D.3 Compilation from basic sources#

There are several standard sources of information that all HERs should incorporate. The OS record cards provided the basic starting point for most. In some cases SMRs recasting projects created computer records from the OS cards, in other cases digital data was supplied from the appropriate National Monuments Record.

D.3.1 National heritage datasets#

A key information source for HERs is details of sites in their areas that are either under some form of statutory protection or that are registered as being of special interest or at risk. This information is maintained by Historic England as part of its statutory functions (Historic Environment Scotland and Cadw within their respective countries). HERs and Historic Buildings Records should all routinely receive paper notifications of changes and additions to schedulings or listings (in Scotland this information is supplied digitally by Historic Environment Scotland).


Digital data from the national heritage datasets will be available to HERs in the future under licence. These datasets include:
  • NRHE: a historic environment database of sites, monuments, buildings, archaeological/architectural interventions and surveys in England and its territorial waters
  • The Historic England Archive: Catalogue information on archive curated by Historic England
  • NHLE: a database of scheduled monuments, lists of buildings of special architectural and historic interest, registered Parks and Gardens, registered Battlefields, Protected Wrecks and World Heritage Sites in England.
  • Buildings at Risk (BAR) Register: a database of grade I and II* listed buildings and upstanding scheduled monuments identified as being at risk of deterioration or loss (https://www.historicengland.org.uk/advice/heritage-at-risk/buildings/buildings-at-risk/). Many local authorities keep their own BAR register for grade II listed buildings.
  • Controlled Sites and Protected Places: Designated under the 1986 Military Remains Act. NB All crashed military aircraft are covered by this Act.
  • National reference datasets managed by the Data Standards Unit: includes the Thesaurus of Monument Types, Thesaurus of Building Materials, administrative area lists.

The adoption of nationally agreed data standards and indexing terminology by HERs, means that it is becoming easier for digital data to be provided in a standard format ready for incorporation into HER databases (see D.4.3).

The are also a number of key web-based initiatives aimed at the online dissemination of historic environment data:

NHLE (https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/) provides up-to-date access to the statutory records of sites with legal protection including listed buildings and scheduled monuments and is made available by Historic England and the DCMS.

Images of England (http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/) Images of England was a groundbreaking heritage initiative funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage (now part of Historic England). The project created a 'point in time' photographic record of every listed building in England. The photographs, taken by hundreds of volunteer photographers, are being posted alongside existing list descriptions for each building to create what will be one of the largest free to access digital image libraries in the world with over 300,000 images when complete.

PastScape (http://www.pastscape.org/) is a web site developed by Historic England, which provides an easy-to-use method of accessing information taken directly from the NRHE containing over 400,000 records on the archaeology, monuments and buildings of England and its territorial waters. These records contain descriptions of any interesting archaeological details, pictures (where available), and links to maps and aerial photographs on other websites.

MAGIC (http://www.magic.gov.uk) this interactive map-based site, launched in July 2002, combines information on key environmental schemes and designations. The site is the result of a partnership project between seven government organisations with responsibilities for rural policy-making and management. Users are able view and query the available data sets through the use of standard GIS tools.

ArchSearch (http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archsearch/) or http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/provides an online search catalogue to collections containing details of around 1,000,000 sites, monuments and interventions in the UK, or other locations where UK-based archaeologists work. It also links to a growing number of digital archives and electronic publications.


Similarly a number of national digital data sets are available to HERs in Wales. These include:
  • Scheduled Ancient Monuments database: a database of scheduled monuments in Wales maintained by Cadw on behalf of the Welsh Government.
  • Listed Building database: a database of the lists of buildings of special architectural and historic interest in Wales maintained by Cadw on behalf of the Welsh Government.
  • Parks and Gardens Register: a database of the register of parks and gardens of historical interest in Wales maintained by Cadw.
  • Historic Landscapes Register: a database of the register of parks and gardens of historical interest in Wales maintained jointly by Cadw and the Countryside Council for Wales. The Register can be viewed on the CCW web site.
  • Protected Wrecks: a list of protected wreck sites in Welsh coastal waters.

