When cabbages flourished in the Royal Crescent

English Heritage is publishing a book of aerial photographs of Britain in the 20th century which shows the changing social, industrial and architectural face of this nation over the years.

The collection of photos – dating as far back as 1919 – including an aerial shot over Bath – taken in 1949 – which shows the allotments dug into the grassland  in front of the Royal Crescent as part of the war effort.

Bath from the air 1949. © English Heritage
Bath from the air 1949. Click on image to enlarge.
© English Heritage

Look carefully and you can see the roofless Assembly Rooms – gutted by incendiaries during the Bath Blitz of April, 1942 – to one side of the Circus.

Behind the Royal Crescent – the ruins of  St Andrews Church – another victim of wartime bombing and finally completely demolished in 1960.

The image is contained in a book which also tells the story of the men and women behind Aerofilms, the first company to pioneer aerial photography in the UK.

Aerofilms was founded by WW1 Royal Navy aircraft navigator and photographer Francis Lewis Wills and Claude Grahame-White – an aviation celebrity who made his first solo flight without a single lesson, was the first Briton to receive a pilot’s licence and made the world’s first ever night flight.

The success of Aerofilms led to Churchill personally requesting the company to form a new intelligence unit briefed to carry out aerial surveillance across enemy lines during WW2.

The Aerofilms Collection includes 1.26 million negatives and more than 2000 photograph albums. Dating from 1919 to 2006. It includes the largest and most significant number of air photographs of Britain taken before 1939.

The collection was acquired by a partnership of English Heritage, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) in 2007.

The collection is also available to view online at http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/

Aerofilms: A History of Britain From Above is published by English Heritage at £25.