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Offsetting Loss Through the Knowledge Dividend NHPP Activity 8A5

One of our key roles for English Heritage within the National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP) 2011-2015 was to give last-resort funding to particularly significant historic environment projects, where knowledge would otherwise be lost. Below we set out the basic criteria for this funding and show some key examples.

Soil-encrusted gold and garnet sword pyramid from the remarkable Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard.  English Heritage funded the emergency recovery of the hoard after its discovery and reporting by a responsible metal-detectorist.
Soil-encrusted gold and garnet sword pyramid from the remarkable Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard. English Heritage funded the emergency recovery of the hoard after its discovery and reporting by a responsible metal-detectorist. © The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Scope of the activity

In exceptional circumstances, we were able to provide funding of last resort for three types of projects to secure public knowledge about the historic environment that would otherwise be lost for ever:

(i) For unexpected and unforeseeable nationally significant discoveries, made as part of the proper operation of the planning process.
(ii) For previously unknown nationally significant discoveries, made outside the planning process.
(iii) For securing and making accessible to the public archives of investigations, that that would otherwise be at risk of dispersal or loss.

Find out more about available funding through the National Heritage Protection Commissions Programme.

Protection results

The protection goals of this activity were to make sure that knowledge of these special discoveries were be preserved and made more widely available.

Key examples of projects in this activity

Over the period of the plan there were 193 active projects in this part of the Plan. A number of these involved completing work begun before English Heritage devised the National Heritage Protection Plan.  See some key projects described below:

Category (i): supporting the conservation of Bronze Age logboats at Must Farm

During investigations ahead of development of an area of Cambridgeshire Fenland, archaeologists uncovered eight exceptionally well-preserved logboats, in a former late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age watercourse. Some of the boats are the earliest of their type known from England. We helped to support conservation of these amazing survivals. For more about these and other discoveries, see the Must Farm website.

Photograph showing archaeologists excavating waterlogged Iron Age Boats
Waterlogged Iron Age log boats preserved in alluvium at Must Farm, Whittlesey Pits (Hanson Building Products Ltd), near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. © Paul Stamper,Historic England

Category (ii): supporting the analysis of the Staffordshire Hoard

Found by a metal-detectorist in 2009, the stunning Staffordshire Hoard is the biggest find of Anglo-Saxon gold work from anywhere in the world. Parts of high quality war gear make up most of the hoard. After archaeologists were alerted, English Heritage gave funds and advice to Staffordshire County council to help retrieve and secure the finds. A major public fund-raising effort purchased it jointly for Birmingham Museums Trust and Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. English Heritage helped to fund research and conservation of the finds in partnership with the owners.

Find out more about the Staffordshire Hoard and the ongoing work to conserve, analyse and understand it.

A further example has been funding for the excavation and publication of a rare Viking cemetery site at Cumwhitton, Cumbria. You can find out more from the Heritage Calling  blog.

colour image of a highly decorated sword pommel found as part of the Staffordshire Hoard
Gold sword pommel (K358) decorated with niello from the Staffordshire Hoard © Barbican Research Associates

Category (iii) securing and enhancing urban archaeological archives

Well-ordered and accessible archives help heritage managers, researchers and developers to see a clearer picture of the historic environment. English Heritage funded two pilot projects into saving, ordering and giving online access to archives of archaeological investigations that took place in Ipswich and Nottingham before 1990. These pilot projects informed a broader strategy for opening up archives like these that have not yet been synthesised.


Over the course of the plan, we enabled a great deal of knowledge to be published.  For example in 2012, our funding in this area of the Plan made possible publication of 20 reports, books and journal articles.

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