HISTORIC England has launched its new Aerial Photography Explorer – which for the first time allows users to search and explore an online map showing aerial photographs of England over the past 100 years.

Aerial imagery provides a fascinating insight into the development and expansion of the nation’s urban centres and changes to the rural landscape. It can also reveal striking discoveries – such as ‘cropmarks’ showing hidden, archaeology beneath the surface.

New imagery from the West Midlands available online includes an image of Powick Bridge and Powick Mills in Worcester.

The original bridge was constructed before 1447 by monks from Malvern Priory.

Two centuries later, it was the scene of the Battle of Powick Bridge during the first English Civil War. The two arches over the brook were broken down in 1651 as part of Worcester’s defences during the Battle of Worcester and rebuilt during the 17th century.

Other images from the region include a range of post-war views of Coventry taken in the 1940s showing the effects of the Blitz and are a timely reminder that bomb damage was a feature of many British towns and cities long after the Second World War had ended.

There is also an image of Ironbridge in Shropshire, showing the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site in 1934.

The mineral-rich gorge was the site of technological innovation including smelting iron with coke. The famous bridge was the first in the world to be made out of cast iron and strong enough to carry industrial goods being produced in the area.

More than 400,000 images from 1919 to the present day have been added to the tool, covering nearly 30 per cent (c.15,000 square miles) of England, allowing people immediate digital access to Historic England’s nationally important collection of aerial photographs.

Around 300,000 of these are the work of Historic England’s Aerial Investigation and Mapping team. Established in 1967, the team takes photographs of England from the air to discover new archaeological sites, create archaeological maps and monitor the condition of historic sites across the country.

The remaining 100,000 images come from the Historic England Archive aerial photography collection, which numbers over two million images in total, and includes important historic photography, including interwar and post-war images from Aerofilms Ltd and The Royal Air Force.

By opening up these images to the public through this accessible online tool, Historic England hopes that people will use it to research their local areas, offering an insight into a century of changes and development.

Nigel Huddleston MP, Minister for Heritage, said: “What better way to discover our shared history than through this fascinating new online tool which offers a bird’s eye view of our past. I can’t wait to discover more about my local area and encourage everyone to explore the thousands of English sites from the last century.”

To see the images of England from the air, click here