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A bird's eye view of how recognisable Welsh landmarks looked in the past; ONLINE ARCHIVE OF AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS LAUNCHED.

Byline: GRAHAM HENRY

THEY are a stunning snapshot of Wales from above - chronicling how some of the country's most recognisable landmarks looked in a bygone era.

Now stunning historic images of Wales from above, dating from nearly a century ago, have become publicly available for free, for the first time.

Aerial photographs of Wales from the Aerofilms collection are to go online for the first time - as part of a larger offering of 15,000 images from across the UK.

The images - held by the investigation body and national archive for the historic environment of Wales, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales - span the reconstruction following both World Wars, the 1930s Depression, sub-urbanisation and striking images of national events and landmarks from all areas of Wales.

The Britain From Above collection launches officially today on the www.britainfromabove.

org.uk website, with many images thought to be among the earliest and most significant collections of aerial photography the UK has.

It is the product of a collaborative effort between English Heritage and the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales.

The photographs featured on the website date from 1919 to 1953, and have gone through a painstaking process of conservation and cataloguing. Due to their age and fragility, many of the earliest plate glass negatives were close to being lost forever.

In total, the Aerofilms Collection, which was acquired for the nation in 2007, features more than a million aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 2006, although the website will largely feature shots up to 1953.

Welsh highlights of the collection include a shot of the Dowlais Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil in 1929, a year before they were demolished and a shot of Cardiff Docks - as they once were - in 1925.

A shot of a packed Aberystwyth North Beach on a hot Sunday in post-war Wales on July 1947, also featured, as well as the historic Cardiff Arms Park in 1932 and the harrowing scene of a deserted Gresford Colliery, near Wrexham, in October 1934 - one month after one of the nation's worst mining disasters that killed 266 men.

Dr Peter Wakelin, secretary of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, said: "People are always fascinated by views of familiar places from above, and in these you have the added values of seeing those places through time too.

"We know people are hugely engaged by these kinds of images, and I'm sure they will soon be among the most popular in our collections."

Other photos from across the UK included the first boxing match at Wembley Stadium in 1924, the Thames Flood of 1947 in which more than 100,000 properties were affected and seaside hotspot Blackpool in 1920.

The Britain from Above website will also invite users to identity locations of a number of "mystery" images that have left the experts stumped.

By the end of the project in 2014, 95,000 images taken between 1919 and 1953 will be available online, showing the changing face of modern Britain.

Anna Eavis, head of archive at English Heritage, said: "The Aerofilms Collection embodies all that is exciting about aerial photography.

"What is equally remarkable is the skill of the expert staff in England, Scotland and Wales who have saved and conserved these vulnerable negatives and prints and converted them into the high resolution images you see on screen today.

"We are pleased that the items have been given safe, long-term homes, and that each of the organisations involved has been enriched immensely by their addition."

CLICK ON See more aerial pictures from the Aerofilms collection in our online gallery at WalesOnline.co.uk /multimedia WELSH SHOTS TO GO ONLINE * Caerphilly Castle in 1967. * Cardiff Docks in 1925. * Swansea in 1935 - showing the recently completed Guildhall Building (1930-4) incorporating Brangwyn Hall.

Dowlais Ironworks, Merthyr Tydfil, in 1929. A year before production moved to East Moors Works, Cardiff, and the site was demolished. * St David's Cathedral in 1929.

Aberystwyth North Beach on a hot Sunday in July 1947.

View of Tenby Harbour, Castle Hill and St Catherine's Rocks, in 1929. * Gresford Colliery in October 1934, one month after one of the worst mining disasters in the country.

View of Rhyl showing the new pavilion and bandstand complex, in 1920.

View of the iconic Menai suspension bridge, Bangor, 1920.

Cardiff Arms Park in 1932 with Temperance Town in the foreground before its demolition by the Cardiff Corporation in 1937.

CAPTION(S):

* The Aerofilms collection presents a unique view of the changing face of Britain throughout the 20th century. Pictured from left: Tenby Harbour, Castle Hill and St Catherine's Rocks in 1929; Cardiff Arms Park in 1932; Menai Bridge, Bangor in 1920; and Swansea in 1935 Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales [umlaut] * This picture of Aberystwyth North Beach taken in 1947 is part of the Aerofilms aerial photographic archive Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales [umlaut]
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 25, 2012
Words:835
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