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English Heritage

March 2011

English HeritageEnglish Heritage is one of those names that we have all heard of but not all of us know much about.
Generally, along with its sister organisations, Historic Scotland and CADW in Wales, it is pocketed with the National Trust as a body that is looking after various aspects of the natural resources and historic buildings in our country and for a membership fee, will offer us reduced price entry to a range of various sites.

In fact, English Heritage does a great deal more than that; its scope covers an extraordinarily wide field of activity.

Basically, it came together over 20 years ago when Michael Heseltine, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, proposed that the national responsibility for our historic environment should be given to a stand alone organisation under the umbrella of ministerial quidelines and government policy. As a consequence of this, in 1984 the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission was set up which has evolved into English Heritage. Its remit is the preservation and enhancement of the manmade heritage of England for the benefit of future generations, and to directly manage the sites and monuments taken into state care. At the moment it has over 400 sites and monuments in its care along with over 8,000 conservation areas.

But English Heritage does a lot more than manage key historical sites. One main area is providing expert advice to government and local authorities on aspects relating to manmade historic sites and buildings. In one year it has advised the government on around 2,000 requests for listing; and local authorities on around 14,000 planning applications affecting Grade 1 and Grade II listed buildings.

English Heritage gives out around £30 million in grants every year and in just over 10 years has safeguarded 50% of buildings deemed at risk in its original listings. Most years it also trains around 2,500 professionals working in related areas.

However, the area most visible to us, the general public, is English Heritage’s membership scheme. For £44 a year, you gain free access to all English Heritage properties, free or reduced prices to many of the special events held across the country, a regular magazine Heritage Today, and many additional offers and benefits. Over one million members indicate its popularity, and membership has increased by 21% in the last five years.

Member or not, the English Heritage sites attract a great deal of interest – around 11 million people visit their sites each year, including around half a million school children.

The membership of course provides good revenue for the organisation, but most of its income comes from the government. A quarter of its revenue is created by commercial activities and fundraising.

If you are interested in English Heritage, there are lots of ways to become involved on top of becoming a member and visiting their sites. They are usually looking for volunteers in a range of areas, from garden guides and room stewards to house guides. Currently on their website there is a request for education volunteers at Stonehenge – to work on an on-call basis to meet and greet education groups arriving at Stonehenge plus supporting education workshops.

If you want to know more about English Heritage, they have a big site on www.english-heritage.org.uk


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