Historic Kent: The Value of the County’s Heritage Sector

2022

The report builds on the data brought together in the RSA Heritage Index (2020). It identifies four key heritage themes in Kent: coastal heritage; Christian heritage; historic houses; and natural heritage and historic landscapes. These themes embrace elements such as the Roman forts of the Saxon Shore; Dover Castle; the artillery forts of Henry VIII; coastal resorts; the UNESCO World Heritage site of Canterbury; the cathedral city of Rochester; historic houses including Knole and Chartwell; and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Three case studies relating to local authorities are presented: Canterbury, Dover, and Folkestone and Hythe. These show how each of the areas has been able to use its heritage assets to develop its tourism economy, and to attract significant funding from the NLHF.

A summary of the key themes of heritage strategies from local authorities across Kent is provided to indicate how local heritage assets are perceived as part of their local communities.

A consideration of the social benefits of heritage includes a reflection on the UK Government’s Levelling-Up agenda and its interaction with the heritage sector.

The economic benefits of heritage are underlined by the scale of NLHF awards made to projects in Kent, as well as the value of tourism, in part driven by heritage attractions and assets. Heritage projects in Kent were awarded over £79 million in grants from NLHF from 2013 to 2020. The largest amounts were for £13.7 million for the Canterbury Journey awarded to Canterbury Cathedral, £4.8 million for Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, £4.6 million for the Maison Dieu in Dover, £4.6 million for the Sheerness Dockyard Church project, and £3.4 million for Chartwell.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major fall in income from tourism for the county from £4.1 billion in 2019 to £1.6 billion in 2020. This included a fall of 61 per cent on day trips, and 60 per cent on overnight trips. This had an impact on employment in the tourism sector accounting for a drop of 39 per cent to 50,026 individuals. The fall in income due to the pandemic is particularly noticeable for Canterbury with a loss of over £300 million, while Medway and Thanet both saw losses over around £200 million.

The report reflects on the challenges facing heritage in Kent. In particular, it considers the way that the public have been engaging with built heritage, museums, and archives. Solutions include integrating the historic built environment with related objects and documents that can be found in museums and archives within the county.

The report is available from KAR [https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent%2F01.02.95708].

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and an Academic Associate in SISJAC at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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