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North Gloucestershire Cotswolds National Mapping Programme project

This aerial survey of the limestone hills of North Gloucestershire, part of Warwickshire and part of the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire has recorded the evidence of human activity going back over 6,000 years. It 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.

A coloured plan showing the extent of all features mapped for the project as various coloured lines
The sharp contrast between the ridge and furrow of medieval arable fields (shown in light blue and purple) and the sheep pastures where ridge and furrow is absent clearly highlights the lowland and upland zones within the North Gloucestershire Cotswolds, even without the addition of contour lines. © Historic England

New cropmark discoveries

During the Middle Ages ploughing in the Vale of Evesham and over the lower slopes of the Cotswolds created large areas of ridge and furrow. More modern ploughing, particularly since the Second World War, has gradually levelled the ridge and furrow but this has revealed many earlier Iron Age and Roman sites.

Colour aerial photograph showing arable fields with archaeological features appearing as darker green lines on a paler background.
These cropmarks of Iron Age or Roman enclosures were formerly covered by medieval ridge and furrow. They were only revealed when the ridge and furrow was levelled by modern ploughing. The remains of the medieval furrows are still visible as dark lines across the field with the enclosure. They survive as earthworks in the adjacent fields. 15510/23 24-JUL-1996 © Crown copyright. HE

A rare survival

A group of enclosures and track ways were identified on the northern edge of Huntman's Quarry near Naunton. They are a rare surviving Iron Age or Roman earthworks on the high central Cotswolds. The first specialist oblique photographs were taken by English Heritage in April 2002; the enclosures had not been recorded previously through field investigation by either English Heritage/Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) or Gloucestershire County Council Archaeology Service (GCCAS).

A possible parallel for this enclosure group may have been found in the adjacent field to the west (the area in the top-right corner of the photograph). There, a ditched enclosure of remarkably similar size, shape and alignment, was excavated in the mid-1990s by GCCAS. The results of that work revealed an enclosure which originated in the Middle Iron Age and was used into the Roman period.

Colour aerial photo showing pasture field with a number of regular shapes appearing as slight banks and some disturbed ground
A small group of rectilinear enclosures and track ways was still surviving as earthworks on the edge of Huntsman’s Quarry, near Naunton on 08-APR-2002 (NMR 21550/00) © Historic England

Iron Age and Romano-British sites in the Carrant Valley

In the Vale of Evesham, cropmarks of late prehistoric and Roman settlement enclosures, buildings and domestic pits have been identified. These settlements extend along the gravel terraces on the northern side of the Carrant Brook and were linked to each other by track ways. Many of these sites were seen on historic aerial photographs and no longer exist, destroyed by gravel digging carried out over the past 30 years. Though the Carrant Valley survey forms part of the North Gloucestershire Cotswolds NMP there is a separate Carrant Valley NMP report.

Colour aerial photo showing arable fields with slight traces of features seen as faint dark lines against a paler background
Late prehistoric and Roman settlement enclosures identified on the gravel terraces along the Carrant Brook in the Vale of Evesham and photographed on 20-JUL-2000 (NMR 18808/08) © Historic England

The Romans

The first Roman frontier in the region was established on the line of the Fosse Way in about 47 AD. Major Roman military centres were established to the west of the Cotswolds at Gloucester, and to the south at Cirencester, which became a provincial capital. Three major roads – the Fosse Way, Akeman Street and Ermin Street – radiated outwards from Cirencester. A walled town was built at Dorn, near Moreton in Marsh. Two other substantial Roman settlements are located on the Fosse Way at Bourton on the Water and at Lower Slaughter. Another large town, with a regular layout of paved streets, is located at Wycomb, to the west of Bourton.

Colour aerial photo showing arable field with a generally green background on which are visible both paler and darker lines
The broad ditch that surrounded the Roman town of Dorn can be seen as a dark rectangular cropmark with rounded corners in this photograph taken on 17-JUL-1996. The major Roman road, "The Fosse Way" is revealed as a light cropmark running diagonally across the photo to the right of the town. Similar light cropmarks within the town are the remains of the town’s streets (NMR 15458/31) © Crown copyright. HE

Gardens and landscape parks

The Cotswolds are well-known as the location of many country houses, accompanied by parks and formal gardens. While most of the gardens and parks which are open to the public are presented in their 18th or 19th century form, traces of earlier phases of those gardens and the remains of abandoned gardens can be seen on aerial photographs. At Adlestrop Park, features from both a Rococo garden of 1759 and the landscaping scheme which replaced it in 1799 were identified. At Chipping Campden, the early 17th century formal garden earthworks are all that remains of Campden House. At Sudeley Castle, rectilinear enclosures formerly interpreted as a deserted medieval village and fishponds have been identified, with the help of aerial photographs, as the sunken compartments and parterres of a 16th century garden.

Colour aerial photo showing several pasture fields with slight earthworks probably related to the country house in the centre
The probable remains of a Tudor formal garden at Sudeley Castle. This was possibly created in the 1570s by the second Lord Chandos.23307/24 17-DEC-2003 © Historic England

Combatting Second World War air raids

The outbreak of war in September 1939 brought a surge of military construction to the Cotswolds. Even the most rural parts of the region were mobilised for the war effort. Many features associated with the intense military activity of the war years were still visible on aerial photographs taken in 1946 and 1947. Aerial photographs taken shortly after the war show the anti-aircraft batteries, searchlight sites, air raid shelters and Emergency Water Supplies (for fighting fires) that were built in this part of the county.

Black and white vertical aerial photo showing an urban scene with lots of houses and some zig zag trenches in a playing field
Civilian air raid shelters on the playing fields of Naunton Park School, Cheltenham photographed by the RASF on 02-APR-1946. RAF 106G/UK/1354 7390 Historic England RAF photography

Second World War military camps

During preparations for the Allied invasion of occupied Europe the Cotswolds provided locations for some of the training and transit camps built in Britain.
Many temporary camps in North Gloucestershire were built in the requisitioned grounds of country houses such as at Adlestrop House, Daylesford House, Maugersbury Manor and most of the large houses in the region.

The area between Chipping Campden and Moreton in Marsh became particularly associated with the US Sixth Armored Division, who established their headquarters in the village of Blockley and the adjacent Batsford Park. An extensive camp of temporary buildings and tents in the parkland was recorded by the NMP survey.

From the autumn of 1942, Prisoners of War were also accommodated at temporary camps in the North Cotswolds. The American military hospital at Northwick Park became a PoW camp and extensive facilities were built at Bourton on the Hill and Springhill Lodge. Working camps were established at Sudeley Castle and at the Long Marston depot. Several of the camps were controlled by American forces and many prisoners were sent on to the United States after processing in Britain.

Close up section of black and white vertical aerial photograph showing a patteern of squares in regular blocks in parkland
The site of a tented encampment in Batsford Park, near Moreton in Marsh, used by the US 6th Armored Division in 1944 photographed on 09-APR-1947. The ‘footprints’ of over 160 tents appear as dark squares in the grass. The ‘Super Sixth’ was headquartered at Blockley, adjacent to Batsford, and their personnel and equipment were billeted throughout Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire (detail of RAF CPE/UK/1960 4155) 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.

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