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.
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
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.
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
Assets Top 10:
City of London (1st)
Kensington and Chelsea
Activity top 10:
Kensington and Chelsea