English Heritage

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Stonehenge – an English heritage property
The English Heritage logo

English Heritage (officially the English Heritage Trust) is a registered charity[1] created in 2015 from the division of the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England, which body had hitherto operated under the name 'English Heritage' and now as 'Historic England'.

English Heritage looks after the National Heritage Collection.[2] This comprises over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites across England, spanning more than 5000 years of history. Within its portfolio are Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Tintagel Castle and the best preserved parts of Hadrian's Wall. English Heritage also manages the London Blue Plaques scheme, which links influential historical figures to particular buildings.

Transformation to charity status

When originally formed in 1983, English Heritage was the operating name of an executive non-departmental public body of the Government, officially titled 'the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England', that ran the national system of heritage protection and managed a range of historic properties.[3] It was created to combine the roles of existing bodies that had emerged from a long period of state involvement in heritage protection. In 1999 the organisation merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the National Monuments Record, bringing together resources for the identification and survey of England's historic environment.

On 1 April 2015, English Heritage was divided into two parts, Historic England, which inherited the statutory and protection functions of the old organisation, and the new English Heritage Trust, a charity which would operate the historic properties, which took on the English Heritage operating name and logo.[2][4] The Government gave the new charity an £80 million grant to help establish it as an independent trust, although the historic properties remained in the ownership of the state.


Non-departmental public body

Over the centuries, what is now called 'heritage' has been the responsibility of a series of state departments. There was the 'Kings Works' after the Norman Conquest; the Office of Works (1378–1832); the Office of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues and Works (1832–1851); and the Ministry of Works (1851–1962). Responsibility subsequently transferred to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (1962–1970) then to the Department of the Environment (1970–1997) and now the DCMS.[5] The state's legal responsibility for the historic environment goes back to the Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882.[6] Central government subsequently developed several systems of heritage protection for different types of 'assets', introducing listing for buildings after WW2 and conservation areas in the 1960s.

In 1983 Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine gave national responsibility for the historic environment to a semi‑autonomous agency (or 'quango') to operate under ministerial guidelines and to government policy. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission was formed under the terms of the National Heritage Act 1983 on 1 April 1984.[7] The 1983 Act also dissolved the bodies that had previously provided independent advice – the Ancient Monuments Board for England and the Historic Buildings Council for England and incorporated these functions in the new body. Soon after, the commission gained the operating name of English Heritage by its first Chairman, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.[3]

English Heritage commemorative plaques conference, 2010

A national register of historic parks and gardens was set up in 1984,[8] and a register for historic battlefields was created in March 1995.[9] 'Registration' is a material consideration in the planning process. In April 1999 English Heritage merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England [10] and the National Monuments Record (NMR), bringing together resources for the identification and survey of England's historic environment. By adoption this included responsibility for the national record of archaeological sites from the Ordnance Survey; the National Library of Aerial Photographs, and two million RAF and Ordnance Survey aerial photographs. These, together with other nationally important external acquisitions, meant that English Heritage was one of the largest publicly accessible archives in the UK: 2.53 million records are available online, including more than 426,000 images. In 2010–2011 it recorded 4.3 million unique online user sessions[11] and over 110,000 people visited NMR exhibitions held around the country in 2009/10.[12] In 2012 the section responsible for archive collections was renamed the English Heritage Archive.

As a result of the National Heritage Act 2002, English Heritage acquired administrative responsibility for historic wrecks and submerged landscapes within 12 miles of the English coast.[13] The administration of the listed building system was transferred from DCMS to English Heritage in 2006. However, actual listing decisions still remained the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who is required by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to approve a list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest.

Following the Public Bodies Reform[14] (aka ‘bonfire of the quangos’) in 2010, English Heritage was confirmed as the government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, and the largest source of non-lottery grant funding for heritage assets.[15] It was retained on grounds of "performing a technical function which should remain independent from Government". However the department also suffered from budget cuts during the recession of the 2010s resulting in a repairs deficit of £100 million.[4]

Charitable Trust

In June 2013 the Government announced plans to provide an £80 million grant to enable English Heritage to become a self-financing charity (roughly following the precedent set by the transformation of the nationally owned British Waterways into the Canal and River Trust). The national portfolio of historic properties remain in public ownership, but the new English Heritage will be licensed to manage them.[16][17][18]

The change occurred on 1 April 2015 with the statutory planning and heritage protection functions remaining an independent, non-departmental public body, rebranded as 'Historic England'. The care of the properties in the National Collection and the visitor experience attached to them were transferred to the new English Heritage Trust, although the English Heritage name and logo remains.[2][3] The new trust has a license to operate the properties until 2023.[19]

National Collection

Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Stonehenge visitors' centre

English Heritage is the guardian of over 400 sites and monuments, the most famous of which include Stonehenge, Iron Bridge and Dover Castle. Whilst many have an entry charge, more than 250 properties are free to enter[20] including Maiden Castle, Dorset and St Catherine's Oratory.

The sites are part of the portfolio of over 880 historical places across the United Kingdom amassed by the British Government between the 1880s and the 1970s to form the National Collection of built and archaeological heritage: the balance is in the care of Historic Scotland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Cadw.) These sites represent a deliberate attempt by the state in the 19th and early 20th century to take the nation's most significant prehistoric sites and mediæval sites, which were no longer in active use, into public ownership.[21] This national property collection performs the same function as pictures in the National Gallery and the archaeological material in the British Museum.

Unlike the National Trust, English Heritage holds few furnished properties. New sites are rarely added to the collection as other charities and institutions are now encouraged to care for them and open them to the public.[21] One recent acquisition, in late 2011, was the Harmondsworth Barn in west London, close to Heathrow airport.