The Extended National Database for Wales (END). The END is based on a partnership of Welsh heritage bodies, including the RCAHMW, the Archaeological Trusts of Wales, Cadw and the National Museums and Galleries of Wales (NMGW) who have created a national index of archaeological and architectural information. The information encompasses NMRW's site database, the Sites and Monuments Records held by each of the four Archaeological Trusts, and Cadw's scheduled monument and listed building database. The Historic Wales website (http://jura.rcahms.gov.uk/NMW/start.jsp) has been developed as the entry point to theses data sets.

The RCAHMW has made a selection of information from the NMRW available on the Internet through the on-line Coflein database. This is currently available only in English but a Welsh Language version is planned.

The Welsh Archaeological Trusts have made the Historic Environment Records available on-line using the Archwilio website (http://www.archwilio.org.uk)


Historic Environment Scotland provides digital versions (in Shape File format) of all the designations datasets for use within a GIS. These can be downloaded from their website, and includes Sheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Gardens and Designed Landscapes, Battlefields, Historic Marine Protected Areas, World Heritage Sites and Conservation Areas (on behalf of local authorities). These spatial datasets are also available as Web Services or as Atom Feeds.

Pastmap (http://pastmap.org.uk/) provides free online access to map-based information about Scotland’s historic environment. It brings together data from project partners, including Historic Environment Scotland and local authority HERs, into a single web portal. It is operated by Historic Environment Scotland in partnership with local government archaeological curators, and includes information from an increasing variety of other sources.

D.3.2 Compilation from documentary sources#

In common with the OS record cards and the National Archaeological Record (NAR), most English SMRs were first compiled by trawling through information published in specialist local and national journals, monographs and thematic gazetteers to identify references to sites and monuments. Additional information was obtained from local museum and society records and from documentary archives, including the archives of local researchers, such as antiquarians, OS correspondents and others. Documentary and cartographic archives remain valuable sources for HER revision and enhancement. In Scotland where initial compilation in most cases took place later than in England, it was generally undertaken via a download of digital data from the National Monuments Record for Scotland.

Commonly used documentary sources#

It is not possible to include a complete list of the many publications that are specific to an area or research topic. However, the following list provides a summary of documentary sources commonly used in HERs:
  • Local monographs and journals
    • Antiquarian monographs specific to the county
    • Domesday book by county
    • English Place Name Society: place names of the county
    • Monographs specific to the county
    • Local archaeology society(ies) journal series
    • Local historical and local studies groups journal series
    • Leaflets and pamphlets relating to local sites and areas
    • RCHME county inventories
    • RCAHMS Inventories
    • RCAHMW county inventories
    • Victoria County History: volume specific to the county
    • Pevsner's The Buildings of England and Wales series: volume specific to the county
    • The Rutland Press Illustrated Guides Scotland (The Rutland Press is the publishing division of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland)
    • Statistical Accounts of Scotland
    • Ordnance Survey Name Books
  • Regional monographs and journals
    • BAR British Series: topical research related to the region
    • CBA Regional Group publications
    • Regional archaeology and history society journal series
  • National monographs
    • National thematic publications
    • Medieval Towns
    • Margaray's Roman Roads of Britain
    • Historic England/English Heritage/RCHME topical publications
    • English Heritage Batsford series
    • CBA research reports
    • Scottish Burgh Survey
    • Historic Scotland Batsford series
    • Cambrian Archaeological Association Monographs
  • National journals
    • BAR national series
    • Antiquity
    • Britannia
    • Archaeologia
    • Antiquaries Journal
    • Journal of Roman Studies
    • Archaeologia Cambrensis
    • Studia Celtica
    • Medieval Archaeology
    • Medieval Settlement Research Group
    • Post Medieval Archaeology
    • Vernacular Architecture Group
    • After the Battle
    • Landscape History
    • Association of Industrial Archaeologists Journal
    • Current Archaeology
    • International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
    • Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
    • Scottish Archaeological Journal
    • Discovery and Excavation in Scotland
  • Other
    • Hydrographic Office Wreck Index.
    • Lloyds List
    • Parliamentary Papers
    • State Papers
    • Shipwreck Index of the British Isles
    • Air Britain publications
  • Aerial Photographs
    • Vertical and Oblique coverage from 1945 onwards from the Cambridge University Collection of Air Photos (CUCAP)(http://www.geog.cam.ac.uk/cucap/)
    • Vertical coverage from c 1940 onwards: available from Historic England and the NMRs
    • Oblique coverage from 1930 to the present: available from Historic England, the NMRs/HER/others
  • Maps
    • OS 1st edition, early editions and large-scale town maps
    • Enclosure, Tithe and estate maps for the area
    • Historical maps for the area where available

