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Malvern Hills National Mapping Programme

The aerial survey of the Malvern Hills formed part of an archaeological survey of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by English Heritage (now Historic England). There were three main elements to the project: aerial reconnaissance, NMP air photo interpretation and field survey.

A publication of the whole archaeological survey was produced in 2005 entitled 'The Malvern Hills: An Ancient Landscape'.

Colour aerial photograph showing a largely wooded ridge rising from a landscape of pasture fields divided by hedgerows
The view looking north along the Malvern ridge photographed on 14-DEC-2000. The survey area is dominated by the narrow north-south orientated ridge of the Malvern Hills with areas of low lying pastoral farmland on either side (NMR 18838/09). © Historic England

From hillforts to military hospitals

The project showed how aerial survey can contribute to research in an area dominated by upland and pasture. Numerous archaeological remains, ranging in date from the prehistoric to modern periods, were interpreted and mapped from aerial photographs.

These included the well known earthwork monuments in the area, such as the late prehistoric hillforts on the Malvern ridge, as well as cropmarks of Bronze Age round barrows and late prehistoric and Roman settlements.

Most of the sites recorded relate to the medieval and post medieval periods, including extensive ridge and furrow cultivation and some evidence for settlement.  More recent remains consisted of several World War II army camps, hospitals and searchlight batteries.

B&W vertical aerial photograph showing a number of buildings laid out on a regular grid pattern with roads/paths between them
The military hospital at Upper Welland photographed by the USAAF 19-APR-1944. It continued in domestic use until relatively recently as St Wulstan's Hospital (US/31GR/LOC20 0009). Historic England (NMR) USAAF Photography

New photography reveals lost landscape

The aerial reconnaissance of the Malvern Hills looked for new sites and photographed as wide a range of types of sites as possible, rather than concentrating on traditional cropmarks and major earthwork monuments.

This included photographing isolated medieval or post medieval house platforms, areas of ridge and furrow, cultivation terraces and quarrying, all of which add to our understanding of past settlement and land use.

Historic vertical photographs are not are not always taken at the most propitious times of day and year to maximise the visibility of archaeological features.  For example, near Hillend and Way End Street, only the major boundaries were visible on the vertical photographs taken in the 1940s and 1960s.

However, photographs taken in February and March 1999, in slanting sunlight, when the grass was low, show numerous low platforms and finer details of the site.

This meant that a previously unrecognised landscape of medieval settlement and agricultural remains could be interpreted and mapped. 

A colour image showing features depicted by lines in red and green against a grey map background
The building platforms, hollow ways, cultivation terraces and ridge and furrow between Wayend Street and Howler’s Coppice may represent the accumulated remains of a shifting settlement pattern, perhaps as the result of assarting or squatting on common land. Base Map Ordnance Survey Licence Number: GD03085G © Crown copyright. All rights reserved

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.


The Malvern Hills: An ancient landscape

The Malvern Hills: An ancient landscape

Published 15 September 2005

Examines the landscape of the Malvern Hills, a ridge of ancient volcanic rocks along the western edge of the Severn Valley. The survey ranges from the early prehistoric period to the present day, including the two large Iron Age hillforts on the ridge.


The Malvern Hills AONB: A Report for the National Mapping Programme

The Malvern Hills AONB: A Report for the National Mapping Programme

Published 1 June 2005

NMP report from the Malvern Hills AONB Mapping Project

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