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Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit

The Historic Environment Record

The Historic Environment Record (HER)

(formerly known as the Sites and Monuments Record) is a Geographical Information System (GIS) and linked database of more than 18,000 records compiled and maintained by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit (GMAU) at the University of Manchester on behalf of the ten Greater Manchester authorities.

Development of the Greater Manchester HER

GMAU has maintained and enhanced the Greater Manchester Sites and Monuments Record since 1980 and it is now an invaluable planning and research tool. A vigorous policy of enhancement has seen the database expand from 1500 records in 1989 to over 18,000 today. Whilst all periods of archaeology are represented, GMAU have made particular efforts to record sites from the industrial period both above and below ground, reflecting the area's world importance during this period. This record is the principal data source for objective decision-making prior to delivery of advice to local authorities and other agencies.

GMAU has endeavoured to develop the HER and advice services in line with national standards so that it now runs on MS Access based software provided by exeGesIS, with a MapInfo Geographical Information System, and is being transformed into a Historic Environment Record so that it is a comprehensive data audit on the Greater Manchester Historic Environment, which includes designations such as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Listed Buildings, Conservations Areas, Parks and Gardens, buildings and features of local historic interest, historic landscapes, as well as archaeological sites. But the HER does not only consist of a computerised database, it also comprises a paper archive and photographs relating to archaeological projects undertaken in Greater Manchester. These form a significant teaching and research resource, as well being the cornerstone of development control work.

The Archive comprises:

  • Greater Manchester Historic Environment Record database with over 18,000 entries linked to MS Access software and MapInfo GIS
  • 1,500 'grey literature' (unpublished) archaeology reports including desk based assessments, evaluations, excavations, watching briefs, and historic building surveys
  • c 70,000 images in the photographic archive
  • paper archive from archaeological sites and projects around Greater Manchester, including the Greater Manchester Textile Mills Survey, GM Historic Parks and Gardens Survey, Relict Industrial Landscape Survey, etc.
  • c 50,000 records anticipated as a result of the Historic Landscape Characterisation Project
  • A library with local history and archaeology publications
  • GMAU staff's expertise on Greater Manchester's archaeology

  • Staffing

    The Historic Environment Record Officer post was made permanent in 2007. Recently, GMAU took on two Historic Landscape Characterisation Officers to undertake a three year project mapping the modern and historic character of urban and rural Greater Manchester. This project, funded by English Heritage and AGMA, is called the Greater Manchester Urban Historic Landscape Characterisation Project.

    The purpose of the HER

    The HER is a comprehensive archive of sites of archaeological significance in the Greater Manchester and is a key tool for archaeological mitigation in the planning process. Further guidance for developers planning work in Manchester is available on our developer pages. The HER also has an important role as a research tool for archaeologists and archaeology students, members of the public, schools, and heritage/amenity bodies. The HER is used to inform strategic planning and policies at local authority/statutory undertaker level.

    The rich heritage of the area is reflected in the diversity of the HER records. We have records of: prehistoric flint tools, Bronze Age barrows, lowland mosses, Iron Age defended enclosures and stone heads, Roman forts, roads and civilian settlements, Anglo-Saxon crosses and place-names, medieval castles, churches, moated sites, halls, iron working sites, hollow-ways and field systems. From the post-medieval period there are records of water powered mills, farmsteads, country houses, historic parks and gardens, chapels, weaving cottages and packhorse routes. The industrial period is also well represented by data about railways, canals, turnpikes, steam powered textile mills, finishing works and warehouses, industrial communities, hat works, engineering works, coal mines, quarries, and even World War II pillboxes.

    The role of GMAU in planning

    Since redevelopment can significantly alter or destroy these historic assets, GMAU has a crucial role in protecting them through the planning process. The HER is used by GMAU staff in monitoring planning applications to identify threats to know archaeological/historical sites and to provide advice at an early stage to developer consultants on potential archaeological issues. GMAU deals with over 20,000 per annum from the ten Greater Manchester planning authorities. About 1,000 of those applications might concern archaeologically sensitive sites and about 200 of those sites will be found on further investigation to have significant archaeological remains. Further information for developers and planners can be found in the Developers Section. Local planning authorities also take account of the HER when drawing up planning policies (such as Unitary Development Plans) and reaching planning decisions. In doing so they follow best practice advice set out in Planning Policy Statement No.5 :Planning for the Historic Environment (2010)

    Scheduled Ancient Monuments

    Archaeological remains which are of national importance are registered as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and have statutory protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. Before undertaking any work at these sites, applicants must secure Scheduled Monument Consent, by applying for permission direct to the Secretary of State. In the first instance it is advisable to discuss proposals with the Inspector of Ancient Monuments, who is based at English Heritage's North West Regional Office in Manchester. Advice can also be sought from the County Archaeologist at GMAU, Norman Redhead.

    Neighbouring HERs

  • Cheshire
  • Lancashire
  • Merseyside
  • West Yorkshire
  • Derbyshire

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