Praise for the faithful city but a rallying call to do more with heritage assets

Worcester’s MP, Robin Walker, has welcomed new research from the RSA and the Heritage

Lottery Fund which shows Worcester is amongst the top five cities in the UK for its heritage

assets and in the top ten overall for heritage. Robin believes this means the city should do more

to make the most of its heritage and apply for national awards and accreditations. Today’s RSA

research provides a powerful evidence base to support this.

 

However Robin has noted that, whereas the city features very highly for the range and

importance of its heritage assets, it has performed less well for the level of activity around them.

Robin, who himself studied history and is a member of the Battle of Worcester Society, the Civic

Society and the Historical Society, has said this should be a rallying call for more to be done.

 

Commenting today Robin said:

“I have always known that Worcester is a fantastic place with a wonderful history and an

enormous amount of heritage, but it is wonderful to see this confirmed in this important piece of

research. To see our city up with the heart of London, Oxford and Cambridge for its heritage

value is something that will please many, however this research also provides a valuable

wakeup call that we can do more to promote our heritage assets.”

 

“Whether it is our beautiful Norman Cathedral, our civil war history, so central to England’s story

and the emergence of democracy, our fantastic musical heritage or our industrial and cultural

heritage, Worcester has so much to offer the world. With the world class archives and history

service at the Hive and so many brilliant cultural venues in the city we are well placed to make

more of our past and present success. However we do need to up the level of effort that goes

into promotion and engagement of Worcester’s heritage. I support a number of groups who are

involved in just that and I would be delighted to see Worcester named officially a Heritage City.

These data show that it can and should be done.”

 

“With Sir Peter Luff, himself a former MP for the city chairing the Heritage Lottery Fund I cannot

think of a better time or a better opportunity to promote these aspects of our city. I pay tribute to

Sir Peter’s work in the County which is reflected in both Worcester and Wychavon featuring so

highly in this report. I hope that he can help us, along with local councils, voluntary groups and

societies to make sure Worcester gets the recognition it deserves.”

 

Published this week by the independent RSA think tank, in collaboration with the Heritage

Lottery Fund (HLF), the Heritage Index reveals which areas enjoy the most physical heritage

assets; how actively residents and visitors in those areas are involved with local heritage; and –

by comparing the two – shows where there is potential to make more of heritage.

 

Covering England, Scotland and Wales*, the index spans 329 local authorities and brings

together over 100 data sets ranging from nature reserves, heritage open days, archaeological

groups, blue plaques, heritage volunteering and participation data, pubs that have been listed

as community assets, and even EU-designated local foods such as Cornish Pasties or Melton

Mowbray pork pies.

 

Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Carole Souter said: “We hope this new Index will

help communities to better understand their heritage; identify its potential; and capitalise on

what make their areas distinctive. We hope it will encourage debate about w what heritage is

and how it is best recognised and properly exploited in local plans.”

 

The report includes a specific case study comparing Worcester with neighbouring Wychavon

which shows how, although Worcester has more heritage assets, its near neighbour is doing

more to promote the assets that it has, it reads:

 

Worcester v Wychavon

A good example of how the inclusion of activities in the Index makes a difference is to look at

two neighbouring areas in the West Midlands – Worcester and Wychavon. Worcester scores

amongst the very highest of all local authority areas in the assets Index – coming fifth – because

of very high scores for the number if its historic listed buildings. museums, archives and

artefacts and, especially, the economic history domain where it is the top performer due to its

combination of canals, a designation for a European Route of Industrial heritage and two

historic railways. But when it comes to the activity Index, the city does much less well –

suggesting the investment and engagement of people with local heritage is well below what we

might expect for such a well-endowed heritage place. Worcester is actually in the bottom half of

all local authorities in England on the activity ranking, at number 170.

Wychavon, on the other hand, is more consistent across the assets and activities indices –

within the top quartile on both. Worcester’s big lead on assets is still enough to put it in the top

10 of the overall Heritage Index – but the wide gap between its assets and activities scores also

means that we see it appearing as the 26th local authority with the greatest opportunity to make

more use of its local heritage.

