The Work of Harold Wingham, Pioneer Air Photographer, Part II: Buildings

This story is one of three celebrating the outstanding aerial photography of the late Harold Wingham. The collection is cared for by the Historic England Archive.

By Historic England

This story is the result of a co-creation project between former friends and associates of Harold Wingham and the Historic England Archive.

Portrait of Harold Wingham standing beside a fixed wing aircraft (circa 1950s) by Unknown photographerHistoric England

Harold Wingham, aerial photographer

Harold Wingham took up aerial photography after he left the Royal Air Force in 1947. Much of his work was self-funded. The quality of his results attracted the attention of the Paul Popper Ltd Photographic Agency and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

Taken between 1951 and 1963, Harold’s photographs record the ancient and modern, from Neolithic long barrows to factory complexes, castles and cathedrals to docks and river crossings.

Described as 'one of the unsung heroes' of aerial photography, Harold Wingham created photographs of outstanding quality and interest.

Nearly 2,000 of Harold's aerial photographs are now cared for by the Historic England Archive.

Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire (1951-05-21) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Photographing buildings from the air

As well as photographing archaeological features in the landscape, Harold Wingham recorded historic, and sometimes more recent, buildings.

Favourite subjects included well-known abbeys and cathedrals, parish churches, castles and country houses.

Church of St Sampson, Bath Road, Cricklade, Wiltshire (1952-04-19) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

This selection of images from the Historic England Archive's Harold Wingham Collection illustrate Harold's exceptional skill at taking photographs of buildings, using a hand-held camera from a fixed-wing light aircraft, often flying at low altitude.

Malmesbury Abbey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (1952-05-23) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Malmesbury Abbey and St Paul’s Church, Wiltshire

The abbey stood at the north end of a hill-town, with a sharp drop beyond to the valley below. Only the 12th-century nave of the abbey church survived the Dissolution. The tower of the otherwise lost parish church of St Paul is to be seen in the foreground.

23 May 1952

Cathedral Church of Christ and St Mary, Worcester, Worcestershire (1951-09-11) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Worcester Cathedral, Worcestershire

The view shows the cathedral before the creation of the 1960s Lychgate Centre, which remodelled the area immediately to the east and north-east. In one writer’s words ‘it remains incomprehensible that this act of self-mutilation should have been permitted’. 

11 September 1951

Abbey Church of St Mary, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire (1951-05-03) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire

Numerous aerial photographs of the abbey church appeared after the devastating floods of 2007. Here we see it in more normal times. After the dissolution of the abbey in 1540, the parishioners bought the church so that it could continue as their parish church.  

3 May 1951

Cathedral Church of St Peter, Exeter, Devon (1959-07-22) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Exeter Cathedral and St Mary Major Church, Devon

This view shows the cathedral with St Mary Major, a Victorian church demolished in 1971. It stood on the site of the Anglo-Saxon minster church. The cathedral was built mainly in the 13th and 14th centuries, but the two towers date from the 12th century. 

22 July 1959

Church of All Saints, Down Ampney, Gloucestershire (1952-04-19) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Church of All Saints and Down Ampney House, Gloucestershire

This is a characteristic example of a rural church immediately adjacent to the manor. Down Ampney House is a late 15th structure, and was approached by a gatehouse of 1537, destroyed by fire in 1963. The oldest parts of the church date to the 13th century.        

19 April 1952

Christ Church, Malvern Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (1952-04-19) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Christ Church, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Christ Church, built in 1837–9, was one of many Victorian churches catering for Cheltenham’s growing suburbs. The open space (top left) shows the playing fields of the Ladies' College, with (beyond) the railway line to Honeybourne, which closed in the 1960s.  

19 April 1952

Church of St Lawrence, Church of All Saints and The Bell Tower, Evesham, Worcestershire (1951-05-21) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Churches and The Bell Tower, Evesham, Worcestershire

Evesham grew up outside the great abbey church, of which little survives beyond the dominant Bell Tower of circa 1530. The town was served by two parish churches. The lower part of the High Street preserves the triangular medieval market-place, now partly infilled.

