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Architectural Heritage Fund Annual Review 2021-22
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Objective 01
Generate and distribute increased levels of investment and funding to support the sustainable reuse of historic buildings.

During the past year, the AHF made 14 loan offers totalling £3,474,788 and 201 grant offers totalling £5,442,826. This increase is largely the result of increased grant activity in Wales and Northern Ireland, alongside ongoing activity in England and Scotland. In Wales, we celebrated a successful first year of our new funding agreement with Cadw, which has increased the annual grants budget in the country from £45,000 to £334,000 and is now supporting smaller scale capital grants to support emergency works and the development of meanwhile uses. These small grants can be vital for organisations in helping to test the uptake of new services and to build momentum and public engagement with heritage regeneration projects. We are extremely grateful to Cadw, as well as the Pilgrim Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation, whose partnership makes possible our Heritage Transformed in Wales programme.

Image: St Columb's Hall Trust | St Columb's Hall, Londonderry
Image: St Columb's Hall Trust | St Columb's Hall, Londonderry
Robert Burns Ellisland Trust | Ellisland Farmhouse Museum, Auldgirth, Dumfries & Galloway
Robert Burns Ellisland Trust | Ellisland Farmhouse Museum, Auldgirth, Dumfries & Galloway

In Northern Ireland, we continued to work across the country through our Heritage Transformed in Northern Ireland programme. A larger investment has also been made into Village Catalyst – a partnership with the Department for Communities, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive – which has been recognised as a potential exemplar in delivering sustainable change for small communities. The scheme has now been expanded with a five-year commitment from partners, and the £120,000 in Viability and Project Development Grants was awarded to eleven projects seeking to develop into Village Catalyst projects. Through our Heritage Impact Fund (made possible by new investment from the Department for Communities) we offered a loan of £250,000 to the Market Development Association for their project to convert the former St Malachy’s Convent School, Belfast into a new community and heritage space.

The past year saw the culmination of our existing grant agreement with Historic Environment Scotland, and this has now been renewed for three years at the same level – a grant totalling over £1.3 million. This grant, our largest ever in Scotland, is the result of the strong contribution that early-stage AHF grants and loan support make to the maintenance of Scotland’s historic environment and the role that we play in building a pipeline for statutory capital funding. Additionally, the William Grant Foundation has renewed our funding at £107,000.

Finally, the year saw the last of our larger capital grants awarded to high streets projects in England through our Transforming Places through Heritage programme. A significant amount of work has gone into making the case for further funding for high street and town centre projects and in the next year we will be looking to announce a successor programme to Transforming Places. This will hopefully enable us to continue the vital work this scheme has helped to bring forward, but we also wish to address the gap in funding there is for heritage assets that are not on the high street or in town centres.  




Significant KPIs and actions

Grant programme spend targets met
HIF and endowment lending targets met
Fundraising strategy targets achieved
Partial achievement. Grant programmes secured in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Donor engagement delayed due to COVID.
Objective 02
Support community-led heritage regeneration by assisting charities and social enterprises to take ownership of, develop and sustain new uses for historic buildings.

The year saw an exciting array of projects and applicants come forward for funding. 

Across the UK a number of significant new loan offers were made during 2021/22. In England, these included a loan offer to Leeds Library, the oldest surviving private subscription library in the UK. Our funding is helping the organisation acquire a neighbouring 19th-century former shop building, which will allow for the expansion of the Library, consequently enabling its entire collection to be brought back into one space and creating room for a newly accessible hub for culture, arts, and educational activities. Through our endowment, we were also able to offer a loan of £300,000 to Re-form Heritage in Stoke on Trent; this will support their development of eleven terrace houses in Harper Street, as an extension of their Heritage Trail at Middleport Pottery.


Tywi Gateway Trust | County Museum Outbuildings, Abergwili, Carmarthenshire
Tywi Gateway Trust | County Museum Outbuildings, Abergwili, Carmarthenshire
Collective | The Old Observatory House, Edinburgh
Collective | The Old Observatory House, Edinburgh

In Scotland, a £300,000 loan to Collective, an Edinburgh based arts organisation, helped secure The Old Observatory House. The 18th century building, perched on Calton Hill, forms one corner of Collective’s site, part of the former City Observatory and the UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. Re-opened as visitor accommodation, and featuring the work of artists specially commissioned by Collective, the house will play a vital part in developing Collective’s sustainable future. Over in Glasgow, and through the Heritage Impact Fund, we invested £650,000 into work to bring historic Govanhill Baths back into community use, a project we have long supported.

In Northern Ireland, the launch of the new Village Catalyst programme saw a number of exciting new projects come forward for early-stage funding. One of the pilot projects, Caledon Woolstore, also completed its capital phase and the building has won a number of plaudits, including a feature in The Architects’ Journal - The Irish Issue, for its high-quality design and its approach to the conservation of the historic building, which had lain empty for forty years. We will be looking to support a number of new projects in the forthcoming year and are encouraging charities and social enterprise in Northern Ireland to come forward with ideas.

