Our surroundings are dynamically changing; these changes are part of a long history of human influence on the landscape. In order to manage these changes it is important to have a good understanding of the evolution of the landscape that surrounds us.
Historic England (formerly English Heritage) has been funding a nationwide programme of Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) since 1992. Characterisation is not about trying to prevent change but about ensuring that decisions are made on an informed basis, ensuring that areas retain their local distinctiveness. It can be used alongside other systems of heritage management, such as Listing and Scheduling of sites and buildings. It gives a background to such sites and buildings, drawing them into a wider landscape perspective.
Supported by Historic England, we undertook the West Yorkshire Historic Characterisation Project between 2011 and 2017. The project covers the five local authorities which make up the West Yorkshire Region: Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield. Their combined area is over 202,000 hectares, with a diverse and rich landscape character.
The video below, which concentrates on the findings of the Wakefield HLC survey, clearly shows how our landscapes change over time.
The main products of the project comprise a GIS map layer, database and report. The spatial data is recorded as polygons in a Geographic Information System (GIS), with the associated textual information stored within an associated database. The database holds information on the current landscape (as of c.2010) of that area, and on any previous landscape characters that have been identified.
On completion of the project we supplied a digital copy of the relevant part of the project to each of the five Districts in West Yorkshire, plus a written report on their District. A copy of the GIS (as shapefiles for each district) and the reports were then deposited with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS).
Each written report comprises:
Contents and Introduction: background to historic landscape characterisation, project background, West Yorkshire topography, geology and landscape character.
HLC Methodology: overview, principles of characterisation, West Yorkshire HLC project design and stages, critique of methodology
Themed Results: County-wide Broad Type overview, Time Depth analysis, County-wide HLC Type (narrow type) analysis, District based statistical Broad Type and HLC Type overview and comparison, Time Depth Trends (per district)
Settlement Analysis (per district): an introduction to Character Zones, Settlement Gazetteer (the core body and historic character analysis of the local authority study area, using statistics and graphic examples to demonstrate project findings, interpretation and analysis) and Complex Urban Core Analysis (in depth historical review of larger-scale settlements).
Management Tables: key management issues associated with the archaeological interest, threats, opportunities and guidelines for management of the resource as defined by specific HLC Types (narrow types) across the West Yorkshire region.
Appendix and Sources: comprising Broad Type and HLC Type (narrow type) definitions, attributes employed during HLC polygonisation (including Broad Type associations), and Character Zone Construction Elements used throughout the HLC project. This is followed by Sources of Information and References used throughout the project.
To find out more, visit the individual District pages by clicking on the links found below: