The first systematic coverage of Huntingdonshire was made by the RAF in 1945-46; the next was made by B.K.S Surveys Ltd in 1971 on behalf of the then county of Huntingdon and Peterborough, although small areas had been photographed from time to time during the intervening years, mainly by the RAF.
Pre-1939 aerial photographs are much rarer, but some were made into postcards which occasionally survive RAF surveys: The Archives have a set of prints of the 1945-46 survey, which is the most popular among researchers as it shows the county before the large scale changes in agriculture, urbanization and communications which have taken place since the war.
They also hold prints of various 1957-58 surveys made by the RAF of specific parts of the county including St lves, Yaxley, Fletton, the A1 improvement work at Norman Cross, and the Peterborough City area. All of these photographs are vertical. For copyright enquires regarding RAF photographs you need to contact English Heritage: English Heritage Archive, The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH.
From the 1960s onwards local authorities commissioned aerial photographs from private companies, and the Archives hold prints from some of these surveys, including: Meridian Airmaps Ltd 1965, of the Nene Valley area; Aerofilms Ltd 1965 of Brampton, West Perry and Huntingdon railway station; Meridian 1965 and1969 of Peterborough; Hunting Surveys Ltd of Southern Huntingdonshire; and B.K.S Surveys Ltd of the county, 1971.
As with the RAF surveys the Archives can supply photocopies for private research only, not for publication.
For more information on aerial photographs available in the Archives you will need to consult catalogue number 34: Aerial Photographs, in the searchroom.
Cambridgeshire Archives holds a number of series of aerial photographs for Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. The main series of surveys are:
- 1945, 1947, and 1947 Floods [RAF]
- 1949 [Fairey]
- 1952, 1954 and 1956 [RAF]
- 1962 [B.K.S.]
- 1969 [Meridian]
- 1987 [CUCAP]
- 1997 [GeoInformation Group]
In most cases the photographs are taken vertically, but some are oblique shots. There is a large collection of oblique photographs taken by Aerofilms between 1920 and 1971 [539/] and there are others among the Cambridgeshire County Council’s collections, c. 1920-1965, which can be identified by searching Cambridgeshire Archives’s CALM catalogue by place.
While it is sometimes possible for Archives staff to identify whether an individual photograph may include major details of interest, they recommend that where possible researchers should view the images personally to ensure the correct area is shown.
Other places to try
The Ordnance Survey holds a large archive of aerial photographs from the early 1970s onwards which are now with English Heritage: English Heritage Archive, The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH telephone: 01793 414600
Cambridge University has also taken a large number of aerial photographs of this part of England, contact CUCAP (Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photography) Library, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN Telephone 01223 333 387. Both of these bodies supply prints.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s Historic Environment Record (HER) has oblique aerial photographs showing archaeological sites: contact Cambridgeshire Archaeology, Box CC 1008, Castle Court, Cambridge CB3 OAP.
Further information about aerial photographs may be found in NAPLIB’s Directory of Aerial Photographic Collections in the UK (1993).