Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by English Heritage


  1.1  English Heritage is the Government's adviser on all aspects of the historic environment in England. Our work includes: identifying buildings of historical or architectural interest and ancient monuments for protection; giving grants for the conservation of historic buildings, sites, monuments and landscapes; encouraging the imaginative re-use of the nation's historic buildings to aid regeneration; and helping the public to appreciate, understand and enjoy their heritage. English Heritage manages 409 historic properties and sites that belong to the nation and which are visited by over 11 million people each year. English Heritage is the national body of survey and record for the historical environment and is responsible for the National Monuments Record.


  2.1  As a result of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease a number of English Heritage sites are closed to the public. The situation at 20 April is as follows:

  2.2  Of the 409 sites managed by English Heritage, 14 are currently closed for operational reasons. Of the remaining 395 sites, 216 are open to the public and 179 are closed as a precaution against the spread of foot and mouth disease. The majority (150) of the 179 closed sites are those for which we would not normally charge admission. Many of them are small sites, comprising ancient monuments in rural areas, often in the middle of grazing land. Only three of English Heritage's top 25 sites are closed.

  2.3  Under the circumstances, visitor figures at English Heritage properties over the Easter weekend were encouraging and reflected the national trend of urban and coastal sites doing particularly well. Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire, for example, experienced a 28 per cent increase in visitors on Easter 2000. Including closed properties in our calculations, Easter visitors to our top 25 sites reached approximately 90 per cent of 2000 levels. Overall, we estimate that visitors to all of our sites reached approximately 80 per cent of last year's figures. It is worth noting however, that restricted public movement in the lead up to Easter may have had a significant influence on the positive visitor turnout over the weekend. We are unable to predict whether these results will be sustained over the rest of the tourist season.


  3.1  We have mounted a co-ordinated programme of promotional and marketing activity to tackle the inevitable downturn in tourist activity caused by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The programme has comprised a number of initiatives:

  3.2  English Heritage has issued over 100 news releases since 1 March 2001, promoting properties opening for the tourist season, properties re-opening after a period of closure, and special events taking place at our sites. This promotional work has generated a great deal of media attention. The re-opening of Stonehenge on 10 April for example attracted coverage in all the national broadsheets, as well as international, regional and local press, television and radio. National press coverage was likewise secured at the opening of Brodsworth Hall in Yorkshire, Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. We are working closely with British Satellite News TV to provide facilities for filming visitor attractions for programmes broadcast to overseas audiences. We also work with the British Guild of Travel Writers and the Garden Writers' Guild to promote English Heritage properties to as wide an audience as possible.

  3.3  Media coverage has been boosted by several recent ministerial visits to heritage sites, including trips by Alan Howarth to Stonehenge, Geoff Hoon to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, Patricia Hewitt to Kirby Muxloe in Leicestershire and Tessa Jowell to Witley Court in Worcester.

  3.4  During a visit to the United States in early April, English Heritage's Chairman, Sir Neil Cossons, gave several press briefings and interviews arranged by the British Embassy in Washington. Coverage included USA Today, The Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Travel Weekly, Travel Trade Magazine and Travel Agent Magazine.

  3.5  Our programme of special events at English Heritage properties has been re-organised to minimise the impact of foot and mouth disease. A number of events have been re-located to sites that are open and re-publicised. Out of an annual programme of approximately 750 events, to date only 20 have had to be postponed or cancelled.

  3.6  English Heritage promotion work continues. A party of foreign journalists will be taken to Osborne House on 10 May and we are investigating other opportunities to invite international media to English Heritage properties. We plan to mount a targeted advertising campaign aimed at domestic and overseas visitors in May. Regular mailings urge English Heritage's members to continue their support of England's heritage by maintaining their membership and taking advantage of the wide range of benefits and incentives that we offer. Fifteen thousand members were contacted in April and our entire membership of 440,000 will receive a letter encouraging their continued support in May.

  3.7  We are in close and frequent contact with the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council, as well as with tour operators and the travel trade, encouraging and supporting incoming tour programmes. In addition, English Heritage Public Affairs staff attend twice-weekly meetings of press and publicity representatives from DCMS, FCO and the tourism industry to help develop and implement a co-ordinated Tourism Promotion Strategy.


  4.1  We work to ensure that accurate and regularly updated information on which English Heritage properties are open is easily accessible to the public. Our website, is updated with these details on a daily basis and is linked to several other related websites. The same information is available via our customer services telephone line, as well as to callers to our regional offices.

April 2001

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