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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Pastscape?

PastScape is an English Heritage website intended to supply archaeological and architectural information to the public by searching nearly 400,000 records.

Who is the website aimed at?

PastScape is designed for anyone who has an interest in archaeology, architecture or the historic environment in general.

What information is held?

PastScape holds nearly 400,000 records on a very broad range of archaeological sites and architecture in England. These records contain information on sites dating from the prehistoric to modern periods; from finds of early stone tools to contemporary architecture. Archaeological information also relates to maritime sites of all periods including shipwrecks of which remains are known or assumed within England's territorial waters.

PastScape provides access to the basic site classification details, investigation history and the sources from which the record has been compiled. In short, where something is, what it is, and what period it dates to, where known.

The results may include pictures from the Images of England and ViewFinder websites (other NMR websites), where available. PastScape also offers links to modern and historic maps and aerial photographs courtesy of Streetmap.co.uk, Getmapping.com and Old-maps.co.uk.

Why do we hold this information?

English Heritage is the government's advisory body on the historic environment. Its aim is to protect and promote the historic environment and ensure that its past is researched and understood. By holding records on a national scale we can give an overview of the coverage and range of archaeology and architecture and ensure that new and current information is added all the time. This is particularly useful when researchers are interested in a particular topic on a regional or national basis. Similar types of information are held at local authorities in Historic Environment Record (HER) databases but will cover only their relevant authority. Where possible the aim of having a national record is to supplement rather than duplicate information. English Heritage works closely with the HER community to ensure a complementary service is provided to the general public.

Where does the information come from?

The information is derived from the English Heritage Archive database which holds information on the architectural and archaeological heritage of England. The English Heritage Archive is the public archive of English Heritage. The records have been compiled over a long period of time and from a variety of sources. Staff at the NMR undertake thematic desk-based enhancement work, and this is supplemented with new information and discoveries from English Heritage archaeological and architectural teams. New information is added to the database on a daily basis and is uploaded to PastScape on a regular basis, approximately every 8 weeks.

Why aren't all Scheduled Monuments or Listed Buildings on PastScape?

Information on Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Registered Parks and Gardens, and Registered Battlefields are kept separately. Although PastScape may contain a site that falls into one or more of these categories, it does not necessarily include all statutorily protected sites.

I see you can search on the DEFRA ELS reference numbers. What is the DEFRA Entry Level Stewardship Scheme?

The Entry Level Stewardship scheme is a pioneering stewardship scheme which seeks to reward farmers helping to preserve historic features on their land. Members of the scheme are given maps with a note of archaeological sites on their land and each site is given a unique reference number. You can find out more information, if needed, here.

Why couldn't I find anything?

PastScape uses the English Heritage Thesaurus of Monument Types as the basis for its indexing and not all antiquarian terms are included, although alternatives are given. Use of this allows consistent retrieval of records. PastScape is comprehensive but not exhaustive. We know there are still buildings, archaeological and historical sites that are not included. We welcome feedback about missing sites or corrections to existing records. Please help us to make PastScape more useful by filling out our Feedback Form

If you are having difficulty retrieving information please refer to the About Searching page or contact us at PastScape@english-heritage.org.uk

Your local authority Historic Environment Record may also have information of interest. There is a full list of these at the Heritage Gateway website.

Do you have records for individual finds of artefacts?

PastScape does hold some records for finds of individual artefacts but this is now only updated where the finds indicate the possible presence of a monument (e.g. artefact scatters recorded as part of English Heritage fieldwork). This information is more comprehensively covered by the local Heritage Environment Records and by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, whose database can be accessed at www.finds.org.uk.

What sources are included?

Only the sources used in the compilation of the site records are included on PastScape, this may be both published and unpublished material. This is not a definitive bibliography for the site.

Why is there advertising on the site?

The advertising is not on PastScape itself but is contained within the commercial sites (Streetmap.co.uk, Getmapping.com and Old-maps.co.uk) which we are able to link to free of charge. We hope these links provide additional facilities which PastScape users find useful.

Why do monuments sometimes appear to be in the wrong place when viewed on web based mapping applications such as Multimap?

The English Heritage Archive uses the British national grid referencing system when recording spatial information for the historic environment. This spatial referencing system is based on the OSGB36 datum whereas the datum used by web based mapping applications such as Google Maps and Multimap is WGS84. The reference point against which grid references are made varies from place to place between the two datums and as a result the NMR data will appear as though it has been shifted when projected on web based mapping applications.

What kind of information will I find used in the more information and sources section?

The "more information" section of the record is a compendium of information linked to sources that have been used to compile the record- it may not be the definitive list of sources in all cases. The list of sources and accompanying text is cumulative and is added to as new facts and sources become available or as we work on particular themes or areas. We call upon a wide range of data to support the compilation of our records. Examples of the types of sources include: published bibliographical material such as journals or monographs; reports on investigation work carried out by English Heritage (or former Royal Commission on Historic Monuments in England) and external experts, field-workers comments based on site visits; interpretations of aerial photographs; references to the site or building in external archives, historic or modern maps or cross references to other databases, whether statutory, thematic or local.

Why can I see what looks to be conflicting information in the more information section of some records?

The "more information" section of the record is a compendium of information linked to sources that have been used to compile the record; this is added to as new facts and sources become available. One of the purposes of this section is to act as an introduction to the available evidence, which often changes over time. Thus this set of comments and précis of what is contained in sources grows and shows our developing understanding about buildings, structure and sites. As new evidence is examined, new dates and interpretations given for a site may be added, but crucially we do not normally remove earlier references (although they may be edited to remove spelling errors for example). There are also some records where there is no consensus between experts on interpretation or dating. Using this principle enables researchers to view the sources and re-assess previous interpretations of sites. This is standard practice for recording the historic environment at both national and local level.

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