The properties are held by English Heritage under various arrangements. The majority are in the guardianship of the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with the freehold being retained by the owner. The remaining properties are either owned by English Heritage, other government departments or the Crown Estate.[12]

In 2013-14 there were 5.73 million visits to staffed sites, with 713,000 free educational visits to sites, collections and tailored learning activities and resources.[22]


As a charitable trust, English Heritage relies on the income generated from admission fees to their properties, membership and other tradable income such as catering, holiday cottages and merchandise. Furthermore, they undertake fundraising campaigns and make use of grants. To ease the transition, the government has supplied £80 million until 2023 to cover a funding defecit, specifically to tackle the backlog of maintenance to the sites in English Heritage's care.[23]

Previously, when English Heritage was a non-departmental public body and included the functions of planning, listing, awarding grants, heritage research and advice - most of its funding derived from a government funding. In 2013–2014, English Heritage had a total income of £186.55 million of which £99.85 million came from government through grant-in-aid with the remaining £86.7 million coming from earned sources. This included £17.47 million from property admissions, £14.96 million from catering and retail, £22.91 million from membership and £26.39 million from donations and grants.[22]


Members of the public are actively encouraged to join English Heritage as a member. Membership provides benefits such as free admission to its properties and member-only events as well as reduced admission to associated properties.[24] Members also get access for free or reduced cost to properties managed by Cadw in Wales, Historic Scotland, the Office of Public Works in the Republic of Ireland, Manx National Heritage on the Isle of Man and Heritage New Zealand.[25] In 2013/14 there were 1.32 million members.[22] However membership does not convey voting rights or influence over the way English Heritage is run.

Participation in consultations and web-based surveys facilitated by English Heritage is not restricted to its membership.[26] It invites various groups and members of the public to give views on specific issues, most notably in recent years, about the Stonehenge road tunnel project proposals.


The organisation welcomes volunteers. Roles range from room stewarding, running education workshops and gardening, to curatorial cleaning and research.[27]

In 2013/14 the number of regular volunteers reached 1,473.[22]

Blue plaque

A typical "blue plaque", on the London residence of guitarist Jimi Hendrix

English Heritage has since 1986 administered the blue plaque scheme in London. These recognise places important to people of significance in the capital and remained the responsibility of English Heritage following the transfer to the voluntary sector in 2015.[28][29]

See also

Outside links


  1. The English Heritage Trust - Registered Charity no. 1140351 at the Charity Commission
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "New Era for English Heritage". English Heritage Trust. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about-us/search-news/new-era-for-englands-heritage1. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 English Heritage - Our History
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lean, Geoffrey (28 February 2015). "Does our history have a future in the hands of the English Heritage Trust?". The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/conservation/11441254/Does-our-history-have-a-future-in-the-hands-of-the-English-Heritage-Trust.html. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  5. English Heritage leaflet "The evolution of the National Monument Record"
  6. "AMA-1882 Ancient Monuments Act". http://heritagelaw.org/AMA-1882-. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  7. "National Heritage Act 1983". http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/47/crossheading/historic-buildings-and-monuments-commission-for-england. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  8. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England: "Report and Accounts 1983–1985" p26
  9. English Heritage Annual Report and Accounts "Working in Partnership" 1994/1995 p 6 & 41
  10. Conservation Bulletin, Issue 35, April 1999
  11. "English Heritage Annual Report 2010-2011". English Heritage. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/eh-ann-rep-accounts-10-11/. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 English Heritage 2009–2010 Annual Report and Accounts
  13. "National Heritage Act 2002". http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/14/contents. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  14. "Public Bodies Reform – Proposals For Change". http://www.number10.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010-10-14-Public-bodies-list-FINAL.pdf. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  15. "Historic Environment". http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/historic_environment/default.aspx. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  16. "£80 Million Boost for Heritage". English Heritage. 26 June 2013. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/80million-boost-heritage/. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  17. "English Heritage to become a charitable trust". Salon: Society of Antiquaries of London Online Newsletter 301. 1 July 2013. http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5557bc147d34993782f185bde&id=1546885b7c#mctoc5. 
  18. "Measure for Treasure: Dr Simon Thurley, head of English Heritage, on philanthropy, funding and the future of heritage". PrimeResi.com. http://www.primeresi.com/why-heritage-philanthropy-matters-william-cash-talks-to-dr-simon-thurley-head-of-english-heritage/22199/. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  19. "Historic England and the English Heritage Trust". Historic England. http://www.historicengland.org.uk/about/what-we-do/historic-england-and-english-heritage/. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  20. "See English Heritage history for free". http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/article/521324/See-English-Heritage-history-for-free.html. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "English Heritage Information Pack 2010". http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/who-we-are/corporate-information/information-pack/. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  22. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named 2013.2F14_Annual_Report
  23. "Our Priorities". English Heritage Trust. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about-us/our-priorities/. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  24. "Join". English Heritage Trust. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/join. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  25. "Other Associated Attractions". English Heritage Trust. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/members-area/associated-attractions/other-attractions/. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  26. "Consultations". English Heritage. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/training-and-skills/improving-practice/consultations/. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  27. Volunteer. English Heritage. Retrieved on 7 April 2015.
  28. "The commemoration of historians under the blue plaque scheme in London". http://www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/blue_plaques.html. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  29. "Local Government Act 1985, Schedule 2 Listed buildings, conservation areas and ancient monuments". http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/51/section/6. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  • Thurley, Simon (2013). Men from the Ministry: How Britain Saved its Heritage. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-19572-9.