Pandemic ‘knocked us off course’ but English Heritage is now ‘stronger and wiser’ 

30 Nov 2021 News

Stonehenge is the most famous attraction of the English Heritage Trust

Lockdowns and other restrictions mean that English Heritage missed its income target by over £10m, but the charity is optimistic about the future. 

The charity’s accounts for the financial year ending 31 March 2021 were recently filed with Companies House. The charity reports that “decisive action” and use of government schemes mean it is in a relatively strong position for the future. 

English Heritage was established as a charity in April 2015, receiving a one-off £80m grant from the government to address conservation priorities in the National Heritage Collection and invest in visitor facilities. 

The government also provided an annual subsidy that tapered off over seven years and amounted to £89m to help the new charity become sustainable. 

‘Decisive action’

English Heritage reported an overall income of £99.8m, against a launch plan target of £113.7m, largely caused by the site closures during lockdowns.  

“This year provided an enormous challenge to our financial sustainability,” the accounts say. “However, we were able to end the year in a relatively strong position, with a trading surplus of £14.4m.”

English Heritage received a £12.6m rescue grant from the government and a £23.4m loan from a scheme administered by Arts Council England. 

Visitor numbers fell to 1.9 million people, from 6.2 million the previous year. 

Membership accounts for £37.4m of its income and the charity ended the year with just over one million members. Members also donated £500,000 to an emergency appeal in 2020. 

English Heritage said closures hampered its ability to recruit new members, but this “bounced back strongly” when sites reopened. 

“The pandemic has knocked us off course but the ability of English Heritage to respond quickly and decisively to the Covid-19 crisis, secure the financial position of the charity during the last year, and start the recovery to getting back on track to financial sustainability, demonstrates that the underlying business model is sound,” the accounts say. 

Future sustainability

English Heritage expects most of its sites to open for the whole 2021-22 season, but with limited capacity. 

To address the uncertainty it is “continuing with rigorous cost control and holding back on recruitment and pay awards until the way ahead looks clearer”. 

The charity also hopes to make further savings from reducing office space and travel “by developing a more flexible working model and optimising the use of technology to communicate”.

Sir Tim Lawrence, chair of English Heritage, concluded his introduction to the report by saying: “In sum, English Heritage has made the most of this period of great turmoil. We have completed much vital conservation work, developed many new ideas and are a stronger, wiser organisation, ready to face whatever the next few years may throw at us.” 

Most staff furloughed but no redundancies 

English Heritage employs around 2,200 people and during the pandemic up to 86% of its staff were furloughed during the pandemic. 

However, the introduction of flexible furlough options meant that only 16 people were furloughed for the full duration of the scheme. 

The charity also made no redundancies as a result of the pandemic.

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