 

ENDS

 

Notes to editors:

Building on 21 successful years of National Lottery investment in heritage and following the

publication of the Heritage Index, HLF will:

 Encourage partners and other organisations to add to the Heritage Index by making

available any further relevant nationally available data sets relating to heritage assets or

activity. HLF will continue to build the Index for the duration of the wider research

project with a view to publishing a second edition in Summer 2016

 Call on those designing heritage projects, including as part of preparing funding

applications to HLF, to use the Heritage Index to understand the heritage of their place

and the extent of local engagement. This will inspire better projects, and highlight

different routes and opportunities for projects to be successful

 Use the Heritage Index to inform its development and outreach work, encouraging new

projects and promoting the availability of Heritage Lottery funding across the UK

 Call on HLF projects and the wider heritage community to support the Community Right

to Bid (2012), nominating heritage land and buildings for recognition by their local

authority as ‘Assets of Community Value’. In addition, HLF will work with DCLG to

ensure that future editions of Heritage Index includes these listed heritage assets.

The Heritage Index

 Top of the rankings

Whilst there are some predictable outcomes in the rankings – for example the City of

London and Kensington and Chelsea top the physical heritage asset chart – there are some

surprises too. There are strong concentrations of heritage assets in places like Hastings,

Southend-on-Sea and Barrow-in-Furness, which also feature in the top ten assets listing. In

terms of activity, it’s Scarborough, South Lakeland (in the Lake District) and Norwich that

take the top three spots – alongside more traditional heritage hot-spots like Oxford and

Cambridge.

When scores for assets and activity are taken together, Scarborough comes third overall in

England – with Norwich and Worcester also showing a strong combination of physical

heritage and heritage activity, in the ‘top ten’ overall combined scores.

 Heritage potential

The Index also highlights areas where heritage assets could play a much greater role in

helping their area thrive and succeed as a place.

Areas showing potential in this way include Islington in London, Bury in Lancashire, and

Dudley in the Black Country; and Newport in Wales and Moray in Scotland. Many of these

places are home to a remarkable concentration of historical assets such as canals, railways,

listed buildings or museums but overall heritage activity levels are below average, indicating

substantial scope to build greater participation and make more of heritage for local

communities and economies.

The index revealed:

o No Correlation between heritage scores and deprivation or prosperity: When comparing the

combined ‘overall’ heritage scores of all 325 English districts against the Index of Multiple

Deprivation – the RSA found there to be no correlation. Several places were found to be rich

in local heritage and involvement despite being relatively poor communities, including

Hartlepool, Portsmouth, Burnley, Newport and Dundee, and rural areas such as Barrow-In-

Furness in Cumbria and Ceredigion in West Wales.

o Coastal areas are doing well: 10 of the top twenty 20 districts in the England Heritage Index

have a coastline. RSA researchers found that coastal areas such as Cornwall, North Devon,

Scarborough and the Lincolnshire coast have been able to capitalise on heritage assets by

generating high levels of activity.

o No heritage ‘divide’: A dynamic heritage scene exists equally in the cities as the countryside.

While towns and cities have the densest concentrations of listed buildings and industrial

history, rural areas contain an abundance of natural heritage. Similarly the north-south

divide is also very narrow – with the index revealing that within each region there are

pockets of strong heritage assets and activities.

o Strong impact on well-being: Comparing the RSA’s analysis with ONS statistics on well-

being, in areas which scored highly for activity (rather than assets) in the Heritage Index,

residents on average tended to report higher levels of well-being.

Commenting on the Heritage Index, RSA Associate Director, Jonathan Schifferes said:

“A comparison between local areas’ heritage should generate a healthy debate about how to

make the most of heritage. Today we have an unprecedented amount of data available relating

to heritage – but many local communities struggle to access information and put it to use. The

Heritage Index helps – showing relative strengths and weaknesses across a broad definition of

heritage, letting us see where strengths could be consolidated and capitalized upon; or areas

where under-performance might be addressed. While we appreciate that local heritage can

often difficult to quantify and record, what’s important is building public awareness about what’s

valued and why – what’s missing and what should be there. The goal is a shared and richer

understanding of what makes a place unique.”

 

Top 10 local Areas:

Overall Top 10:
Kensington and Chelsea
Scarborough
Cambridge
Hastings
Oxford
South Lakeland
West Somerset
Norwich
Worcester

Assets Top 10:

City of London (1st)
Kensington and Chelsea
Hastings
Oxford
Worcester
Cambridge
Barrow-in-Furness
Southend-on-Sea
Portsmouth
Torbay

Activity top 10:
Scarborough (1st)
South Lakeland
Norwich
Purbeck
Oxford
Eden
Cambridge
West Dorset
Kensington and Chelsea
Guildford