"We cannot care for the historic environment, or direct resources effectively, unless we understand what it is, its condition and how it is changing. We need continuous, thoughtful and well-targeted research to enable us to identify significance and potential." (Power of Place, The future of the historic environment, DCMS and Historic England, 2000).
What is the Historic Environment Record?
Historic Environment Records (HER) began life in response to the loss of the archaeological resource through urban and rural development. From their original remit of recording archaeological sites, they have been developed to encompass a wide range of information about the historic environment. Today they provide a unique information resource, forming the basis for sustainable conservation and playing an important role in informing public understanding and enjoyment of the local historic environment. The historic environment includes all aspects of our surroundings that have been built, formed or influenced by human activities from earliest to most recent times. The aim of the HER is to gather the known information about the historic environment and present its records, within national and international standards, in a format accessible to its users in order to:
- help advance research and understanding of the historic environment of Bath and North East Somerset;
- help care for the Bath and North East Somerset historic environment through conservation and environmental enhancement programmes and projects;
- inform policies and decision-making in land-use planning, development control, statutory undertakings, agri-environment and forestry schemes;
- raise public awareness of Bath and North East Somerset’s historic environment by contributing to educational programmes and projects to encourage public and community participation in the historic environment.
In 2002, the Sites & Monuments Record (as it was at the time) was formally adopted by the council as the statutory register for Sites of Archaeological Interest within the authority. It has since expanded beyond its original remit to include information relating to historic buildings, landscape character, ancient woodland, and other elements of the Historic Environment. It is used by the Bath and North East Somerset Planning & Conservation Team mainly for managing and conserving the Historic Environment as part of the planning process, but is also accessed by a variety of different users:
- Other Bath and North East Somerset Council departments
- Archaeological contractors and consultants
- Planning consultants
- Academic researchers and students
- Utilities Companies planning groundworks
- National bodies such as Historic England, Natural England, and the Forestry Commission
- Local archaeological groups
- Members of the public
The B&NES HER is part of a national network of similar records managed by local authorities. For information on neighbouring areas contact:
- South Gloucestershire County Council archaeology service;
- Wiltshire County Council archaeology service;
- Bristol City Council archaeology service;
- North Somerset Council archaeology service;
- Somerset County Council heritage and libraries service.
Members of the public can now consult the Bath & North East Somerset HER’s monument records online through the Heritage Gateway website, in partnership with Historic England and ExeGesIS SDM Ltd. This allows you to search a number of national databases such as the Heritage List for England, Pastscape, and Images of England as well as local authority records through a single web portal. However it is important to note that Heritage Gateway only supports monument data at this time; as such a search using Heritage Gateway alone is not considered sufficient for planning purposes and commercial users of the HER will be required to contact the HER Officer directly.
What does the HER contain?
The HER is maintained within the Planning & Conservation Team, part of Planning Services. It is managed by the Archaeological Officer and the HER Officer.
The Bath and North East Somerset Historic Environment Record consists of two electronic databases, the Historic Buildings, Sites and Monuments Record [HBSMR] and the Bath City Urban Archaeological Database [UAD], both of which are linked to a computer mapping system known as a GIS (Geographical Information System) which holds mapped information about sites and finds. The archive also contains information about specific areas of research in B&NES, including the following:
- historic landscape surveys for Englishcombe and the manor of Widcombe
- historic farm surveys for Priston, Stanton Prior and Stowey Knighton
- historic field survey for Publow
- Historic Landscape Characterisation for the former County of Avon
Somerset Coal Canal
Bath City Urban Characterisation
Extensive Urban Surveys for Camerton, Chew Magna, Keynsham, and Norton-Radstock (see Documents section on this page)
The HER holds paper and electronic copies of approximately 1000 archaeological excavation and survey reports covering the years 1990 to the present day, a collection of books and journals relating to the history and archaeology of the area, copies of historic maps, and a collection of oblique and vertical aerial photographs dating from 1946 to the present day.
The Bath and North East Somerset HER welcomes submissions from members of the public. If you have additional material relating to a monument recorded on the HER, or would like to nominate a new site for inclusion in the database, please contact the HER Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will discuss our requirements with you.
How can I access HER records?
The Bath & North East Somerset HER is based within Planning Services and is available for consultation by arrangement only. Requests to consult the HER should be made to the HER Officer, who can conduct a search of the HER on your behalf; alternatively, it may be possible for researchers to make an appointment to view the records directly. Access to the HER records is provided free of charge for members of the public, academic users and community groups. Commercial users of the HER will be charged for access to the information.
Prospective HER users should read the Guidance for Users (see listed in the Documents section on this page) then send in details of their request to the HER Officer at the address given below.
To assist us in providing the best level of information could you please make sure that your enquiry is clear and concise. There are a number of different ways to search the SMR including: Where; What; and When.
You can now access Historic Landscape Characterisation data for the whole of the former County of Avon through the website of the Archaeology Data Service, based in York University.
- send a paper map of the area you are interested with sufficient information for us to locate it on our GIS.
- define the centre of an area using a National Grid Reference and give a radius (in metres)
- tell us the name of a parish or settlement within B&NES you are interested in
- if you are interested in a specific historic building you can send us the street address
- If you are interested in specific types of archaeological sites such as castles or Roman villas we can search the HER just for these types. To make it easier for us you can refer to the Thesauri of Monuments and Finds used by our HER.
- If you are interested in specific periods of history and prehistory such as Mesolithic or Roman or in specific dates e.g. 1066-1200 you can use the table of dates developed by the National Monument Record.
When can I expect a response?
Please allow 20 working days for your information to reach you. For small enquiries we will try to send the information to you much sooner but large and complex enquiries may take the full 20 days. Information will normally be supplied electronically, however hard copies can be arranged for an additional fee to cover printing and postage costs.