English Heritage are responsible, along with The National Trust for many of the historic sites in the UK, but unlike the National Trust are far more involved with the work of the government regarding preservation and conservation of the landscape, as well as education of visitors to sites and monuments in Britain. Known officially as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, English Heritage is the advising body the government go to for information about buildings, estates, parks and monuments within the British landscape. They are closely linked with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, a relatively new branch of the government which is really just an amalgamation of lots of other, older branches which are now defunct. Also closely involved with the work of English Heritage is the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

(Call me cynical, but one of the main reasons for this is so that the government can say. 'We're building a road/housing estate/factory/quarry/landfill site across this bit of green belt, covered in great archaeology, areas of natural beauty, irreplaceable ecological environments and listed buildings.' English Heritage can then throw up their hands in horror, and refuse, and the government can ignore them and build the development anyway, but I digress.)

English Heritage was formed after the passing of the National Heritage Act in 1983. In 1999 they merged with RCHME, (the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England) and are now responsible for maintaining and updating the National Monuments record, which is based in Swindon. Access to the NMR is free and you don't need to book in advance. There is a search room in London where you can browse the record, or the centre itself which is a ten minute walk from Swindon Railway Station.

The four goals of English Heritage are as follows:

  • Identifying and protecting buildings or monuments with historical, architectural or archaeological value.
  • Conserving those buildings and aiding owners with information and funding.
  • Preserving Britain's historic heritage.
  • Marketing this resource to the public in an enjoyable and educational way.

They accomplish these by being a major funding body of archaeological and conservational projects in the UK, and managing many key historical sites in Britain.

Much of their income comes from membership money and entrance fees to sites, though their main funding comes from the government. Joining English Heritage can cost anything from £30 a year to £680 for life membership. Membership of English Heritage means free access to all English sites run by the group, as well as discounts for other historical centres throughout the United Kingdom. After one year of membership you also have free admission into all English Heritage sites in Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man. There are special events laid on at many properties, which member can get admission to with special rates, and there is a quarterly newsletter detailing the current work of English Heritage and ongoing projects.

English Heritage is responsible for some of Britains top historic sites such as Stonehenge, Warwick Castle, Whitby Abbey, Osbourne House and Kenilworth Castle, and produces publications on various sites as well as on conservation and historial issues, even publishing hiking and walking tours of the UK, incorporating many of these prime sites!
Further information about the work of English Heritage, as well as membership details and listings of the various properties under their control can be found at:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

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