St Paul's Cathedral and the London skyline viewed across the Millennium Bridge.
St Paul's Cathedral and the London skyline viewed across the London Millennium Footbridge.
St Paul's Cathedral and the London skyline viewed across the London Millennium Footbridge.

New Era for England's Heritage

Successor bodies to English Heritage set out programme for the years ahead

The restoration of one of London's greatest Art Deco mansions, a £52m conservation programme for many of the country's most important historic sites, a new project that invites the public to add information to the official "list" of listed buildings, and a definitive study of the Staffordshire Hoard were among the highlights announced today (Thursday 26 February 2015) at the Chapter House in Westminster Abbey as the two successor bodies to English Heritage set out their plans for the years ahead.

From 1 April, English Heritage will separate into two organisations:

  • Historic England, will be the new name for the public body that champions and protects England's historic environment, everything from prehistoric remains to post-war office buildings, and
  • The English Heritage Trust, a new independent charity, retaining the name English Heritage, will look after - on behalf of the nation - the National Heritage Collection, consisting of more than 400 historic sites across England including Stonehenge, Dover Castle and some of the best preserved parts of Hadrian's Wall.

The new English Heritage charity will use a Government investment of almost £80m to bring and keep the story of England alive through a major programme of interpretation, presentation and conservation. This will allow the stories of individual properties to be fully told and will help the new charity towards self-funding status. English Heritage already engages with over 10 million people each year.

Historic England will champion the historic environment all around us. It will provide expert advice, promote constructive conservation, carry out research and give guidance and grants to everyone from local communities to national policymakers, from owners of listed and older homes to volunteers saving a building at risk. Historic England will also licence the new English Heritage charity to look after the sites in the National Heritage Collection and appoint trustees to the charity's board.

This huge boost for England's heritage comes in a year when the country celebrates a remarkable set of historic anniversaries including the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the 100th anniversary of the Women's Institute, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the 750th anniversary of the first elected parliament, which sat in the Chapter House itself.

Support for New Model

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: "For both the people who live here and the scores of visitors who flock to our shores, England's heritage is easily one of our greatest national assets. But preserving our heritage cannot just be about protecting buildings, we have to understand them better and be able to explain their value and importance to the world.

"The new model launched today allows for just that and will give these bodies the freedom they need to explore new and entrepreneurial ways of protecting, promoting and bringing our heritage to life. By safeguarding our nation's heritage in this way we will continue to attract visitors to our heritage sites, boosting the country's tourism industry and driving economic growth for many years to come."

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "As part of our long-term economic plan, this government is cutting waste and driving reform to save taxpayers billions. Since the last General Election we have reduced the number of public bodies by around a third and saved over £2.6bn. This new model provides a better deal for visitors and taxpayers and I wish Historic England and The English Heritage Trust every success."

Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of the Historic England Commission, said: "We've reached this landmark moment for the future of England's heritage because of the commitment and support of the whole heritage sector represented here today. I know we can count upon your continuing support for the vital work we all do to ensure that England's heritage is understood, protected, championed and loved."

Sir Tim Laurence, Chairman of the new English Heritage charity: "People are increasingly looking for experiences that bring history to life. I believe the new charity will be particularly well placed to do this through a combination of imagination, scholarship and an unwavering desire to inspire and entertain visitors to our remarkable collection of historic sites."

English Heritage's highlights for the years ahead include:

  • the launch of inspirational projects at sites that will capture the imagination of our visitors: this year will see the re-presentation and restoration of the Art Deco Eltham Palace in Greenwich while to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, there will be new exhibitions at those sites associated with the Duke of Wellington namely, Wellington Arch and Apsley House in London and Walmer Castle in Kent
  • next year at Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire, we will open a new museum to tell the 900-year story of the abbey and display its nationally important collection of artefacts. At the 1066 Battle of Hastings Abbey and Battlefield, we will improve our presentation of the most famous battle fought on English soil, and the abbey and great house that were later built on the site: a new exhibition in the Great Gatehouse of the medieval abbey will incorporate previously unseen artefacts and for the first time visitors will be able to enjoy the magnificent view from the roof, to look over the town of Battle, and gain a better understanding of the landscape on which the battle was fought
  • the launch of a major £52m conservation programme - the biggest in the history of the National Heritage Collection - which will clear the backlog of the highest priority repairs at sites across the country including Hadrian's Wall in the North, Queen Victoria's family home, Osborne, in the South, Framlingham Castle in the East, and Iron Bridge in the West. Following a pilot programme next year, English Heritage will establish a new in-house team of expert stone-masons, providing an invaluable resource of traditional crafts and skills
  • the launch of new interpretation at many of the free sites in our care, in particular prehistoric and Roman sites, including new walking trails, maps and itineraries, and mobile media content

Historic England's highlights of the year ahead include:

  • the launch of Enriching the List, a project enabling the public to upload their own information and images to the National Heritage List for England
  • the investigation of the Staffordshire Hoard in order to understand its art-historical and cultural context and produce a definitive publication and online database
  • Heritage Action Zones where we shall bring all our different expertise to bear and work with local people to unlock the potential of the historic environment in areas of economic need
  • the rescue of major buildings on the Heritage at Risk register, for example, the Wedgwood Museum, Stoke-on-Trent (in partnership with the Prince's Regeneration Trust), the Grand Hotel, Birmingham, and St Luke's in Liverpool known locally as "the bombed out church" and derelict since the Second World War
  • the regeneration of Murray's Mill in Ancoats, Manchester, to bring back into use these magnificent buildings in one of the earliest industrial places in England
  • grants to restore Temple Mill, an extraordinary Egyptian style textile mill in Leeds, and Wolfeton Riding House, Dorset, one of the oldest in England, dating from the late 16th century
  • new online access to more than 620,000 historic photographs of cities, towns and villages all over the country. This new resource, to be known as England's Places, is the digitised version of our famous Architectural Red Boxes and will make it possible to delve into the past of favourite places, and
  • in summer, hundreds of volunteers will get involved in surveying the condition of local grade II listed buildings.

New websites for Historic England and the English Heritage charity will go live on 16 March