West Berkshire Council

Historic Environment - Projects and Research

Studies undertaken with our partner organisations to provide a better understanding of the character of our district

We will advise on and support any historic environment research that informs our work or that of our partners and provides an evidence base for decision-making. 

Three important projects that we've collaborated on are:

Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC)

Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) is used in landscape management and conservation , as well as both community and strategic planning. It can also contribute to local history research and countryside interpretation. For more information on national HLC projects, visit Historic England's pages on Understanding Historic Places.

This project took place between 2004 and 2007 and involved mapping current and past land use across West Berkshire, as well as the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  It was carried out by the Archaeology Service in partnership with English Heritage, the North Wessex Downs AONB Office, Hampshire County Council, Wiltshire County Council, Swindon Borough Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

The HLC database holds multiple attributes for each parcel of land, examples of which are illustrated in the following maps;

The project also allowed us to assess the historic importance of certain HLC types; along with their susceptibility to change. We measured 'Significance' and 'Fragility' in these cases and combined them to provide a indication of the landscape's sensitivity. This approach was known as the pdf icon HLC Sensitivity Assessment Methodology [32kb] ; an pdf icon HLC Sensitivity Map [3Mb] is also available. 

You can also view the HLC project on our online map, under the Historic Environment theme in the legend. To view the colour-coded types of historic landscape, ensure that the map is zoomed in to at least 1:40,000 (the scale can be seen on the top menu) and turn on the Historic Landscape layer. Select 'Show Information' from the top menu and then click on the map. The current and previous land use types will then appear below the map.

To obtain full HLC datasets, contact the West Berkshire Historic Environment Record.

Historic Environment Character Zoning (HECZ)

Building on the HLC work, the Historic Environment Character Zoning (HECZ) Project set out to study and map West Berkshire in order to provide a comprehensive account of the historic environment resource of the district, so it can be better understood and conserved. 

West Berkshire was divided into twenty Historic Environment Character Areas (HECAs) which were then divided into a further ninety-one Historic Environment Character Zones (HECZs), all of which have their own linked reports describing their key characteristics. Examples of HECAs and HECZs reports can be seen below:

Each zone also has its own Historic Environment Action Plan, which allows us to identify gaps in our knowledge. This research fed into the district-wide pdf icon West Berkshire Historic Environment Action Plan (HEAP) [4Mb] which was published in 2011 by the West Berkshire Heritage Forum.

You can access view the HECZ Project via our online map, under the Historic Environment theme in the legend. Turn on one of the HECZ layers, select 'Show Information' from the top menu and then click on the part of the map you want to view the report for. The hyperlinked reports for each Character Area and Zone will then appear below the map.

The Newbury Historic Character Study

Research carried out by Oxford Archaeology in 2006 gathered information about the historic character of Newbury, showing how development through the ages has given the town its unique buildings and features. This study was commissioned in order to ensure the conservation of the town's character during a period of significant development pressure. The report was designed to not only act as an introduction and source of information on the town's architecture, development and history, but also to help local planners and developers to plan Newbury's future without risking damage to its character and heritage. 

The full report can be downloaded in four parts:

Our colourful popular summary,pdf icon Historic Newbury, Fit for the Future [7Mb]  can also be downloaded.

Who To Contact

Contact details for West Berkshire's Archaeological Officer

01635 519534