Heritage and the Climate Crisis

Reculver © David Gill

One of the themes explored in the EARC report, From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector, is the climate crisis. The EARC region includes coastal heritage from the Wash, along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts, the Essex marshes, and the Kent coast. The report considers heritage and coastal change; impacts of future climate and coastal change on heritage; and heritage responses to climate change and coastal change.

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.

From the Wash to the White Cliffs

Our report on the contribution of the heritage sector to society and the economy in the south east and the east of England was published today.

Summary

This report reviews the contribution of heritage to the region defined by the counties of Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. It identifies four key themes that link the heritage in the region: coastal defence; Christian heritage; historic houses; and historic landscapes and natural heritage. The region contains one UNESCO World Heritage Site at Canterbury. Heritage is supported by the development of several Heritage Action Zones and High Street Heritage Action Zones across the four counties.

Heritage features in the strategies for the two regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), as well as countywide and local authority heritage and cultural strategies. The report identifies examples of good practice.  

Several research themes have been identified that link to the interests of the three sponsoring universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Kent. Coastal heritage across the four counties is facing the threat of the climate crisis and assets are being lost due to coastal erosion. The impact of rising sea levels is also assessed. Heritage and cultural property crime affects the sustainability of heritage and cultural property across the region. Five case studies are presented: damage to churches, including lead roof theft; illegal metal-detecting and the disposal of finds; architectural theft; vandalism; and the use of technology to facilitate crime against heritage assets. The third research theme relates to the way that the DCI sector works with heritage organisation to record and interpret assets. The development of a county based Digital Heritage Strategy for Suffolk is highlighted.

The economic benefits of heritage are explored through the award of National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grants to heritage projects. Between 2013 and 2020 the EARC region was awarded over £190 million for heritage projects by NLHF. In addition, the report explores visitor trends and identifies the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism economy for the region. Historic England estimates that the heritage sector accounted for 140,000 jobs in the south east, and eastern England in 2019.

The social benefits of heritage align with the UK Government’s Levelling-Up agenda. This is explored through a number of sub-themes: health and well-being; pride in place; digital connectivity; education and skills.

The report concludes with a reflection on the challenges facing heritage across the region. This includes encouraging public participation with museums and archives.

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.

Press release: New report highlights the contribution of heritage to the EARC region, 10 August 2022 <https://easternarc.ac.uk/news/earc-report-identifies-the-economic-and-social-contribution-of-heritage-to-the-south-east-and-east-of-england/>

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].

Celebrating the City of Colchester

Colchester Castle © David Gill

Colchester is one of the new cities announced to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Remains of the Roman colony founded shortly after the invasion of Britain in 43 CE can still be seen including the foundations of the temple to the Divine Claudius in the foundations of the castle. Pliny the Elder, who was killed in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, mentioned the oppidum of Camulodunum (Camalodunum) in his Natural History (2.187). However the abbreviated name appears on the pre-Roman coinage of Cunobelinus.

For reactions to the news: BBC Essex.

The Balkerne Gate, Colchester © David Gill
City Walls © David Gill

Mwnt: Heritage Crime in Wales

Mwnt © David Gill

During December the small church at Mwnt in Ceredigion was vandalised not just once but twice (“Mwnt church vandalism prompts £20k fundraising appeal“, BBC News 3 January 2022). Windows and the entrance to the churchyard were damaged. These vulnerable structures need public protection.

A JustGiving page has been set up to help fund the restoration.

Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival

Walltown Crags © David Gill

2022 marks the 1900th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall and there will be a year of celebrations for this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sign up to get news about events and join the virtual walk along the Wall.

Full details: 1900 Festival

Heritage, levelling-up and the Thames Estuary

Hadleigh Castle, Essex © Caroline Gill

Four key reports are encouraging us to rethink heritage on both sides of the Thames Estuary. The RSA Heritage Index (2020) provides the data arranged by local authority to explore the contribution heritage makes in a locality. In particular, the accompanying report, Pride in Place by Hannah Webster, identifies the authorities along the Thames Estuary as having ‘heritage potential’. In other words, these areas rank highly in terms of heritage assets, but not so well in terms of heritage activities.

The RSA data for heritage in the two counties of Essex and Kent (and with sections on the Thames Estuary) are further explored in two reports by David Gill and Peter Matthews that have been issued by the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent (2021). These three heritage reports can now be read against the Thames Heritage Levelling-up Data Atlas (2021) that was commissioned by the Thames Estuary Growth Board. This Atlas explores ten indicators in order ‘to help understand social outcomes and inequalities in a consistent way across the Estuary’.