D.3.3 Recording Maritime Heritage#


The United Kingdom has the third longest coastline in Europe and comprises some of the most varied historic landscapes in the British Isles. From the Prehistoric to the present our coastline and its waters have served as a source of food, transport, trade, industry and means of defence. Rising sea levels from the end of the last Ice Age, subsequent coastal erosion and high numbers of ship wrecks have led to a large proportion of our coastal heritage disappearing beneath the waves. In the past maritime and marine aspects of the historic environment have been generally poorly represented on HERs,which were focused on terrestrial features.

The coastal zone#

The coastal zone comprises three important sub-divisions: -
  • Zone 1 - Dry Land: This lies above high water mark. Archaeological remains typically include such coastal installations as docks, jetties, harbours, coastal settlements and defences.
  • Zone 2 – Intertidal: This lies between the high and low water marks. Remains that might be recorded here include stranded vessels, fish traps, piers and partly exposed ancient landscapes.
  • Zone 3 - Sub-tidal: This stretches from the low water mark to the boundary of territorial waters, currently set at 12 nautical miles. This is a vast area of almost completely unknown potential, principally consisting of submerged landscapes and shipwrecks.

Many HERs will have good coverage for Zones 1 and 2 within their existing data sets. Archaeological remains in these areas can be easily identified using traditional methods such as beach walking and map regression and can be investigated between the window of the tides using standard techniques including survey and excavation. However, given that local authorities have no jurisdiction beyond the mean Low Water Mark, very few HERs will have coverage for Zone 3. This was the situation for Teesside in the early 1990s. To redress the balance a project was instigated in 1994 to enhance the existing coastal dataset with particular regard to sub-tidal information.

Adding maritime data to an HER#

There are a number of key factors to consider when planning a maritime element to an HER.

  • Defining Boundaries – The sea is not divided into convenient administrative areas like the land and local authorities do not have powers below low water mark However, some HERs are developing maritime components and becoming involved in providing advice on marine archaeological features. Neighbouring Local Authority HERs should discuss how County/District boundaries will be extended in the form of arbitrary quasi-administrative areas. Planning powers in Scotland do not currently extend beyond the low watermark.
  • Data structure – Traditional HER data structures can be used to cover the majority of remains in Zones 1-2 adequately and drowned landscapes in Zone 3. However problems arise when attempting to enter shipwreck sites that require additional or extended glossary controlled fields to record new units of data not associated with terrestrial sites. In the Tees HER this was achieved by adding supplementary tables to create 'vessel' specific data fields. The supplemental data is split in to three broad categories: -
    1. Locational information - new fields include, Latitude, Longitude and Admiralty Chart Number.
    2. Voyage information – new fields include, 'Sailed from', 'Bound for', 'Cargo', 'Owner' and 'Master'.
    3. Construction information – new fields include, 'Construction method', 'Where built' and 'Tonnage'.
  • Data sources – To create a sub-tidal HER source material should be identified and assessed, after consultation of the maritime component of the NRHE for English HERs. As a baseline HERs should seek to consult: -
    • Hydrographic Office Wreck Index
    • Lloyds Shipping Registers
    • Parliamentary Returns
    • Lighthouse Returns
    • 19th and 20th century local newspapers
    • Previously published and archive material at local museums, archives and libraries
    • Wreck Diving guides
    • Larn and Larn, Shipwreck Index of the British Isles. (Larn and Larn 1995a, 1995b, 1997, 1998 and 2000).

The vast majority (95 per cent) of vessel data in the Tees HER was derived from these sources.

