Severn Vale National Mapping Programme project
This aerial survey covered a part of the Severn Vale from Cheltenham in the north to Bristol in the south, an area that is likely to see new building development in the near future. This survey identified the archaeology that new development might affect and enabled a better understanding of it.
The major population centres and communications infrastructure of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire are located in the central low-lying area of the Severn Vale and around the fringes of Bristol.
The region contains extensive protected areas. These include the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Wye Valley AONB and the Forestry Commission woodland in the Forest of Dean. This means that development pressure is concentrated in the vale to the east of the River Severn and Severn Estuary.
Various other factors concentrate potential strategic development allocations to conurbations, other principal settlements and near to major road and rail corridors. These include flood risk, environmental designations and local policy issues.
The medieval landscape
As well as numerous examples of ridge and furrow cultivation, shrunken and deserted settlements, many moated sites were also identified during this project.
One such example is the moat just outside Elmstone Hardwicke village. Seen as earthworks on aerial photographs taken in 1955, ploughing since that date has levelled it.
Another possible medieval site identified during the Severn Vale aerial survey is a possible Deer Park at Leckhampton Court. The remains were similar to other known deer parks. The only documentary evidence to support this interpretation, however, is the field name 'Lower Park' marked on the 1835 tithe map.
The Severn Vale at war
The Severn Vale was a hive of military activity during the Second World War. There were airfields, aircraft factories, military camps, supply depots, anti-aircraft batteries, barrage balloon sites, prisoner of war camps and radar stations.
Wartime usage dramatically reshaped this landscape. Though most of the military bases built on farmland have been decommissioned, few have been returned to farmland. Most have been redeveloped for commerce or housing.
The project also identified and recorded three accommodation sites built for the civilian wartime workforce including that at Bishops Park, Bishop's Cleeve. This site was built in 1942 with advice from the Billy Butlin, who had opened his first holiday camp in 1936. It housed the workforce for the nearby Smith's Industries aircraft component factory.
The site consisted of identical prefabricated bungalows and had a shop, canteen and a dance hall-cum-cinema. Married employees were accommodated inside the loop roadways and single employees on the outside. The estate was demolished by the 1960s and is currently the site of a business park.
The project took place in three phases. The first phase of mapping identified archaeology around the fringes of Gloucester and Cheltenham, within the proposed development areas. The second phase recorded archaeology on the northern fringes of Bristol, between Filton and Falfield. The third and final phase extended from Falfield up to Moreton Valence.
The information obtained from the project will contribute significantly to Historic Environment Record (HER) enhancement and development control advice. It will also inform advice given by the HERs to the successor of the Environment Stewardship agri-environment scheme.
Historic Places Investigation
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