Aerofilms (Scotland)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Oblique aerial photographs and associated print albums covering locations throughout Scotland.

Administrative / Biographical History

Aerofilms Ltd was registered in 1919 by FL Wills and Claude Grahame-White only nine days after civil aviation was permitted under the new Air Navigation Regulations. Although set up as a cinematographic company, Aerofilms quickly established itself in the area of oblique and vertical aerial photography, buying the Aircraft Manufacturing Company's Aerial Photography Department and renting both DH9 aircraft and pilots, including Alan Cobham, from de Havilland. A commercial company, Aerofilms' output reflects the rise and fall of industrial and civic concerns, such as car factories, ship-building, power stations and housing developments. Speculative shots were also taken, particularly of city centres and rural landscapes, to be made into postcards, sold to newspapers or local authorities.

By the late 1930s, Aerofilms was firmly established as one of the leading aerial survey companies in the UK, working with both the Aircraft Operating Company and Ordnance Survey, and branching into pioneering photogrammetric work. In May 1940 the company was taken on by the Air Ministry to work on wartime air photo reconnaissance, photographic interpretation, mapping and model-making.

After the Second World War, Aerofilms was part of the Hunting Group of Companies as part of Huntings Aerosurveys Ltd, focusing on oblique aerial photography and further developing their photogrammetric skills. Under the Hunting banner, Aerofilms were involved with air photographic surveys, interpretation and mapping, remote sensing, geological work and other specialisms. In 1997, the Simmons Geomatics Group acquired Aerofilms and its collections (it had purchased the oblique photography of Aeropictorial and Airviews), forming Simmons Aerofilms in 2002. Three years later, Blom ASA, a Swedish multi-national geographical information company, purchased Simmons Aerofilms and the collection was effectively closed.

Conditions Governing Access

Catalogued imagery: Open. Catalogued digital images are accessible via the NCAP website.

Uncatalogued imagery: Closed. No finding aids are available for uncatalogued material. Uncatalogued imagery can only be accessed with knowledge of image reference numbers.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued images: electronic index to 5,035 images is accessible on the NCAP website.

Uncatalogued images: no finding aids are available.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Glass and plastic aerial negatives and print albums covering locations throughout Scotland.

Conditions Governing Use

Standard licence terms for use apply.

Custodial History

Aerofilms Ltd became an integral part of the Hunting Group of Companies in the 1940s and the collection remained in offices and warehouse storage in Hertfordshire until 1997. Under the ownership of the Simmons Geomatics Group, Simmons Aerofilms was formed in 2002 and the collection was moved to offices in Somerset. In 2005 Simmons Aerofilms was taken over by Blom ASA and the collection was effectively closed. In 2007, the oblique imagery holdings were bought from Blom ASA by a partnership of English Heritage, RCAHMS and RCAHMW, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Foyle Foundation and other donors. Negatives and print albums covering Scottish locations were transferred to RCAHMS in 2012. Vertical aerial imagery continues to be held by Blom ASA.

Related Material

Oblique Aerofilms aerial imagery of England and Wales is held by:

English Heritage Archives, The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, SWINDON, Wiltshire, SN2 2GZ. Tel: 01793 414600, E-mail: archive@english-heritage.org.uk

RCAHMW, National Monuments Record of Wales, Plas Crug, Aberystwyth SY23 1NJ. Tel: 01970 621200, E-mail: nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk

Vertical aerial imagery is held by:

Blom ASA, The Astrolabe, Cheddar Business Park, Wedmore Road, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3EB, Tel: 01934 311000

Corporate Names

Geographical Names