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Aerial Photographs

Aerial photographs provide a different view of the changing Oxfordshire landscape.

Used alongside maps, historic aerial photographs can help identify physical features, indicate land use and provide evidence of change.

Collections

Oxfordshire History Centre holds several collections of historic aerial photographs.

  • They include a mixture of vertical (straight down) and oblique (at an angle) views, at a variety of scales, of selected urban and rural settlements and features around Oxfordshire.
  • Note that the asterisked * collections below only offer selective and not complete countywide coverage.
Photoair aerial view of an Oxfordshire Health Authority site, 1995

Aerofilms

  • 1920s-1980s
  • Urban and rural settlements*
  • Black/white; some 1970s-80s colour
  • Large scale (variable)
  • Oblique view
Headington Girls School, Headington, Oxford, 1925-40, oblique aerial view

RAF

  • 1947
  • Countywide
  • Black/white
  • 1:10,560 scale
  • Vertical view

Kingston Blount, Oxfordshire, 1947, vertical aerial view

Fairey

  • 1961
  • Much of pre-1974 county, but excluding Vale of White Horse, and southern parts of South Oxfordshire *
  • Black/white
  • Large scale (variable)
Market Square, Bicester, Oxfordshire, 1961, aerial view

Dept of the Environment

  • 1950s—1960s
  • Urban and rural settlements*
  • Black/white
  • 1:10,000 or 1:20,000 scale
  • Vertical view
Unknown village, Oxfordshire, 1950s - 1960s, vertical aerial view

Ordnance Survey

  • Chiefly 1970s
  • Urban and rural settlements*
  • Black/white
  • 1:7,700 scale
  • Vertical view
unknown village, Oxfordshire, 1970s, 1:7,700 scale, vertical view

Astral

  • 1981
  • Countywide
  • Colour
  • 1:10,000 scale
  • Vertical view
Astral aerial view of Faringdon, 1981

Geonex

  • 1991
  • Countywide
  • Colour
  • 1:10,000 scale
  • Vertical view
Sample colour aerial view, by Geonex, 1991

PhotoAir

  • 1989-1996
  • 2,400 images of landscapes and public or commercial building projects *
  • Colour
  • Large scale (variable)
  • Vertical and oblique view
Photoair aerial view of unidentified hospital site

Geoperspectives / InfoTerra

  • 1999, 2005 and 2009
  • Countywide
  • Colour
  • 1:1,250 optimum viewing scale
  • Accessible via PlanWeb digital mapping at Oxfordshire History Centre
  • Aerial images are presented with the modern map features overlaid
  • Searchable by place, street, building or postcode
Geoperspectives aerial view of Wallingford, 2005

Searching and access

For some aerial photographs (usually urban area and rural settlements) we have provided easy-to-use browser files with working copies of the images:

  • Browser files are available for use in the Searchroom at Oxfordshire History Centre.
  • Browser files are arranged according to Ordnance Survey (OS) grid reference; there is also a card index of Oxfordshire place-names covered by the photographs, which refers you to the relevant OS grid number.

Copying

There may be restrictions on the copying of some photographs, according to their copyright status. See our charges page for current copy costs.

  • Self-service low-resolution A4 printouts may be made of the Geoperspectives / Infoterra surveys, using our PlanWeb digital mapping package.
  • Self-service low-resolution A4 photocopies may be made from the copy photographs in the browser files, including all Aerofilms images.
  • Digital prints - where photographs are either out of copyright (RAF 1947), or Oxfordshire County Council holds the copyright (Fairey 1961, Astral 1981, Geonex 1991), you can order high resolution digital prints or electronic files for non-commercial use or private study, but no further reproduction is allowed without our permission. In all other cases we will refer you to the relevant copyright holder.

Where else can I go?

Collections of Oxfordshire historic aerial photographs held by other institutions:

  • English Heritage Archive. For an even wider choice of aerial surveys we recommend you try the English Heritage Archive at Swindon.
  • Britain from Above. English Heritage also holds the complete Aerofilms collection of aerial photographic negatives, dating from 1919 to 1953, and is gradually publishing a selection online through their Britain from Above project, which already includes hundreds of Oxfordshire images which can be freely viewed and downloaded.