The Torbay Historic Environment Record (HER), formerly the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) is a database of information on all known archaeological and historic sites in the administrative area of Torbay Council, formerly within the historic county of Devon. The information comprises both paper records and computer formats and is available for public consultation.
From the late 1970s until 1998 the information making up the HER was collected by various archaeological societies and bodies then collated and organised by Devon County Council’s Archaeology Section. With the establishment of Torbay Council as a unitary authority in 1998 the database, its maintenance and enhancement passed to the Torbay Archaeology Service. The information has been collected from both primary and secondary sources: original documents, historic maps, learned society journals, antiquarian observations and excavations, aerial photographs and modern archaeological fieldwork.
Each site or monument is recorded and indexed by being given a unique number linked to the particular Ordnance Survey (OS) map sheet on which it can be located; liaison with Devon County Council’s Archaeology section is important to ensure there is no duplication of record numbers on those OS map sheets which contain both administrative areas. Some sites, such as the Berry Head Fortifications or Kent’s Cavern pose few problems. Others however may be less tangible; only by locating finds, as accurately as possible, from reports often more than a century apart, on a single map base may it be possible to infer a specific site or monument. For example a prehistoric settlement site or a Roman villa, or a shipwreck.
Conversely, known areas of historic settlement, for example the pre-Conquest towns and villages recorded in Domesday Book, in which otherwise no specific archaeological observations have ever been made can be defined and earmarked for archaeological consideration when applications for planning permission are made. (See Archaeology and Development Control.)
Since Torbay assumed responsibility for its own HER it has begun to computerise the records linking them in a relational database to the OS map base in a GIS system. When complete it will be possible to display on the underlying map base almost infinite combinations of available data.
The HER is continuously added to and enhanced as the archaeological record grows; its use is essential in understanding the archaeological heritage of the area that makes up Torbay today. It is above all the primary tool in Planning and Development Control decisions ensuring that historic remains are not needlessly destroyed but preserved by record or in situ.
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- Tel: 01803 207788
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- Archaeology & Development Control
- Archaeology Service