Sites and Monuments Records and Historic Environment Registers

SMRs were established in local authorities across England from the 1960s to fulfil an increasingly important role in land-use planning. The number of SMRs has increased over the years, with the emergence of Urban Archaeological Databases, the creation of new unitary authorities following local government reorganisation, and the development of SMRs by national parks, the National Trust and other land owners.
 
SMRs are a primary source of information on the local historic environment. They are fundamental to the conservation and management of the historic environment through the planning system. They are also a valuable resource for education and research. SMRs hold databases and collections that cover archaeology and archaeological investigations from the prehistoric period to the 20th century. Many SMRs also hold information about listed buildings and other aspects of the historic environment for their areas. This holistic approach has seen the development of Historic Environment Records (HERs) which allow a dynamic approach to heritage management, drawing on many datasets as well as point-type monument information.
 
The current non-statutory status of SMRs and HERs means that their funding and mode of operation varies greatly. For example, many SMRs do not hold data on sites or finds below the low water mark, except in cases where staff interest has prompted recording with a marine focus.
 
Links to SMRs and HERs are often featured on county council and city council websites as part of planning information. An interactive map of local authority historic environment services can be accessed via the HELM website.
 

Humber-Tees Study Area

Humber Archaeology Partnership, Humber SMR

The Humber SMR includes annotated maps and paper records. The maps were consulted to identify suitable records for inclusion in this project and 310 paper records were identified as potentially relevant. Altogether, 49 of these were subsequently rejected following a further assessment of relevance and 261 records were manually entered into the Artefacts from the Sea database.
 
The level of detail and type of information held within each paper record was found to vary considerably. Some site records solely contain references to published sources, with basic location and identification information. Other site records include detail about the features and finds from a site, with information from excavation record cards and excerpts from publications, in addition to references to other sources which could be consulted during enhancement.
 
During enhancement the number of records was expanded from 261 to 364 records.
 

North Yorkshire County Council SMR

NYCC SMR is held within an HBSMR system. A search of the database, defined by a 1km buffer around the coastline, generated 268 records. The HBSMR tables were integrated directly into the Artefacts from the Sea database.
 
The tables provided summary information about the monuments or sites, including dating information, locations, descriptions, basic topographic and geological information, related reference numbers and sources. The comprehensiveness of the records varied, reflecting the nature of the sites in question, although all records adhere to MIDAS standard definitions.
 
Following data validation and record enhancement 147 individual monument records remain in the Artefacts from the Sea database.
 

North York Moors National Park SMR

A buffer search of the NYMNP SMR database returned 41 records. Only seven of these were subsequently considered relevant for the purposes of the project.
 
The fields included in the NYMNP database provided the potential to record a very high level of detail about sites. Inevitably, however, many fields were empty as only data recorded at the time the find had been entered into the SMR.
 
The nature of the dataset was such that very little additional information was identified during record enhancement.
 

Tees Archaeology SMR

The search parameters for the Tees coastline comprised a rectangular polygon defined by NGR coordinates. A total of 250 records was returned from the Tees Archaeology database. The data was received as a Microsoft Excel table. Irrelevant inland finds were subsequently deleted using a 1km buffer inland of the high water mark. A total of 224 records were discarded, leaving 38 records that were entered in the Artefacts from the Sea database. Included in this figure are twelve additonal records that were identified through cross-references in the received data.
 
The records supplied through Tees Archaeology were clear, concise and consistent. Monuments are extensively cross-referenced, facilitating the enhancement procedure.
 
Following data validation and record enhancement the 38 original records have been expanded to 43 individual monuments.
 

Solent Study Area

HWTMA /Hampshire County Council AHBR

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Digital data was selected for inclusion in the project by defining a polygon with a 500m buffer from the Mean High Water Mark along the Hampshire coast and a cut off to select only records dating earlier than 1540.
 
The HWTMA database, which holds the majority of marine-related data from the Hampshire SMR, contained 405 records and comprised summary information referring to paper archives or other sources. Of the 405 records received, 60 were relevant to the project, the remainder being modern installations or finds, wrecks, net fasteners or geophysical anomalies.
 
Another notable contribution of the HWTMA is the Bouldnor Cliff submerged Mesolithic landscape research project. Published information arising from the research has also been entered into the Artefacts from the Sea database.
 
The main body of Hampshire County Council AHBR data consisted of field-walking observations and records derived from museum accessions. This data added an impressive amount of new findspots to the Artefacts from the Sea database. In total, 521 records are referenced to Hampshire SMR. In many cases, however, further information was required to complete the records as only general details such as ‘Prehistoric Flints’ are recorded in the transferred data.

Isle of Wight County Council SMR

The Isle of Wight County Council holds digital records for the coastline and inshore waters of the Isle of Wight. IWCC were only able to contribute existing monument data recorded below the Mean Low Water. As this was not consistent with broader interpretation of coastal monuments as made available by other sources, the decision was taken not to include this dataset in the project.

Portsmouth City Council SMR

Altogether, 140 records were manually selected from Ordnance Survey (OS) record cards held by Portsmouth City Council SMR. The quality of recorded information varied and is largely a reflection of the information available at various times during the SMR’s history. It was noted that some record cards relate to multi-period sites or collections of artefacts from a number of locations. These were divided, where applicable, as part of the enhancement process.
 
From the information contained within the 140 records, 21 new records were created. Many of these were duplicated within the Hampshire SMR. In such cases the data was assimilated within a single record.

Southampton City Council SMR

Records were identified using a polygon around the River Itchen and River Test estuaries and the area of Southampton Water, up to the mean high water mark, and including any surviving cliffs or estuarine river banks where necessary.
 
The Southampton SMR has records of 38 findspots or sites in coastal locations. Attached to these sites are 51 individual artefact records. An assessment of the information held within the records suggests a high level of detail consistent with the high standards set within the SMR.