Discovering Wiltshire's Historic Environment

on Tuesday, 31 January 2017. Posted in Archaeology

Are you interested in the rich and diverse landscapes of Wiltshire but wondered what influences and activities have shaped them? Have you ever tried to identify traces of the historic in the present day? These questions and so much more can be answered by the use of the Wiltshire and Swindon Historic Landscape Characterisation Project dataset!


Old Sarum and fieldscapes beyond
River Avon at Stratford Subcastle
Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) is a technique to explore the time depth of the present day landscape and to identify how it has evolved over time. What’s really great is that everywhere has character that can be perceived and so every part of the county has HLC data to investigate whether rural or urban, and it is intended to be descriptive not prescriptive! In that way it can help individuals, groups and communities to identify what is characteristic and of interest to them and to enrich what they may know about the places they live, visit and work in.

The historic core of Castle Combe village

It could be useful for those:

• Producing neighbourhood plans or design statements

• Investigating their local parish, town or village

• Involved with planning or strategic decision making • Undertaking academic research for school, college or university

The project started in 2012 and ran until the end of 2016 and was sponsored by Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council and Historic England. The actual data itself and was created by studying historic and modern maps, aerial photographs and archaeological data to build a complete record for Wiltshire and Swindon. But what exactly will be made available to you?

• The complete dataset of c.14,500 HLC records, covering every part of the county giving details about the present and past character and attributes of the landscape for each land parcel

• Maps of historic landscape character built from the records so patterns and distributions across parishes, districts and the whole county can be seen

• A comprehensive and easy to read report explaining how the project was carried out, the sources used and descriptions of the different landscape types out there

• Case studies showing how you can use HLC data to investigate historic towns, historic farms and places like the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site

The results will be made available to everyone to download and use through our project website which is undergoing a final re-vamp so please check back at the start of February! The text reports and electronic mapping files that will be available could form the backdrop for looking at other aspects of life in Wiltshire whether that be wildlife, geology, archaeology or agriculture!

It is also worth noting that we also intend to make the HLC project data available on the newly released Know Your Place West of England Project and through the Archaeology Data Service – so it really will be easy to get hold of and use as you might wish.

Swindon Railway Village
Buildings at STEAM in Swindon

I hope that this brief article has whetted your appetite for exploring the historic dimension of Wiltshire’s landscape and that you check out our website in the near future. But if you have any questions then please do email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you’re sure to get the assistance you need.

Tom Sunley

Wiltshire and Swindon Historic Environment Record Manager 


Accredited Archive Service