The 2021 visitor figures for English Heritage are now available. Stonehenge remains the most visited site: 334,087 visits in 2021 compared with 1.6 million in 2019. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens has made an appearance in the top 10 with 93,614 visits in 2021. Tintagel, with 267,094 visits, had a particularly popular season perhaps reflecting the popularity of Cornwall as a holiday destination: in 2017 it had 246,039 visits.
Details of the impact that the pandemic has made on the heritage sector is becoming clear. Visitor figures for 2021 are now available. The top 10 properties in 2021 for the National Trust, National Trust for Scotland, English Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Historic Royal Palaces, and the Treasure Houses of England are collated here: 51 properties in all.
The National Trust has recovered best best with 4.3 million visits to its top 10 properties, down slightly from 4.6 million visits to the same 10 properties in 2019. In contrast Historic Royal Palaces attracted just over 1 million visitors in 2021, down from 4.5 million in 2019.
These 51 properties attracted 11.7 million visitors in 2021, compared to 21.8 million in 2019 (7.7 million in 2020).
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:
One of the most dramatic castles is Peveril standing above the Derbyshire village of Castleton famous for its Blue John mines.
Scarborough Castle has dramatic views over the bays on each side. It also contains a Roman signal station.
Brougham Castle lies on the site of a Roman fort on the Roman road that crossed the Pennines.
Farnham Castle dominates the town.
Castle Rising has a wonderful keep standing within earthworks.
Orford provides magnificent views over the Suffolk coast.
Hadleigh Castle provides dramatic views over the Thames estuary.
Helmsley Castle lies on the edge of the Yorkshire market town.
The Jewel Tower was constructed in 1365 as part of the Royal Palace at Westminster. It stood at the south-west corner of the complex adjacent to Westminster Abbey. From 1869 to 1938 it served as the Weights and Measures Office and in 1941 was damaged by an incendiary device. The tower was repaired in the years following the war, after being placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1948. It is now in the care of English Heritage.
The first official guidebook was prepared by A.J. Taylor, the then Assistant Chief Inspector of monuments. It follows the standard format of History followed by description. A fold-out plan was inserted inside the rear cover. A note comments: ‘The purpose of this guide is to provide the visitor to the Jewel Tower with a full account of its history and a description of its different rooms. Those who prefer to save the former to read at leisure will find a shorter historical note exhibited on the ground floor of the tower’.
Taylor’s guide continued to be published for over 40 years, appearing as the English Heritage guide though with additional illustrations. Alan Sorrell’s reconstruction of the tower (along with part of the palace) was included on the back cover.
Jeremy Ashbee prepared the new English Heritage red guide (2013). This consists of a tour followed by a history. A number of special features are included. A series of plans are placed inside the read fold-out cover.
The impact of lockdowns due to the pandemic is making itself clear on the visitor figures released by ALVA. Reduced visitor numbers will see a reduction in income from ticket sales as well as through retail outlets. We have yet to see the impact on those who pay annual memberships.
These figures use the numbers for the Top 10 properties for the National Trust (NT), the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), English Heritage (EH), and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The number for Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) is based on three properties: the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Hampton Court.
The 44 properties represented in this histogram received over 20 million visitors in 2019; in 2020 it was just over 6 million. The Top 10 properties for HES dropped by nearly 4 million visitors.
The new English Heritage guidebook for the Cluniac priory at Wenlock adopts the new format for the series: a nearly square design that makes it easier to use on site than the previous tall format.
There are two main sections: the tour followed by a history. There are six ‘special features’ (what I would describe as information boxes) that include one on the Cluniac Order, and archaeology at the priory. The all colour guide includes a number of reconstructions, such as one for the chapter house, and an aerial view of the complex. (I miss the drama and atmosphere of an Alan Sorrell reconstruction!) The later history of the priory is included down to its placement in State Guardianship in 1962.
The guide by John McNeill includes a foldout plan inside the back cover, and a labelled photograph of the site on the folded out front cover. Both will help the visitor to understand the different parts of the monastic complex.
The first Ministry guide to the site was by Rose Graham and was entitled ‘The history of the Alien Priory of Wenlock’ (1965). This reproduced her essay from the Journal of the British Archaeological Association (1939).
The ALVA figures for 2020 have been released. The Top 10 English Heritage sites in 2019 received 3.4 million visitors; in 2020 that dropped to 1,083,480. Visitors to Stonehenge dropped by 80 per cent.
The impact on English Heritage has been less than sites managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne has had two features on the official Ministry and English Heritage guidebooks of Hadrian’s Wall in their News Bulletin:
David W. J. Gill, ‘Guiding us along the Roman wall’, 69 (September 2020), p. 3
Nick Hodgson, ‘Guiding us along the Roman frontier, Part II’, 70 (December 2020), p. 5
Tynemouth priory and church are located on the north side of the mouth of the river Tyne. The first guidebook, by R.Neville Hadcock, was published in 1936; the second edition appeared in 1952, continuing as an English Heritage ‘Handbook’ in 1986. It followed the standard format of History followed by description; there is an extended glossary.
The guidebook was replaced by Andrew D. Saunders (1993).
The most recent guidebook is by Grace McCombie (2008). This starts with a tour followed by the history. It includes a section on the headland in the First and Second World Wars, with detailed descriptions of the gun batteries.
Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast was placed in State Guardianship in 1929. Construction had started in 1313. The first official guide was published in 1936 with the section on the history of the castle by C.H. Hunter Blair, and the description by H.L. Honeyman. The cover carries the arms of Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster (1277–1322). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. The guide continued into the 1970s.
A colour illustrated guide was prepared by Henry Summerson (1993). The main section is dedicated to a tour of the castle, and there is a helpful bird’s-eye view to help to orientate the visitor. There is a short section with biographical notes on Thomas of Lancaster and John of Gaunt.
Alastair Oswald and Jeremy Ashbee prepared the English Heritage red guide (2007). This contains a bird’s-eye view and a plan of the castle on the fold-out card cover. The tour contains helpful thumbnail plans to help the visitor located their position. There is a section on Dunstanburgh and coastal defence during World War 2.