See historic images of Sunderland and Durham from the air

The Wearmouth Colliery and Lambton and Hetton Staiths, Sunderland,

The Wearmouth Colliery and Lambton and Hetton Staiths, Sunderland,

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RARE aerial shots of Wearside have gone on show to the public for the first time.

The photographs, part of the Aerofims Collection, have been conserved, digitised and are now available online.

The Wearmouth Colliery, Sunderland, 1928

The Wearmouth Colliery, Sunderland, 1928

They are among more than 15,000 images from one of the earliest and most significant collections of aerial photography of the UK and have been made freely accessible online to the public for the first time.

It includes images of Wearmouth Colliery and former shipbuilding sites, as well as Durham Cathedral.

Britain from Above, www.britainfromabove.org.uk, was launched this week by English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales.

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

William Pickersgill and Sons Ltd shipbuilding yards, Southwick, 1921

William Pickersgill and Sons Ltd shipbuilding yards, Southwick, 1921

“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.”

Ms Eavis said the collection includes some of the oldest and most valuable images of the Aerofilms Collection, a unique and important archive of more than one million aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 2006.

Its chronological and geographical coverage documents the face of Britain during a period of “intense and unparalleled change”.

The photographs featuring on the website date from 1919 to 1953 and have gone through a painstaking process of conservation and cataloguing.

The Cathedral Church of Christ and St Mary the Virgin and the castle, Durham, 1926

The Cathedral Church of Christ and St Mary the Virgin and the castle, Durham, 1926

Due to their age and fragility, many of the earliest plate glass negatives were close to being lost forever.

“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,” said Ms Eavis.

To view the pictures, visit www.britainfromabove.org.uk.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho

Viewing history

THE Aerofilms Collection was acquired for the nation in 2007 when the company was facing financial difficulties.

With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Foyle Foundation, English Heritage and the Royal Commissions embarked on a programme to conserve and digitise the collection.

The Britain from Above website features a high degree of interactivity and is designed to encourage public participation. Users can download images, customise their own themed photo galleries, share personal memories, and add information.

They are also invited to identity the 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, showing the changing face of Britain.