Group of people, some waving, next to a small wooden windmill
Brixton Windmill - Friends of Brixton Windmill. Shortlisted for ‘Best Rescue of an Industrial Building or Site’ in 2012 © Historic England
Brixton Windmill - Friends of Brixton Windmill. Shortlisted for ‘Best Rescue of an Industrial Building or Site’ in 2012 © Historic England

Everyday Heritage - what we've learnt so far

Historic places are all around us: beaches and battlefields, parks and pie shops, museums and mosques. They are hugely important to people’s well-being, identity, community and sense of place. That’s why our purpose is to improve people’s lives by protecting and championing the historic environment in all its forms.

Now more than ever, we think it’s important to work with a wide range of people to take action to support everyone’s heritage. We know that organisations, people and communities are already taking action for heritage and historic places in all kinds of different and everyday ways. We want to use our resources to connect these everyday acts and encourage even more people to take action to support their heritage.

We’re working with New Citizenship Project, and people up and down the country to dig deeper into what enables and inspires people to get involved in the historic environment, and how we might, together, equip more people to do something for the places that matter to them. We’re doing this work because we believe in the benefit that the historic environment can bring, but more than that it’s because we believe that this benefit will grow exponentially the more people we have adding their perspectives, energy and ideas to shaping and championing the places and traditions that make up our ever-evolving sense of heritage. At the heart of this work is the question:

How can we work together with more, and more diverse, people so that more action is taken to support the historic environment?

An open-call out for stories

Over the last 6 weeks, we have been asking people up and down the country to share their experiences of supporting the historic places and heritage that matter to them via an open storytelling call-out.

We’ve had an amazing and generous response with people sharing not only the huge breadth of activity that goes into celebrating and protecting our everyday heritage but what inspires you to get involved and helps you to stick at it.

You told us about the wonderful and varied ways you support the history and heritage of the places that matter to you...

I have been visiting random sites all over London for the past couple of years. A number from a hat takes me to a page in the London A to Z and then further numbers and letters point to coordinates of one square on the page. I visit that square , explore it, research the history of the area then find something to draw.

Last summer I became a cemetery tour guide at Layton Cemetery, Blackpool. After joining a free tour there one Sunday afternoon & hearing the stories beneath the stones I felt compelled to take up the mantle of telling these fascinating tales myself.

I was really proud to be part of getting listed building status for St Helen's Church in Kilnsea. It's a modest and remote little church almost at the end of Spurn Head, now sadly redundant, but it is an early work by William Burges.

We dive the protected 17th century London wreck most weekend's and record it's demise. Due to the constant shipping that affects this site out in the Thames Estuary.

And what inspired you to take action…

After years of hearing Basildon being the butt of many jokes I decided to do something to show people that we're more than just a New Town and how much history we have here.

I grew up just 5 miles from Conisbrough Castle and so, as a child, every summer holiday included a picnic at the castle and a climb to the top of the keep. As a student I volunteered at the castle, helping out at events and giving guided tours to school groups. In those days, the castle was just a shell, with green slime on the walls, but now it has floors inside, a roof to protect it from the elements and visual displays throughout.

I have a number of relatives who fell in the two world wars and am very grateful to those who continue to serve.... Cleaning war graves is remembering the good stuff about life now, given to us by people before us.

I had just moved to Canterbury, drawn by the city's deep history, and wanting to be part of a diverse and dynamic community life. I had moved a lot during my life and combined with the loss associated with my family's wartime experiences (East-Central Europe and UK) I knew the significance of memories connected to place, how they anchor people.

And in doing so have contributed to a growing picture of what’s happening up and down the country.

Sharing stories was just the start of the journey...

Since the open call-out for stories, we have run the first of two workshops - working with people to understand the different ways people take action for the places that matter to them, and crucially, what might help more people to do the same. The output of these workshops is a set of five draft building blocks. We see these as the starting points for what we might need to do more of, less of and completely differently in the future to help more people to more things to support the places that matter to them.

Our partners at New Citizenship Project have put together this blog outlining each building block in greater detail and an open call out to you to join in, and build these further. So please do have a read, and share back any thoughts or responses to: [email protected]. We want to make sure that these are true to your experiences too, and adapt or tweak as necessary.

What’s coming up next?

In a week or so, we’ll be launching another open call out on this page as we start to look to the future and ask what would it look like to really live up to these building blocks? We’re going to be calling out for your ideas, insight and perspective about how we might create a future where more people feel able, inspired and equipped to act in support of the heritage that matters to them. We’ll share the call-out, and any future updates on this page. You can dip in and out, helping us with one part, or getting involved at every stage - it’s entirely up to you. By joining in, you’ll be helping build a picture of how people support the historic environment, and how more people might do this in the future, in all sorts of ways.

Read a blog post 'It all starts with stories' by our partners New Citizenship Project to get further insight into the journey we’re currently on. 

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