Peel back time to see how Oxfordshire looked decades and centuries ago

People in every part of Oxfordshire will soon have the chance to “peel back” the landscape in their neighbourhood to see what was there 20, 100 or even 200 years ago.

Online interactive maps will show people what land in every current Oxfordshire town, village, hamlet and rural location was being used for at various points in the 20th, 19th and 18th centuries and even as far back as the 16th century.

Called the “Historic Landscape Characterisation Project, the resource shows how land use has changed through the centuries – sometimes quite dramatically and occasionally not at all, such as at Port Meadow in Oxford.

The information will be available to everyone from landscape management professionals, academic researchers, council planning officers right through to curious members of the public who are interested to learn more about their local area.

Abi Tompkins, Historic Landscape Characterisation Officer at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Collating this information has been absolutely fascinating and I am convinced residents and professionals in the county will also be stimulated by what is available.

“When you look at a road in an urban area or quiet corn field on a farm it is often impossible to imagine that in the past that same patch of land may have been woodland or a Roman villa.

“We believe the ability to uncover history through historical time via the online tool we have created will prove very popular and we’re looking forward to sharing what we’ve produced.

“We think this is a wonderful resource for the county which will now be permanently available to whoever wants to use it. Port Meadow in Oxford may well now look as it has for many centuries. Very few other parts of Oxfordshire can claim the same. We invite people to peel back time and plot the changes wrought by the passage of time.”

The tool can be accessed at bit.ly/oxonlandscape

Get involved

Meanwhile on July 15 there’ll be an exhibition called “Living Landscapes” - an exploration of Oxfordshire’s countryside, towns, and villages and their histories. Admission is free.

Inspired by the Oxfordshire Historic Landscape Characterisation project, this event showcases photographs, paintings, and poems produced by Oxfordshire school children and residents on the themes of history, memory, and change in our landscapes.

Get involved and send us your photographs and poems capturing Oxfordshire’s landscapes.

For more information, please visit our website: http://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/livinglandscapes