Wales

University of Cambridge release trove of aerial photos of Wales

Cardiff Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption The expanse of Cardiff's industry is illustrated clearly in this photograph taken in 1948

A series of aerial photographs which form part of a collection labelled the "historical Google Earth" show the changing face of Wales.

The images, some dating back to 1945, have been made available online by the University of Cambridge.

RAF pilots were asked to capture the bomb-scarred post-war period to the emergence of motorways and new cities.

Prof Martin Millett said the images "let you travel back in time to a Britain which no longer exists".

Swansea Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption Swansea, which was heavily targeted by the German air force during the war, in 1949
Llanelli Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption Llanelli was an industrial heartland in 1948

The Cambridge archaeologist added: "Anyone can go to Google Earth and look at modern satellite imagery - but this is an historical Google Earth.

Instructed by archaeologist JK St Joseph, the university borrowed RAF planes and pilots to take photographs until 1965, when it bought its own Cessna Skymaster.

The plane, based at Cambridge Airport, travelled the length and breadth of Britain to capture high-resolution archaeological detail from the air.

Dolgarrog Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption The Conwy River takes centre stage in this 1948 photograph of Dolgarrog in Denbighshire
Caerphilly Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption Caerphilly Castle sits proud surrounded by a growing urban landscape in 1948

The first 1,500 photographs from an archive numbering almost 500,000 are now available on the university's Digital Library website.

Prof Millett said it had "cherry picked" some of the best and most beautiful photographs, including some very early colour photography.

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Oxford academic Dr Robert Bewley, a world authority on aerial archaeology, described the collection as "internationally important".

He said St Joseph analysed RAF reconnaissance photos during the war and came to realise there was a "huge opportunity" to use similar photos in archaeology and geology.

"He chose former RAF bomber pilot Flt Lt Derek Riley - who had been an archaeologist before the war - to take him on his first trip," he said.

"In those days you could fly where you wanted with few restrictions and that's exactly what they did."

Caer Gai Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption A Roman fort at Caer Gai, Gwynedd, was captured in this 1948 photograph
Meifod Image copyright University of Cambridge

The Department of Geography and Cambridge University Library are exploring potential plans to digitise the entire aerial photography archive.

Arenigs Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption The Arenig Fawr mountain in Gwynedd, in 1948
Pembroke Image copyright University of Cambridge
Image caption The town of Pembroke in 1948

Photos from the University of Cambridge.

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