Can the data from these reports form the starting point for interventions that would help to ‘level up’ local populations especially around the theme of health and well-being? This is particularly important as there is a strong correlation between higher levels of neighbourhood deprivation and lower arts, cultural and heritage engagement (Mak, Coulter and Fancourt 2021), and a significant body of research has demonstrated that the arts and culture can potentially impact both mental and physical health (Fancourt and Finn 2019).

In the Atlas section on ‘Health and Wellbeing’, Canterbury and Brentwood have the most active populations: only 17 and 20 per cent of the population take exercise for less than 30 minutes each week. (The average for England is 25 per cent.) Both these authorities perform well in the Heritage Index for England, ranking at 67 and 123. Specifically, Brentwood is ranked at 25 in the theme of Parks and Open Spaces, and at 95 for Landscape and Natural Heritage, while Canterbury is ranked at 223 and 35. While this could suggest that certain types of heritage asset promote good health through the provision of space for exercise, Castle Point is ranked at 52 in the Heritage Index, but 30 per cent of the population take exercise for less than 30 minutes each week.

The Atlas suggests that Canterbury, Dartford, Castle Point, Brentwood and Rochford, have better mental health than the average for England (17%); Canterbury, Rochford and Castle Point are in the top 100 in the Heritage Index for England. In addition, authorities in the Thames Estuary have a good level of Life Satisfaction with several authorities above the average for England (7.66 ex 10), notably Swale (7.78), Rochford (7.91), and Castle Point (7.99). This may reflect access to heritage assets. Rochford was ranked at 4 in the Heritage Index for Landscape and Natural Heritage; and Castle Point and Swale performed well in the rankings for Parks and Open Spaces (16/27) as well as Landscape and Natural Heritage (20/26).

Two Tree Island, Essex © David Gill

The Levelling-up Atlas and the Heritage Index offer an invaluable starting point for understanding the link between heritage, and health and well-being. The data from the reports should be used by policy-makers to inform the levelling up agenda along the Thames Estuary, but it is clear that there needs to be further research into the way that local populations engage with heritage, and what can be done to improve the local assets for the wider benefit of the local population.

Professor David Gill (University of Kent) and Phil Ward (Eastern ARC)

This post was prepared for the Heritage Alliance debate, “Levelling Up: What does it mean for heritage?”, 30 November 2021.

Sutton Hoo: The Royal Burial Ground

© David Gill

The ground level view of the royal burial ground at Sutton Hoo is completely different to that obtained from the new viewing platform. Visitors may be unaware that the site is criss-crossed by glider ditches that were cut during the Second World War.

Sutton Hoo: a new perspective

Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo © David Gill

The new viewing platform at Sutton Hoo provides wonderful views over the burial ground. The mound that contained the key ship-burial is closest to the platform, but it is now clear to the viewer that the mound is placed in a much wider funerary setting. The mounds take on new forms seen from this height.

From the other side of the platform it is possible to see the Deben and Woodbridge, giving a sense of the proximity of the burial-ground to the river.

The temporary tower had provided some new vistas of the mounds but this new platform places the visitor in one of the key locations.

English Heritage: Top 10 Castles

Bolsover Castle © David Gill

English Heritage has been asking its members for its top 10 castles. The list consists of: Dover, Kenilworth, Tintagel, Bolsover, Portchester, Warkworth, Dunstanburgh, Carisbrooke, Middleham and Beeston.

Many of these would be in my personal top 10 English Heritage castles especially Bolsover. But what would I want to include? Leaving aside the artillery forts like Pendennis and Tilbury, I would want to consider:

Peveril Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire © David Gill

One of the most dramatic castles is Peveril standing above the Derbyshire village of Castleton famous for its Blue John mines.

Scarborough Castle © David Gill

Scarborough Castle has dramatic views over the bays on each side. It also contains a Roman signal station.

Brougham Castle © David Gill

Brougham Castle lies on the site of a Roman fort on the Roman road that crossed the Pennines.

Farnham Castle © David Gill

Farnham Castle dominates the town.

Castle Rising © David Gill

Castle Rising has a wonderful keep standing within earthworks.

Orford Castle © David Gill

Orford provides magnificent views over the Suffolk coast.

Hadleigh Castle © David Gill

Hadleigh Castle provides dramatic views over the Thames estuary.

Helmsley Castle © David Gill

Helmsley Castle lies on the edge of the Yorkshire market town.

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