An Aerial Relic of O.G.S. Crawford

By Macgregor, Arthur | Antiquity, March 2000 | Go to article overview

An Aerial Relic of O.G.S. Crawford


Macgregor, Arthur, Antiquity


A manuscript scroll preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, proves to be the log from the first in a series of flights undertaken by O.G.S. Crawford (1886-1957)in association with Alexander Keiller (1889-1955), which ultimately resulted in publication of their classic volume, Wessex from the Air (1928), a key work in the history of archaeological aerial photography. The roller-board on which the scroll is mounted proves equally interesting, being a cavalryman's mapping board of a type in use from the 1870s to the late 1920s. These items are placed in their respective historical contexts and an explanation is offered for their seemingly improbable conjunction.

Key-words: O.G.S. Crawford, Alexander Keiller, Wessex, archaeological aerial photography, cavalry sketching board

Although never formally accessioned into the collections, my subject (FIGURE 1) has a recorded history within Ashmolean Museum for the past two decades, while details of its earlier whereabouts are currently unknown. It takes the form of a composite miniature drawing board with brass fittings, engraved with various scales and incorporating a magnetic compass. Pencilled endorsements on the roll of paper associated with the board identify it as having been last put to use on 28 May 1924 to record a photographic sortie over Wessex by the Archaeology Officer of the Ordnance Survey, pioneer aerial photographer and founder of ANTIQUITY, O.G.S. Crawford.

[FIGURE 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The flight log, O.G.S. Crawford and the early development of archaeological air photography

Recorded in tabular form on the paper roll (TABLE 1) are details of three consecutive flights undertaken to record archaeological monuments in the field. At the head of the log appears the date of the first sortie -- 27 May 1924. Four photographs only were taken on that occasion, on a flight lasting barely 20 minutes, The next day work was resumed, as witnessed by an early entry in column 5, where the author of the notes is also identified: `OGSC 28 May 1924'; on that occasion 84 minutes were spent in the air, both take-off and landing times being given. A third flight lasting from 1804 to 1925 hours, although undated in the log, can be shown from independent sources (Crawford and Keiller 1928: 30) to have taken place on the evening of the same day.

flight log

No. Box    Height    Time       Subject          Remarks
& Plate              27.5.24                     4.5 lens and
                                                 Minus Blue screen

1-1        1,300     4.19       Quarley          Too far to right
                                 Camp             flying West.
                                                  Dull.

1-2        2,000     4.30       Durrington       flying South.
                                 Rings            Dull

1-3        1,500     4.33       Site of          S in ploughed
                                 Tumulus          field.
                                 112

1-4        1,000     4.38       As 1 flying      Sun
                                 east

1-5        2,500     9.20       Flying East      OGSC 28.5.24,
                                                  9.0 am Figsbury
                                                  (N.part)

1-6        3,000     9.30       Flying West      Near Groveley

2-1        3.200     9.42       NW               Groveley, N Side
                                                  of

2          "         9.42       "                "

3          "         9.43       S                 Groveley Castle

4          3,000     9.45       SE               Hamshill Ditches,
                                                  65 NE


5          2,500     9.58       S.               N of Wylye.
                                                  Circle
                                                  pl[oughed]d
                                                  f[iel]d

6          1,900     10. … 

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