New Data Uncovers Surge in Heritage Interest in England

New Data Uncovers Surge in Heritage Interest in England

  • Participation in heritage is rising fastest among adults from lower socio-economic groups and Black and Minority Ethnic groups

  • Dramatic decrease in the participation gap between least and most deprived communities

  • Historic sites are attracting more visitors and membership of heritage organisations is increasing

  • Three quarters of the adult population participated in heritage activity last year

  • Heritage is being used to help shape both national and local identity in “place branding” which helps maximise the value of a place for residents and visitors

  • “Our heritage is a key national asset, underpinning Britain’s image and brand throughout the world. As we move towards leaving the EU, its economic dynamism will only become more important.”

  • Images and infographics here:


Visits to historic sites are growing, membership of heritage organisations is increasing and participation in heritage is becoming more inclusive, according to this year’s Heritage Counts reports. The reports have been published today (1 December) by Historic England on behalf of England’s leading heritage organisations which make up the Historic Environment Forum.

Heritage for everyone

New evidence has shown that participation in heritage(1) is becoming more inclusive and appealing to people from all walks of life. In the last 10 years heritage participation has grown fastest among adults from Black and Minority Ethnic groups and lower socio-economic groups (C2DE). The gap in heritage participation between people living in the most deprived areas and those in the least deprived areas decreased dramatically in the past six years - from a gap of 44 per cent in 2009/10 to 24 per cent in 2015/16.

More visits and increasing membership

The report, published today (1 December) at Heritage Day, an annual event run by the Heritage Alliance- England’s biggest coalition of heritage interests’, has also shown that nearly three quarters of the adult population, or 40 million people, participated in heritage during the past year. There has been a growth in membership of heritage organisations in the last year, with English Heritage, the National Trust and the Historic Houses Association all reporting an increase in membership: 10%, 8% and 11% respectively.

These results suggest that heritage is strongly valued by the public. Historic England believes our shared heritage and history are a source of identity and stability in an uncertain world.

Heritage shapes identity

One of the Heritage Counts reports demonstrates that the nation is using its historic environment to project or communicate both national and local identities. The research shows that historic buildings and places are increasingly being used in “place branding”- a concept that identifies the perception and reputation of a place. The UK’s national branding campaign, the GREAT campaign, has identified heritage as one of the UK’s 12 unique selling points.

Trends toward devolution and localism mean that local place-making is increasingly important for local economies and communities. Currently local organisations, such as Business Improvement Districts, are shaping the image and identity of their local communities and using heritage to do this. The research shows that heritage is being used to enhance local pride, provide places with a unique selling point and to attract visitors but also strengthen the quality of life for residents and businesses.

As part of the Heritage Counts research, a survey of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) was carried out. 89% of surveyed BIDs felt that heritage played an important role in the image and identity of the BID.  Half of BIDs (51%) rated heritage as being important to achieving their objectives.


The Newcastle NE1 Business Improvement District Company said: “Today’s consumer is very market savvy and if a brand is constructed from scratch they are suspicious; using heritage brings credibility and authenticity to the offer.”


Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of Historic England said: “This new research clearly shows that more and more people, from a variety of socio-economic and ethnic groups, appreciate England’s historic sites. It is excellent news. Our historic environment plays a crucial role in shaping the places where we live, work and visit. It provides people with a physical link to the past, permanence, stability and a sense of belonging. Places with strong, distinctive identities are more likely to prosper than those without them. Our heritage is a key national asset, underpinning Britain’s image and brand throughout the world. As we move towards leaving the EU, its economic dynamism will only become more important.”


John Sell, Chair of the Historic Environment Forum, said: "It is wonderful that more and more people from a variety of backgrounds are enjoying and caring for heritage and that more places are recognising the value of heritage as part of what makes them unique. However there is still work to do so that, in encouraging growth and managing change, we do not lose sight of what makes places special. Local council and BID leaders now need to work together to make sure that heritage is at the heart of the vision for their towns, cities and neighbourhoods.”



  1. Participating in heritage includes visiting a city or town with historic character; a historic building open to the public (non-religious); a historic park or garden open to the public; a place connected with industrial history (e.g. an old factory, dockyard or mine) or historic transport system (e.g. an old ship or railway); a historic place of worship attended as a visitor (not to worship); a monument such as a castle, fort or ruin; a site of archaeological interest (i.e. Roman villa, ancient burial site); a site connected with sports heritage (e.g. Wimbledon) (not visited for the purposes of watching sport)

Read more about Heritage Counts here

For further press information contact Rosie Ryder,, 02079733388 or Joe O’Donnell,, 0207 2330 500

For images and infographics click here:

Other useful publications recently released:

Heritage Index-

The Impact of Heritage Tourism for the UK Economy 2016-

Notes to Editors

Heritage Counts is an annual survey of the state of England's historic environment produced by Historic England (previously known as English Heritage) on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum, which represents the major heritage organisations in England. The reports summarise policy changes from the year and reports on a wide range of information and data that helps the sector make decisions and influence policy.

The Historic Environment Forum members are:


Architectural Heritage Fund

British Property Federation

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

Church of England Cathedrals & Church Buildings Division

Council for British Archaeology

Country Land and Business Association

Heritage Lottery Fund

Historic England

Historic Houses Association

Historic Religious Buildings Alliance

Institute of Historic Building Conservation

Joint Committee of the National Amenities Societies

National Trust

Natural England

Royal Institute of British Architects

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Royal Town Planning Institute

The Churches Conservation Trust

The Heritage Alliance