To enhance the initial dataset the HER may consider:

  • Contacting local sub-aqua clubs and the fishing community
  • Checking pilot and lifeboat records
  • Carrying out data collection in the field


Prior to the start of this project there were three recognised 'maritime' sites on the Tees HER: two prehistoric canoes from the Tees and a 19th century vessel stranded on a local beach. At the end of the project a total of 2,243 new records had been entered into the database for the short 30 kilometres stretch of Teesside coastline. Other English coastal HERs should also endeavour to capture such datasets and combine sub-tidal data into their systems to form a 'seamless' archaeological record.

In Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland gathers maritime information centrally and distributes it to the relevant HERs as part of the on-going data exchange programmes.

D.3.4 Compilation from digital sources#

The number of digital sources available to HERs is expanding rapidly. By using GIS digital sources data can be displayed against traditional HER information and the relevant data can be included without the whole dataset being recast. Digital sources vary enormously but can be divided into two main types

Heritage data sets#

In addition to statutory datasets (SMs and LBs) noted above, these can include the results of projects such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme or large scale survey projects for example funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, Historic England or Historic Environment Scotland. In the past individual HERs had little influence over the data structure of such digital sources, limiting their effective integration. Many HERs did not have the staff time to allow them to recast the data correctly, resulting in backlogs. This meant that the resources created by such projects were underused. This problem has been recognised and is now being addressed in England by greater consultation with the EH Data Standards Unit and HERs at the project planning stage and by the development of interoperability standards such as the FISH toolkit.

In Scotland in 2004 all Scottish SMRs, RCAHMS, Historic Scotland and the Scottish archaeological contracting units took a joint decision that reporting of archaeological events should conform to a standard form and procedure. The result is ASPIRE, an Archaeological Standard Protocol for the Integrated Reporting of Events. ASPIRE rigorously specifies data structure, data type and required fields for reporting new archaeological information to HERs and HES. This specification includes databases and GIS layers and encourages their use. In addition to its use for commercial projects, ASPIRE has been promoted and encouraged for non-commercial archaeological events such as academic and amateur surveys and excavations.

In addition HERs may wish to incorporate digital information from other HERs to provide a better context for the data they manage. Examples of this might include the incorporation of a city UAD into a county HER or a buffer zone of HER data from adjacent local authorities around a county or district HER boundary. Such information would be viewed but not curated by the receiving HER and would not affect the management responsibilities of the reciprocating organisations.

In Wales the vast majority of such datasets arise from Cadw and RCAHMW sponsored projects and in general have been better integrated into HERs from the outset. However, similar data exchange issues do exist here.

See also section C.8.1 on online sources.

Useful Web sites for heritage data sets
Archaeology Data Service, ArchSearch: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/
Great Britain Historical GIS Project: http://www.port.ac.uk/research/gbhgis/
MAGIC: http://www.magic.gov.uk/
For Scotland many historical maps are available online on the National Library of Scotland web site http://www.nls.uk/digitallibrary/map/index.html.
Roy's Military Survey of Scotland 1747-55 (surveyed) is available online on the SCRAN website subject to subscription http://www.scran.ac.uk/

Non-Heritage data sets#

Through a corporate GIS HERs may have access to a range of other digital datasets which can be used in conjunction with HER data without needing incorporation into the record (see also Section E). These could include information produced by national bodies such as the National Soil Survey and the British Geological Survey or information produced by local or regional government such as habitat maps, hedgerow surveys, aerial photographic surveys. It is worth speaking to colleagues in other departments to see what they hold. In many cases different services within one authority would benefit from access to the same digital data and the cost of purchasing data sets can be split.

Useful web sites for non-heritage data sets

D.3.5 Approaches to compilation from basic sources#

In most areas, there is an almost endless supply of potential documentary and digital sources. New journals and archives become available, new datasets are created or the breadth of the HER information base is extended to cover new topics. Many HERs have identified large quantities of sources that might be trawled, but it is difficult to estimate how any particular source will benefit the scope and information content of the HER without accessing the material.

A better approach might be to plan to maintain the HER incorporating information from field projects and to enhance the breadth and scope of the HER through enhancement projects. Both strategies will use documentary and digital sources.