Oxfordshire Historic Landscape Characterisation project | Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire Historic Landscape Characterisation project

This project, funded by Historic England, maps current and past land use across Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire landscape

What is Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC)?

HLC uses maps to examine the historic and archaeological processes which have influenced the modern landscape.

It allows us to identify the specific characteristics of an area or district, so that we can understand what makes that place special or distinct and helping us to make sure it is managed appropriately.

It recognises that all parts of the landscape – from the Iron Age hillfort to the 1960s housing development – have historic value and contribute to the landscape in which we live.

How we can use it

HLC data can be used for:

  • the conservation and management of heritage sites and landscapes
  • planning applications and development strategy
  • landscape management schemes
  • academic and local research
  • community projects and initiatives.

The local project

The project, integrating earlier studies, examines Oxfordshire, and includes the three areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) – the Cotswolds, Chilterns, and North Wessex Downs – as well as the district of Oxford.A county map  showing broad types of land use

It aims to produce:

  • large-scale downloadable maps of Oxfordshire, showing the current landscape and what Oxfordshire looked like at the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the mid-16th century.
  • an online interactive map
  • a detailed database
  • an online archive containing the project report, details of methodology used, descriptions and photographs of all the different historic landscape character types identified across Oxfordshire, case studies illustrating how HLC data can be used, and information regarding where data is held and can be accessed
  • a series of public talks demonstrating the value of HLC data and how you can use it.




Online Interactive Map

See how your village has changed since the 18th century, how the fields have evolved, and where remaining medieval parts of the landscape still survive.

Historic landscapes and poetry project

Dr Romola Parish is working with the Oxfordshire HLC project as our poet in residence. Using HLC data, Romola is exploring the hidden histories of Oxfordshire's landscapes and capturing them in her poetry. Download her poem on Stonesfield (pdf format, 73Kb).

About Dr Parish

Dr Romola Parish is a former academic specialising in landscape evolution, incorporating archaeological, geomorphological and anthropogenic approaches, and in environmental change, particularly in mountain environments. She now works in London as a planning and environmental lawyer. She recently graduated with distinction from the University of Oxford MSt in Creative Writing. She has had poetry published in the Irish Literary Review, Snakeskin, Cardiff Review and The Lamp. Landscape is an important focus of her creative work.

Historic landscape walks

Turn back the years and explore Oxfordshire’s past with these three walks inspired by the HLC project.

Living landscapes exhibition

Join us on the 15 July at The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, for an exhibition which showcases Oxfordshire’s many and varied landscapes. Including works by local artists, community groups, and school children. Get involved yourself and send us your photos and poems!

Public engagement talks

Are you a local history or archaeology society? Would you like the HLC Officer to come and talk to your group about this wonderful new resource, including where they can find it and how they can use it?

Talks are available in June and July; please contact abi.tompkins@oxfordshire.gov.uk to discuss

Latest results

Project documentation


Last reviewed
02 June 2017

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