CAA UK 2001 - Abstract

The Presentation of Landscape: the Blaenavon World Heritage Site
David Thomas
RCAHMW, Crown Buildings, Plas Crug, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 1NJ, UK

The archaeological landscape at Blaenavon in south Wales has attracted a great deal of interest because of its recent inclusion in the World Heritage List. The granting of world heritage status is based on the universal significance of the remains of the coal and iron industry that surround the town, which represent an extraordinarily complete record of the process of industrialization that took place in Britain during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The remains include the early ironworks complex to the north of the town and Big Pit, a colliery that is open to the public where underground tours are conducted for tourists and school parties. Surrounding these features within the 33 square kilometres of the World Heritage Site are the remains of early coal and iron extraction, limestone quarrying, processing and transport systems.

The Blaenavon Landscape Project, conducted by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, has recorded these features using a combination of fieldwork and desktop assessment based on a Geographic Information System. The techniques employed included ortho-rectification and transcription of historic and contemporary aerial photographs, historic map rectification and 3D visualization. The use of this information in a GIS environment has produced a dynamic resource that can be used as an information base for the future good management of the site and also for the presentation of the site to raise the public and professional awareness of the extent of the archaeological remains and their importance. The paper includes a chronological account of the development of the landscape and industrial processes built up as a series of layers linked to recent and historic photography of the site, drawings and paintings, and 3D visualizations.

The Blaenavon Landscape Project demonstrates the dynamic use to which GIS can be put, particularly because of its strong mapping and graphic functions. Using these functions, mapped information can be linked to databases, historical sources and illustrative material to provide a graphic illustration of the development of the Blaenavon landscape. The project has been used during presentations to UNESCO and ICOMOS in support of the World Heritage nomination, and in the future the project will be used to explore the relationship between GIS, the Internet and education.

The website for the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales can be found at

Back to programme