A birdseye view of the Borders down the ages


EIGHTY-YEAR old aerial images of the Borders have been made public for the first time.

The photos of Floors Castle, Dryburgh and Melrose Abbeys, and Kelso Abbey and town centre, all taken in 1933, as well as picture of Hawick in 1948, have been digitised and made available online as part of project that includes 5,000 others photographs from across Scotland.



In total, the Britain from Above website, launched on Monday, has 12,000 pictures taken by the Aerofilms company covering the whole of the UK.

Rebecca Bailey, head of education and outreach at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), said the original pilots and photographers who worked for Aerofilms were veterans of the First World War.

She added: “They brought specialist skills learned in the conflict to the task of capturing the nation from the air.

“Between 1919 and 1953, there was vast and rapid change to the social, architectural and industrial fabric of Britain, and Aerofilms provides a unique and at times unparalleled perspective on this upheaval.



“We hope that people today will be able to immerse themselves in the past through the new website, adding their own thoughts and memories to this remarkable collection.”

Many of the photos were taken from extremely low altitudes, a technique regarded as dangerous but necessary by the pilots in order to capture a perfect picture.

In total, Aerofilms Collection has over a million aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 2006.

The firm was bought for the nation in 2007 when facing financial difficulties.

With the financial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Foyle Foundation, the RCAHMS, its sister organisation in Wales, and English Heritage embarked on a programme to conserve, catalogue and digitise the collection, and make it freely available online.

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

It is planned to increase the number of images on the website to 95,000 by the end of the project in 2014.

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.

To see the Aerofilms Collection visit www.britainfromabove.org.uk