Britain from Above: Imagery from nearly a century ago

One of the best new features released for Google Earth in the past few years is undoubtedly their Historical Imagery. With a click of an icon, you can go back in time and view an image of area that is years (or sometimes decades) ago.
While not yet connected to Google Earth in any way, the new Britain From Above website has over 16,000 aerial images on their site, some going back nearly a century. For example, this 1928 image for the “Metropolitan Cattle Market” in Islington is excellent:


Virtually all of the imagery on their site is oblique (45 degree angle), which is wonderful to look at but means that it isn’t suitable for addition to Google Earth’s Historical Imagery archives. However, I’d love to see them put together a KML file for quick viewing of images by location, similar to the [Panoramio] layer that is already in Google Earth.
Despite that, the site has a great interface and makes it easy to browse through their library of photos. Check it out at

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Many thanks for this post about a fascinating resource. A few observations:
    – to get full use of the site you have to register, otherwise you only get low res, non zoom images and no access to the site’s ‘community’
    – the interface and search is generally slick, but after a local map search there seems to be no way of avoiding a return to the national map and having to zoom back to the locality again
    – base maps are from Ordnance Survey and because of OS licence restrictions the ‘mash ups’ are less flexible than they would be with a Google map or KML
    but well worth a look.

  2. Nathan W. Perry says:

    If you like that, the city of New York has aerial imagery citywide for the years 1924 and 1951, along with more recent vintages. You view it through the online GIS map viewer:
    Best of all, this imagery is orthorectified, not oblique, but again, it’s not incorporated into GE that I know of.

  3. Britain from above > update on interface > if you zoom into a map with multiple photo location flags, and want to look at all the photos in the area you can open a photo from its thumbnail in a new tab, then close the tab to return to the zoomed in map.

Leave a Reply