The Britain from Above website features images from the Aerofilms collection, a unique aerial photographic archive of international importance. The collection includes 1.26 million negatives and more than 2000 photograph albums. Dating from 1919 to 2006, the total collection presents an unparalleled picture of the changing face of Britain in the 20th century. It includes the largest and most significant number of air photographs of Britain taken before 1939. The collection is varied and includes urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial scenes, providing important evidence for understanding and managing the built and natural environments. The collection was created by Aerofilms Ltd, a pioneering air survey company set up in 1919 by First World War veterans Francis Lewis Wills and Claude Grahame-White. In addition to Aerofilms’ own imagery, the firm expanded its holdings with the purchase of two smaller collections – AeroPictorial (1934-1960) and Airviews (1947-1991). This very large collection of historical air photographs was bought by Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), English Heritage (EH), and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) from Blom ASA in 2007.
Britain from Above was a four year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the Aerofilms collection, those dating from 1919 to 1953. Once conserved, the images were scanned into digital format and made available on this website for the public to see. This project was made possible due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from The Foyle Foundation and other donors. There are now over 95,000 images on the website. The website provides the opportunity to share and record your memories and knowledge about the places shown in the collection.