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Archive pictures of West Norfolk from the 1920s, 30s and 50s



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As more and more housing is given the green light, our landscapes are forever changed in pursuit of progress.

But, as your local council gives the nod to yet development, there is a website which allows you to peek behind history's curtain and see just what your town or village looked like almost 100 years ago.

Britain From Above offers access to tens of thousands of images, providing a glimpse from the skies of moments in time captured forever on film.

The town centre Downham Market in 1928. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
The town centre Downham Market in 1928. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

From our industrial past to the hey-day of classic British seaside resorts, all all captured in remarkably detailed aerial images.

"It is an amazing collection," explains Neil Fraser from Britain From Above. "Some of the views are so familiar and picture areas which have barely changed over the years and in other cases where whole communities are unrecognisable."

The images were acquired, in 2007, by the key heritage organisations in England, Scotland and Wales - today known as Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland and the, slightly more of a mouthful, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

Tuesday Market Place in Lynn and Alexandra Dock, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Tuesday Market Place in Lynn and Alexandra Dock, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

The pictures were originally gathered by Aerofilms Ltd - a pioneering company born in 1919 and the earliest days of manned flight.

As the UK's first commercial aerial photography company, it took to the skies and cornered a niche market - one today cluttered by the rise in drone photography.

Founded by Francis Willis - who had served with the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War - he teamed up with Claude Graham White, who had started a flight school at Hendon Aerodrome and had the claim to fame of being the first man to make a night flight in 1910.

St Margarets Church and town hall in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
St Margarets Church and town hall in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

The pair were on to a winner as they captured a previously unseen view of the nation. Sometimes flying a little too close to the wind as they snapped buildings protected under the Official Secrets Act, such as Dover Castle. The War Office firing off a letter to Willis informing him that "prison cells were not pleasant".

Undeterred, they continued and by the time the Second World War came around, its staff were incorporated into the Air Ministry's team, become a "fully-fledged military intelligence unit".

When hostilities ended, it captured the rebuilding on a post-war Britain.

Bentick Dock and Fisher Fleet in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Bentick Dock and Fisher Fleet in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

Explains Neil Fraser from the website on which the images can be freely viewed: "In some of the earliest images you can see people actually looking up as they walk along lanes because, of course a plane in the sky would have been a relatively unusual sight for many decades of the 20th century.

"I just think the images chronicle so much of the country, whether its rural or urban.

"As soon as the site went live a few years ago we soon discovered a lot of interest came from model railway enthusiasts because the aerial imagery of the time gave a perhaps never-before-seen view of quite a lot of famous stations. Ground photography just didn't do that.

Beet factory in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Beet factory in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

"You'll find lots of people interested in it perhaps looking at old football grounds or other sport venues which have since changed dramatically or disappeared. Or they are simply looking for the factory their grandfather worked in.

"Of course lots of people today use it just to compare how much their local area has changed over the years.

"And those who register can not only zoom in on the images, gaining far greater detail, but can also put flags on the images to share memories of particular areas to share with other users."

The good news is there's more to come too. All three of the heritage partners who own the collection are keen to digitalise more of the images "but as yet there is no timescale for this work".

Alexandra Dock and Bentinck Dock in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Alexandra Dock and Bentinck Dock in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

To view the images of your local area visit the website. Register for free to zoom in on images.

Bridge Street in Downham Market, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Bridge Street in Downham Market, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Downham Market, 1928. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Downham Market, 1928. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Clackhouse School in Downham Market, 1928. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Clackhouse School in Downham Market, 1928. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Terrington St Clement glasshouses, 1930. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Terrington St Clement glasshouses, 1930. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Purfleet and the town of Lynn from the west, 1932. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Purfleet and the town of Lynn from the west, 1932. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Shell Mex and BP depot at Estuary Road in Lynn, 1932 (53974883)
Shell Mex and BP depot at Estuary Road in Lynn, 1932 (53974883)
The Green in Hunstanton 1920 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
The Green in Hunstanton 1920 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
King's Lynn town centre in 1950 (53974918)
King's Lynn town centre in 1950 (53974918)
Lynn railway station, 1950 (53974927)
Lynn railway station, 1950 (53974927)
The site of Searles Leisure Resort off South Beach Road and Stubborn Sand in Hunstanton, 1953. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
The site of Searles Leisure Resort off South Beach Road and Stubborn Sand in Hunstanton, 1953. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Pier and railway station at Hunstanton in 1953. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Pier and railway station at Hunstanton in 1953. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Church Road and St Edmunds Church in Hunstanton, 1920 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Church Road and St Edmunds Church in Hunstanton, 1920 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Church Road and St Edmunds Church in Hunstanton, 1920 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Church Road and St Edmunds Church in Hunstanton, 1920 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Lynn Street and Swaffham town centre in 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Lynn Street and Swaffham town centre in 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Market Place and St Peter and St Pauls Church in Swaffham, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Market Place and St Peter and St Pauls Church in Swaffham, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
London Road, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
London Road, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Tuesday Market Place and St Nicholas Chapel in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Tuesday Market Place and St Nicholas Chapel in Lynn, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
West Norfolk Farmers manure works in Lynn from the south-east, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
West Norfolk Farmers manure works in Lynn from the south-east, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Lynn from the west, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND
Lynn from the west, 1928 Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND


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