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3.2 The Essex Heritage Conservation Record

The Heritage Conservation Branch maintains a record of all known archaeological and historic monuments, features and finds from Essex, the Essex Heritage Conservation Record (EHCR). The record is used by specialist officers of the Branch to provide informed advice to planning authorities and other bodies on the implications of development proposals and other schemes. Information is also provided to consultants and solicitors acting on behalf of developers and landowners, and also to archaeological contracting units. Furthermore, recent years have seen increasing use by national agencies such as English Heritage as part of national and regional projects. As well as these uses relating to planning and land use management, the EHCR is a public record that is available to a variety of researchers from university academics to local history societies and individuals interested in finding out about their own local area.

The EHCR came into being on 1 April 1999 with the reorganisation of the Planning Division to create a new Heritage Conservation Branch based on the former Archaeology and Historic Buildings Sections. These sections had maintained the Essex Sites and Monuments Record (ESMR) for archaeological sites and the Historic Buildings Record. These two databases have been brought together to form an integrated information source to promote an holistic approach to the management of the heritage of the county. The EHCR now includes over 30,000 individual records, dating from the Old Stone Age (c. 500,000 BC) to the Cold War. They include finds of Stone Age axes, prehistoric burial sites and settlements, Roman villas, medieval castles and churches, parks and gardens, Industrial Archaeology, 19th and 20th century defences, and many more.

The core of the EHCR consists of a computerised database which embodies national standards for data structure and terminology. The database is supported by a substantial archive of maps, photographs, reports, plans and drawings. The photographic collection includes many thousands of aerial photographs from the Heritage Conservation Group's own flying programme and from other collections such as English Heritage's National Monuments Record, Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography and from local flyers.

The former ESMR had used paper maps since the 1970s but in the 1990s the advent of GIS clearly offered many advantages for better display and analysis (as shown by Figs 5 and 6). A more detailed account of the development of the EHCR is available as a PDF file that can be downloaded from the Heritage Conservation Branch's web site.

Screenshot from Archview GIS showing selected sites [coloured] within Castle Hedingham
Figure 5: Castle Hedingham as first mapped on the Sites and Monuments Record
© Crown copyright. Essex Council Council Licence No. 076619. 2002.

Screenshot from Archview GIS showing medieval sites [coloured] within Castle Hedingham
Figure 6: Castle Hedingham following GIS analysis as part of the Essex Historic Towns Project
© Crown copyright. Essex Council Council Licence No. 076619. 2002.

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Last updated: Wed Jan 28 2004