A group of people seated outside a historic building whilst working on a wellbeing project.
Camera obscura photography project with local people putting their photos into Exeter Community Centre’s windows to show that a building is ‘not just bricks and mortar’. © Exeter Community Centre Trust.
Camera obscura photography project with local people putting their photos into Exeter Community Centre’s windows to show that a building is ‘not just bricks and mortar’. © Exeter Community Centre Trust.

Wellbeing and Heritage Case Studies

A selection of case studies showing how heritage can improve wellbeing.

Heritage helps Forgotten Veterans

At Historic England’s Fort Cumberland site, the local section of the charity Forgotten Veterans utilised some of this fabulous location to build a Respite Centre for Veterans and their families - a unique facility that has helped hundreds of veterans since its establishment in 2018. The Centre now also has its own social prescriber and receives referrals from veterans and other local communities in need.

Heritage helps those living with dementia

Historic England is proud to be part of funding package that supports Worcester Life Stories, a unique partnership between the Worcester city Historic Environment Record (HER) and the Herefordshire and Worcester Care and Health NHS Trust utilising photographic resources from the HER as a basis to work with local people living with dementia. Adhering to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the development of this project has been co-created by the HER Officer and NHS clinical psychologist who produced a web-based tool for creating a digital life story book, enabling people to collect and securely store thoughts, memories, images and videos into one place and share with family, friends or carers. It interfaces with the Know Your Place platform, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, which provides access to the archive resources within the HER.

Heritage brings communities together

'All’s Well' is a social prescribing project funded by the Thriving Communities Fund run by partners Exeter Community Centre Trust (ECCT), Exeter Historic Buildings Trust (EHBT) and Devon & Exeter Medical Heritage Trust (DEMHT).

The partners are aiming to train 30 volunteer Community Hosts, Medical Heritage Objects Curators and Trail Guides, engage 220 participants in a newly researched David’s Trail and attract 3000+ visitors to events and exhibitions. Those taking part will experience improvements in confidence, feeling less lonely, a greater sense of community belonging and better physical health. This will aid community cohesion. Alongside this, people will understand local community places and spaces and grow their knowledge of local heritage. Exeter Community Centre, a listed former Victorian residential School for the Blind and St Nicholas Priory, a former medieval Priory with a restored Tudor interior, will be developed to support ‘All’s Well’ and the creative, cultural and social engagement of the St David’s communities in Exeter.

Heritage helps create healthy communities

Fylde local authority are embarking upon developing a series of activities to improve the health and wellbeing of Kirkham residents through heritage-based activities (as part of their High Street Heritage Action Zones programme). This work will create a Social Prescribing programme which connects people – via GPs and link workers – to specific activities in the community for practical and emotional support, addressing social deprivation and health inequalities to create more resilient communities in the area, and meeting local need through a newly established Heritage and Well-being Consortium. The plans include performances, workshops and talks to promote and interpret the heritage of textile production in Lancashire and the creation of a Heritage and Eco skills Centre, at the Grade II listed Hillside building, which will provide apprenticeships and short courses for the local community.

Heritage creates 'monumental improvement'

In Cornwall, our South West Heritage at Risk colleagues are supporting the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team, who aim to deliver the 'Monumental Improvement' project, implementing social prescribing in Heritage at Risk renovation work. The project (currently in development), will refer local people to a range of educational and wellbeing activities focused around the protection and improvement of 40 Scheduled Monuments listed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.

Heritage supports people with learning difficulties

Editor's note: Information correct at time of original publication. The 'Enriching the List' scheme has since become the Missing Pieces Project. Find out more.

‘Enriching the List’ is a resource managed by Historic England that encourages members of the public to add new content (such as photos, historical events and social history, information about a site, architecture or archaeology) to be appended to the National Heritage List for England. 

East Kent Mencap purchased a listed building in need of repair in Ramsgate to expand their services for people with learning disabilities and their families. They developed a project to document its’ restoration using ‘Enriching the List’. A group of members with learning disabilities and their families took photographs of the building, which were uploaded using Enriching the List with individual reflections on that part of their local history. This allowed participants to develop a relationship with their building and feel a sense of ownership. Having their images and reflections uploaded immediately through Enriching the List gave them an 'instant connection and reward'. 

Heritage rejuvenates

'Project Rejuvenate' is a proposed pilot with the goal to encourage vulnerable young people to appreciate their own potential by participating in creative heritage-themed groups at local archaeological sites. It will work directly with schools, local and national heritage and wildlife trusts to work with disadvantaged young people at risk of falling out of the education system.

Based on robust research this project aims to:

  • Reduce detachment and potential exclusion from education settings
  • Reduce chances of entering criminal justice system
  • Increase ability to reach the young people’s potential by developing resilience, autonomy and relatedness
  • Enhance mental and physical health, life skills, self-esteem and self-expression

Heritage connects people to places

We are running a project working with local residents in Sunderland who live within one of the Heritage Action Zones. The project, being carried out by ERS consultancy in partnership with our local office, is engaging the people who live, work and go to school in the area, focussing on how improvements to their local historic buildings are affecting them.

The study aims to understand the difference being made by the Heritage Action Zone in terms of what people think about the area, their sense of belonging and the pride they feel about the place they live in.

A pre-COVID-19 school exhibition and a post COVID-19 local residents gathering have successfully connected us with local residents.

Heritage works with Social Prescribing

Blenheim palace are piloting a new ‘social prescription’ programme aimed at addressing the mental distress, social isolation and physical inactivity caused by lockdown. The six-week programme saw a group of volunteers take part in two-hour walks and mindfulness activities around the Estate. Overall the project’s aim is to increase the participant's wellbeing by engaging them in social activities connected to nature and the great outdoors in heritage setting. Activity trackers will monitor their progress and questionnaires will be used to gather data and assess its effectiveness.

Blenheim Palace (members of Historic Houses Association) have partnered with Aspire, the Oxfordshire-based charity supporting homeless and disadvantaged individuals, the Eden Project and the University of Oxford on the project which is being funded by Research England.

Find more case studies

You can see more case studies in the Heritage Alliance's 'Heritage, Health and Wellbeing' 2020 report.