21 May 1951

Church of St John the Baptist, Fladbury, Worcestershire (1958-06-15) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Church of St John and Rectory, Fladbury, Worcestershire

A minster church was founded at Fladbury in the late 7th century. Like many early minster churches, Fladbury was established on a terrace above a major river. The present church is of Norman and later date. The rectory to the south was destroyed by fire in 1968.

15 June 1958

Church of St Nicholas, Hardenhuish Lane, Chippenham, Wiltshire (1952-05-23) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Church of St Nicholas, Hardenhuish, Wiltshire

The church ‘the best classical church of the county’ was built in 1779 to accompany Hardenhuish House. Following modern development, it now lies within the built-up area of Chippenham, but the photograph captures the parkland character of its original setting. 

23 May 1952

Church of St Mary, Buckfast Abbey, Buckfastleigh, Devon (1959-07-22) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Buckfast Abbey, Devon

A Benedictine monastery was established here by French monks in 1882 on the site of a former Cistercian monastery. The buildings, including the Church of St Mary, are mainly of 19th- and 20th-century date with some medieval remains. 

 22 July 1959

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, Cornwall (1959-07-24) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, Cornwall

The castle, described as ‘the most perfect example of military architecture in Cornwall’, was founded circa 1100. The natural hilltop has been scarped and a moat dug. Dating from the late 13th century, it provided a luxurious retreat with a large hunting park.

24 July 1959 

St Briavel's Castle, St Briavels, Gloucestershire (1958-05-04) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

St Briavel's Castle, Gloucestershire

St Briavel’s Castle was the administrative centre of the Forest of Dean and a significant royal hunting centre. The gatehouse was built by Edward I to protect the large arsenal of crossbow-bolts made there before his Welsh and Scottish campaigns. 

4 May 1958

Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire (1952-08-14) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire

The castle is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Richard II, ‘There stands the castle, by yon tuft of trees … And in it are the Lords of York, Berkeley, and Seymour’. The Berkeley family are still resident in the mainly 14th-century castle today.

14 August 1952

Sudeley Castle, Sudeley, Gloucestershire (1951-06-01) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire

Sudeley Castle was built as a palatial residence. The outer court (left) belongs mainly to the 16th century. The inner court (right) was built in the 15th century. The south and part of the east wings are lost. Just beyond the outer court is the 15th-century church.

1 June 1951

Lacock Abbey, Lacock, Wiltshire (1952-05-23) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

The abbey began life as a nunnery, large parts of which survive around the 15th-century cloister. It was acquired in 1539 by Sir William Sharington and turned into his country house, with Italian-inspired Renaissance architecture, including the octagonal tower. 

23 May 1952

Ragley Hall, Arrow with Weethley, Warwickshire (1951-09-11) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

Ragley Hall, Alcester, Warwickshire

Ragley Hall was built for Edward Conway, 1st Earl of Conway, to replace a fortified manor house. The designer is disputed. The garden façade stands largely as first erected apart from the basement windows and central attic. The gardens were laid out in 1871–2.

11 September 1951

HM Prison Dartmoor, Dartmoor Forest, Devon (1959-07-23) by Harold WinghamHistoric England

HM Prison Dartmoor, Devon

When this photograph was taken, the prison served to house the most violent and hardened criminals in the country. The bleak moorland surroundings made escape difficult. Construction on a radial design began in 1806, initially to house French prisoners of war.

23 July 1959

Credits: Story

This story has been co-created by Michael Hare and the Historic England Archive. Images have been selected from the Harold Wingham Collection of Aerial Photographs cared for by the Historic England Archive. You can find out more about Harold Wingham and the collection at our dedicated collections page.

The Historic England Archive would like to express its thanks to Richard Savage, Michael Hare and Ray Wilson for their kind co-operation and their efforts to commemorate and celebrate the work of Harold Wingham.

Discover more about England's archaeology, historic buildings and social history using the Historic England Archive. We hold over 14 million photographs, drawings, reports and publications. Over a million of our records can be search online

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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