A row of historic buildings
A row of historic buildings at Quay Walls, Berwick-upon Tweed © Historic England DP065177
A row of historic buildings at Quay Walls, Berwick-upon Tweed © Historic England DP065177

Urban Heritage Research Strategy

The urban historic environment provides the setting for the life of the nation. The vast majority of people live and work in towns and cities, and cultural activity is concentrated in urban settlements.  

Many towns have experienced continuous occupation for over a thousand years, and some for the greater part of two thousand years. The history of the nation is, therefore, represented in the archaeology and fabric of our towns.

The concept of the 'historic town' has broadened in recent years, with a growing recognition that even the new towns and new suburbs of the late 20th century represent important episodes in national history.

Urban space, however, never stands still: the process of long-term change has produced today's historic environment, and the pressure for change is today more intense than ever. The historic environment has the potential to contribute to the future success of our towns and cities, for it provides people with a sense of belonging to somewhere distinctive and special.

It is an essential component of place making, for identity derives largely from history, and especially from its material evidence. Understanding of the historic environment is, therefore, crucial to our lives: it tells us what is important and why, it explains how our towns and cities have evolved, and it helps people to define, protect, care for and appreciate the special qualities of the places where they live.

 Understanding is based on sound research, and this research strategy is designed to address the need for better awareness of the interest and importance of the urban historic environment.

The purpose of the strategy

Research is essential if we wish to protect and enjoy the most significant aspects of our historic towns and cities. The formulation of policy and the response to long-term and short-term change must be informed by good understanding of what is significant and why.

The Thematic Research Strategy for the urban historic environment identifies the key challenges facing the management and enjoyment of our towns and cities and sets out a number of priority research programmes designed to support Historic England objectives.

This strategic approach will help Historic England target its resources, specifically the funds which it has available for grant-aiding research, on the most critical issues facing the urban historic environment today.

If you have any questions about our current research/research results/research approaches/the support and collaboration we offer to others involved in researching the historic environment, please email us using the contact details below.