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Historic Environment Projects and Research

Studies undertaken with our partner organisations to provide a better understanding of the character of our District

We advise on and support any historic environment research that informs our work (or that of our partners) and provides an evidence base for decision-making on development and land-use. 

We have collaborated on four important projects, which we have explained below.

Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC)

Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) is a method of analysing and recording historic elements that make up the landscape today, using historic and modern mapping, aerial photographs and documents.

HLC is used in landscape management and conservation, as well as in community and strategic planning. It can also contribute to local history research and countryside interpretation. For more information on national HLC projects, visit Historic England's pages on Understanding Historic Places.

This project took place between 2004 and 2007, and involved mapping current and past land-use across West Berkshire, as well as the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It was carried out by the Archaeology team in partnership with English Heritage (now known as Historic England), the North Wessex Downs AONB Office, Hampshire County Council, Wiltshire County Council, Swindon Borough Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

The HLC database holds multiple attributes for each parcel of land, examples of which are illustrated in the following maps:

The project also allowed us to assess the historic importance of certain HLC types, along with their susceptibility to change. We measured 'Significance' and 'Fragility' in these cases and combined them to provide an indication of the landscape's sensitivity. This approach was known as the Icon for pdf HLC Sensitivity Assessment Methodology [32KB] ; an Icon for pdf HLC Sensitivity Map [3MB] is also available. 

You can view the HLC project on our online map. Click on each coloured area to bring up a pop-up box with further information about current and previous land-use types.

To obtain full HLC datasets, please contact the West Berkshire Historic Environment Record.


Historic Environment Character Zoning (HECZ)

Building on the HLC work, the Historic Environment Character Zoning (HECZ) Project set out to study and map West Berkshire in order to provide a comprehensive account of the historic environment of the District, so it can be better understood and conserved. 

West Berkshire was divided into twenty Historic Environment Character Areas (HECAs) which were then divided into a further ninety-one Historic Environment Character Zones (HECZs), all of which have their own linked reports describing their key characteristics.

You can see examples of HECA and HECZ reports below:

Each Character Area and Zone also has its own Historic Environment Action Plan. The action plans are summaries of the Character Areas' and Zones' key historic environment characteristics and set out the significance, condition and changes affecting specific areas or landscapes while identifying proactive actions to conserve and enhance those characteristics. This allows us to identify gaps in our knowledge.

This research fed into the District-wide Icon for pdf West Berkshire Historic Environment Action Plan (HEAP) [4MB] , which was published in 2011 by the West Berkshire Heritage Forum.

You can view the HECAs and the HECZs on our online map. Click on each coloured area to bring up a pop-up box with further information. Click the relevant 'More Info' links to access the reports for each Character Area and Zone.


The Newbury Historic Character Study

Research carried out by Oxford Archaeology in 2006 gathered information about the historic character of Newbury, showing how development through the ages has given the town its unique buildings and features. This study was commissioned in order to ensure the conservation of the town's character during a period of significant development pressure. The report was designed to not only act as an introduction and source of information on the town's architecture, development and history, but also to help local planners and developers plan Newbury's future without risking damage to its character and heritage. 

The full report can be downloaded in four parts:

You can also download our colourful popular summary: Icon for pdf Historic Newbury, Fit for the Future [7MB] .


Archaeological Potential Modelling in the Kennet Valley

The Tracing Their Steps Project was a collaboration between the University of Reading, Wessex Archaeology, West Berkshire Council's Archaeology team and Historic England. It produced a model to predict the potential locations of Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology in the Middle Kennet Valley.

The model was tested with field investigations and dating at Thatcham Reedbeds (building on John Wymer's work there in the 1960s) and Victoria Park, Newbury, alongside case studies at Ufton Bridge, also known as Ufton Green, (building on the University of Reading's work there since 2002) and geoarchaeological investigations at Wawcott (building on Roy Froom's work there since the 1950s).

The project ran between 2013 and 2015, and was published in 2019. The final report is available on Historic England's website. Additional information and good practice advice is available in the Icon for pdf 'Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology and Environment in West Berkshire: A Best Practice Guide for Developers and Extractors' leaflet [5MB] .

To obtain full datasets, please contact the West Berkshire Historic Environment Record.

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