping Programme (NMP) phase of the project.

The project area extended along the south east coast from Kent to Hampshire, recording newly identified sites and enhancing existing database records.

A black and white landscape aerial view of Portsmouth dockyard and harbour with lots of ships
Portsmouth dockyard photographed on 22-AUG-1947 (RAF/CAL/UK8 0451). Historic England RAF Photography.

The project area

The coastal environment is fragile and under threat from commercial development, reclamation and the processes of coastal change. This includes sediment deposition and erosion. It is thought that the rate of coastal change will increase in the future, partly due to sea-level rise and climate change.

The study area followed the coastline of four counties; from Totton in Hampshire through West Sussex, East Sussex to Kingsgate in Kent. Wessex Archaeology completed 258 square kilometres of the NMP component of the survey. The remaining 364.5 square kilometres were divided between teams from Gloucestershire and Cornwall Councils. In urban areas mapping was restricted to 100 metres inland from the High Water mark. Outside the urban areas mapping extended to the nearest complete kilometre grid square above the mean high water mark.

The information collected through this survey informed a desk-based assessment, compiled by Wessex Archaeology for Phase 1 of the RCZAS.

A black and white vertical aerial view of a wartime airfield with hangars and aircraft, much of which is camouflaged.
RN Air Station HMS Daedalus on 25 July 1940. Many of the buildings have been camouflaged pattern and an attempt was also made to hide the grass airfield by creating fake “hedgerows” (RAF/225D/UK848 V 2697). Historic England RAF Photography.

Historic sites

The historic environment of the south east coast is rich and varied, with sites dating from the early Palaeolithic to modern. The majority of features date to the Second World War. As most of these were soon removed after the war the aerial photographs taken during the 1940s are an invaluable resource for mapping the wartime landscape.

As the south east coast was considered the most likely location for an invasion, many of the wartime sites are defences laid-out from 1940 onwards. The project area also included the Royal Naval (RN) dockyard at Portsmouth.

Non-military features included salt-production sites, which were usually revealed by waste mounds known as salterns. The earthwork and structural remains of land reclamation, both successful and unsuccessful were also mapped, as were a number of wrecks.

Poor quality black and white aerial photograph showing salt marsh and intertidal zone with some buildings at the far right edge
Abandoned land reclamation near Portsmouth Harbour on 7 October 1946. The area is defined by a bank with a double row of wooden stakes alongside. The sea has since encroached, creating channels (RAF/CPE/UK/1768 V 4020). Historic England RAF Photography.

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.

South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey: National Mapping Programme Components 1&2

South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey: National Mapping Programme Components 1&2

Published 1 May 2011

Wessex Archaeology report from part of the South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey.

South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey: National Mapping Programme Components 1&2

South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey: National Mapping Programme Components 1&2

Published 28 February 2012

Report on the National Mapping Programme (NMP) element of the South East Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey (SE RCZAS), Blocks A, D-H & J-K.

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Group of people standing on a stony mound
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