Two funds launched by Historic England have been helping to protect at-risk heritage sites and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resources were created following a survey carried out by Historic England to determine the impact of the current situation on the heritage sector. The survey had more than 800 responses. It found that, although 90% of businesses felt able to carry on in the short term, 77% reported that they had lost business, and more than 40% of the most vulnerable professionals, such as craft workers, architects, and surveyors, felt in need of additional support.
The first branch of funding, the £1.8 million COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, was set up in April. Heritage organisations, voluntary groups, and self-employed contractors were invited to apply for grants of up to £25,000 to address financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, and grants of up to £50,000 were offered for projects providing information, resources, or skills that could reduce risks to heritage. Support was given to 70 organisations, covering a wide range of important projects. Among these were the Mary Rose Trust, for its specialist climate-controlled conservation work to prevent deterioration of the hull of Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose (pictured below), and L-P:Archaeology for the production of a free toolkit to help archaeologists with social distancing during fieldwork.
The second branch of funding, the £3 million COVID-19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Response Fund, launched in June. This fund was intended to help with urgent maintenance and enable historic sites and buildings to reopen to the public as soon as possible. Grants of up to £25,000 were offered for projects such as repairs to damaged roofs, masonry, and windows, hiring scaffolding to prevent structural collapse, and commissioning surveys to inform repair work. The organisations eligible for the grants include those responsible for Grade I- and II*-listed buildings and structures that are publicly accessible for at least 28 days a year; those listed at Grade II but situated in a Grade I- or II*-registered park or garden, or representing a significant component of a conservation area; and scheduled monuments.
Applications to the funds have closed, and the grants awarded are providing vital support for individuals, businesses, and sites in the heritage sector during this critical time.