In Wales a number of capital grants were awarded, as part of our new funding agreement with Cadw. Among the four Welsh Capital Works Grant was funding to Capel Carmel for their plans to conserve the Carmel Baptist Chapel and restore the adjoining Grade II-listed Chapel House. Situated in Capel Carmel, a rural village in Gwynedd, the Chapel and Chapel House are linked, small buildings, which form a rare surviving duo. While the Chapel will be restored as an educational facility for locals and visitors to learn about and interact with a slice of history, the group intend to conserve the Chapel House to provide long-term, affordable accommodation – a direct response to a lack of affordable housing in the area. 

There was also a capital grant for Hafod Ceiri’s plans to adapt Grade II*-listed Capel Methodistiaid Calfinaidd in Llithfaen into a performance and events space with community facilities, education space and bunkhouse accommodation units in the adjoining vestry. Each of these projects form part of AHF’s efforts to help find solutions to the many empty historic chapels across Wales. 

The Transforming Places through Heritage programme, funded by the DCMS, continued to make grants in its third year of delivery. A number of ‘Transformational Project Grants’ were made during 2021/22, including to a number of buildings that will be repurposed for arts and culture-led uses. These include a grant to Alice Billings House in Stratford, built in 1905-6 to provide accommodation for firemen of the West Ham Fire Brigade. The funding award will enable The Creative Land Trust to create a gallery and exhibition space, community café, and public courtyard and will expand their supply of affordable creative workspace in London. In Gateshead, an AHF grant of £250,000 will fund a series of repairs to the Trinity Centre, a Victorian building that sits alongside a Grade I listed chapel. Once restored, the building will provide Gateway Studio with new and improved facilities for dance, arts, and community engagement activities, including a community café, performance space, and rentable office space. And down in the South West, Redruth Revival was awarded £250,000 in funding to support plans to restore and refurbish the Grade II-listed Buttermarket complex into a community hub at the heart of the Redruth High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) - a further example of the significant co-investments made in schemes that complement the Historic England led HAZ programme. 




Significant KPIs and actions

Deliver high quality advice and support to charities and social enterprises developing historic building projects (UK wide)
Over 95% of organisations stated our advice is helpful
At least ten organisations provided with RePlan support
13 organisations supported during the year
Objective 03
Increase the effectiveness and impact of the AHF, ensuring we continue to deliver value for funders and the organisations and projects we invest in.

There were a number of governance changes during the year, including the recruitment of a new Chair, Ros Kerslake CBE, the former Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Prince’s Regeneration Trust. Ros’s term began in September 2022. 

Two new trustees were appointed to the Board during the year, they were:

-  Audrey Carlin - CEO, WASPS Studios

-  Esther Robinson Wild - EJRW Consultants 

Each brings significant experience across the fields of conservation, social enterprise, culture, property and finance. 

Kate Dickson and Eleanor McAllister both stepped down from the Board during the year.

Menter Ty’n Llan Cyf | Ty'n Llan Community Pub, Llandwrog, Gwynedd
Menter Ty’n Llan Cyf | Ty'n Llan Community Pub, Llandwrog, Gwynedd

For the first time, we also appointed two associate trustees, Nyemu Nyembe and Olivia Bailey. Both will gain experience of the trustee role and its responsibilities through (non-voting) engagement in Board activities and meetings. This will increase their experience in the roles and responsibilities of trustees and enable them to seek governance opportunities within the heritage and cultural sectors.  

The recruitment of two associate trustees formed part of our EDI commitments and action plan, published in September 2021. This work is focused across a number of areas, looking at how the AHF itself can be more representative of wider UK society and also how we encourage applications from a diverse range of organisations. This we see as imperative to finding uses for historic buildings wherever they are, but particularly in economically deprived areas, where the need is often greatest, and where capacity and resources are typically in shortest supply. The evaluation of our current strategy is going to be looking at how we target areas in greatest need and the approach we need to take in bringing forward projects in these locations. 

One particular area of weakness for the organisation is in terms of data, particularly information that tells us about the diversity at governance and staffing levels of applicant organisations. This is a challenging area and one where our approach is likely to evolve over the next few years as we trial different methods and learn from other organisation’s approaches.


Significant KPIs and actions

EDI commitments and action plan published
Chair and trustee recruitment
Objective 04
Promote the impact and benefits of community-led regeneration and ownership of historic buildings, to Government, communities and funders.

We produced the second of our new Impact Reports during the year. These are capturing in more detail the impact AHF is delivering and is highlighting our role in assisting projects to move through the cycle of capital project development. One stand out statistic from the report found that 86% of organisations completing the project viability stage went onto the project development stage - a key milestone in the early stages of a project.  

Our Year 2 Transforming Places through Heritage Report was also produced, setting out how we are delivering against the five critical success factors of the programme.  

As well as seeking to remain consistent and reduce the overall reporting burden on the projects we fund, we will continue to review and refine our approach to impact reporting, building on the work and progress we have made in recent years. 

During the year we were also commissioned by the Department for Communities Northern Ireland to produce a report on the potential of market towns to utilise ‘heritage enabled’ regeneration, particularly the role it might play in spurring local economic development. This follows on from the work AHF has been involved with through the Village Catalyst scheme and is a further example of how we are looking at new ways to deliver in partnership with government and communities. We will be looking at how we can implement the findings of the report over the forthcoming year.   



Significant KPIs and actions

Publish year 2 impact report for the 2020-23 strategy
Publish Year 2 Transforming Places evaluation report, including HDT pilots evaluation