England's Army Camps

John Schofield, 2006

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This project was commissioned by English Heritage as a rapid characterization of army camps in England occupied at any stage between 1858 and 2000. For this study army camps are defined as sites used to accommodate large numbers of soldiers under canvas or in temporary or semi-permanent hutting. They can be built in isolation, or can be an adjunct to other complexes, for example barracks, ordnance depots, military headquarters, rifle ranges and gunnery schools. Smaller camps of varying sizes were also built in association with searchlight and anti-aircraft batteries, but these were not within the scope of this study, studies into these topics having been undertaken previously.

Since 1994 English Heritage has commissioned various studies into the defence heritage, many forming part of the 'Twentieth-century Fortifications in England' project. These studies generally involved two stages of work. The first stage used documentary sources to determine what was built where during the Second World War (though some projects extend beyond this period), as well as creating a typological framework enabling sites to be identified in the field, or through aerial photographic interpretation. Such studies were completed for radar, anti-aircraft batteries, bombing decoys and coast artillery sites for example. Two of these studies have now been published, with more to follow (details can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk/military). A second stage was to use the locations derived from historic sources to check modern day survival. Having already converted wartime Cassini grid references into modern national co-ordinates, this second stage involved checking these locations on photographs in 1946 (to establish that the site had been there in the first place), and more recently. This comparison has provided a unique insight into monument survival, where comparison has been possible between the original population, and modern survival.


'Army Camps' involved the same two stages of work. First, using published and primary source material (largely that held at The National Archives), a list of army camps occupied during this period was established, as was an historical context charting for example: changes in plan-form related to national strategic concerns; a typology (or characterization) of camps giving the characteristics and some examples of each; and information on the types of structures the camps typically contain. What was where, when and why in other words. Again the second stage used historic and recent aerial photography, maps, surveys and limited supplementary rapid field assessment to provide an overview of modern survival.

The reports

The results of this study are presented here divided according to the two separate stages of work. The results of Stage 1 include an historical overview drawn from research undertaken by David Evans, and gazetteers containing information about the camps, their origins, occupation and current use. Stage 2 was undertaken by William Foot and includes the project report, and gazetteers listing the sites' studied at this stage, and their present condition. Stage 2 also includes a selection of maps, plans and photographs.

The databases are not complete, as not all information was available for each camp. The gaps are useful however, as they indicate some future research directions. Also, the lists of sites that appear as gazetteers for Stages 1 and 2 aren't the same. Some sites identified at Stage 1 were not located accurately enough to be examined at Stage 2, while some camps identified at Stage 2 weren't recorded at Stage 1. Researchers should consult both gazetteers therefore if they are investigating a particular site.

Stage 1 Report | Stage 2 Report