I can turn back time…

One of the things that has really proved inspirational to me in the creation of this blog is Google Earth. As a young kid, long before computers could do anything remotely like even the most basic mapping, I was was fascinated by aerial photos. I remember that the Walsall Thompson Local directory for a while in the eighties featured such photos of the town on the cover. I spent hours, poring over the photographs, identifying buildings and places I knew. Any such image was devoured – I spent hours perusing the ‘Britain from the air’ books… one of the things that most fascinated was the way one could observe changes in landscape over the years.

In these days of the internet, we take the wonderful resource that is Google Earth for granted. It’s a personal quest to find out new features, check for new images and explore the layers of imagery and information that the community layers provide. It was with this casual goal in mind that I downloaded the latest one, version six, last week.

The feature to view previous versions of the satellite imagery in the application has been present for a while, but it seems recently that wartime aerial photos have been added and are present in many local areas. The photos are dated December 1945, but I think their basis is probably from within the wartime RAF effort.

The photos are easy to access. First of all, download the latest version of Google Earth and install it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Windows or mac user, the site will offer you the correct version. Once that’s done and installed, fire up the application, and navigate to an area of your choice.

When there, look for the ‘History’ button on  the toolbar, and click it.

Click this button, it's he same icon in Windows and mac versions.

Now a slider appears top left of the main window. Drag the slider to the left – small lines are present in the slider bar where historical images are located. As you drag the slider to one of these lines, the imagery changes to that matching the selected date. You can now browse it at will just like normal in Google Earth.

Drag the slider to the left. Here, I've pulled it to 1945.

The 1945 aerial photo coverage is not universal – south Brownhills is currently covered, but not central or north. The images are large and very clear for photography of their day. Bear in mind that lens and processing technology of 65 years ago was not what it is now, so some topographic distortions are evident if you turn on the ‘Streets’ layer or use overlays.

Including this imagery is a remarkable and little-noticed step from Google, and one which I welcome wholeheartedly. Let’s hope there is yet more to be added, so that a larger record of our changing landscape can be stored for the future.

For all the Stonnall people: some remarkable changes are evident. But don't just view it here, get busy with Google Earth!

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local History, Local media, Shared media, Spotted whilst browsing the web and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to I can turn back time…

  1. I can concur with a love for mapping information. Those hours pouring over 19th century public health maps of Willenhall were fascinating as a youth. These days it electoral ward maps but the passion is still there. 😉

  2. Thanks a lot Bob – absolutely fascinating.

  3. Michael Edwards says:

    Hello Bob. Michael here. Sorry about not coming through
    with my Clayhanger reflections. I live approx 125 miles
    North East of Toronto, where I have a business. The commute
    tends to wear on me. But it is really worth it, as we live in
    a beautiful location in the country, surrounded by hundreds
    of acres of forest and farmland. Just today we had visits from
    some deer and a whole flock of wild turkey’s. With the temperature standing still, at minus 19 degrees for the last ten days, the animals seem to want to come out of the bush and forage for food. Bye the way, I just wanted to thank you for your
    Google Earth update. The aeriel pictures of Clayhanger show
    it all. Howdles farm, the Pelsall sidings, Coppy Pit. In fact
    it is an amazing confirmation of my memory of all the places
    when I was growing up. Have a happy Christmas, and lots of
    turkey. The domestic kind I bet. Tarar! Our Michael.

  4. Steve Hickman says:

    Dear Bob , brilliant old aerial photo’s. One thing it reminded me was how much open farm land there was around Stonnall. I remember in the late 50’s a lot of farm land was owned by Mr Garnet Burton a local farmer . He grew Blackcurrants for Ribena.. big style. I can remember the fields round Stonnall looked like the fields full of vines in France. There is still a legacy of this in some of the street names in Stonnall. ‘Garnet Close’ , ‘Berryfields’ and ‘Westwick Close’ after the main variety of blackcurrents grown Westwick choice and Westwick triumph.

  5. I knew about the fruit farms – I remember well picking gooseberries at Whitaker Farm at Springhill in the mid-80’s. I wasn’t aware, however, of the origin of those names. That’s a great observation, and so obvious when you know! Magic!

    It’s stuff like this that you just don’t get from the history books.



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