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Supporting people, places, and prosperity

We carry out vital work on behalf of independent heritage sites, from public affairs and technical guidance, through education and peer-to-peer support, to marketing and public access initiatives.

Holkham Hall Lionel Richie Concert credit Holkham Estate 2019

Policy and public affairs

Historic houses are hubs of culture in the countryside and vibrant small businesses, providing important employment opportunities and leisure experiences in rural communities in all corners of our four nations. They are at the heart of the UK’s world-leading tourism industry – attracting millions of visitors, generating tens of thousands of jobs, supporting communities across the country, and powering the rural economy. 

Based in Westminster, our small UK policy team works closely with government, stakeholders, and politicians of all stripes to shape and influence policy for the benefit of heritage, culture and tourism. Historic Houses Scotland works in close partnership with Holyrood and other stakeholders on Scottish policy work, while in Cardiff our part-time Policy Adviser engages with Welsh government, politicians and stakeholders on behalf of Historic Houses in Wales. 

We advocate for a fair and practical fiscal and regulatory framework – one that allows independent historic houses and gardens to thrive for the benefit of the nation, without burdening the public purse. We robustly represent our member houses’ interests in policy areas such as taxation, regulation, planning, sustainability, health & wellbeing and tourism. We regularly meet ministers, civil servants, and MPs across parties, and their equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We submit evidence and case studies in response to a range of consultations and reports, to aid policy-making. And we collaborate with colleagues across the heritage and tourism sectors. 

Advice and guidance

Independent ownership requires those who care for – and, usually live in – historic houses to take on a bewildering spread of roles, from business CEO or HR manager to conservation specialist, health and safety inspector, planning lawyer or marketing director. Luckily, our expert advisors and professional services sponsors are on hand to offer free technical, commercial, financial and legal advice, both on-demand and through an extensive archive of online resources. Our dedicated Learning Advisory Panel offers guidance on interpretation and on education- and access-related grants.

We run a range of seminars and workshops each year for those who own or manage historic houses, and make those sessions available for viewing online at any time. Tips from the pros are shared alongside the experience of other owners; peer-to-peer support is a key benefit of being a part of the association and is encouraged at regional and national forums as well as training sessions. Our Next Generation group offers a series of events and lectures aimed specifically at those who may one day succeed to a property, to prepare them for what they’re set to take on.

Yoga at Powderham Castle in Devon

Research and scholarships

We work closely with university researchers seeking a deeper understanding of the economic, social, political, and cultural histories of the country house. Our partnerships include the Yorkshire Country Houses Partnership (led by the University of York and Castle Howard) and the Thames Valley Country Houses Partnership (led by the University of Oxford). We also have good links with the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates (Bangor), the Centre for Public History (Queen’s, Belfast), the Centre for Scotland’s Land Futures (Dundee, Stirling and UHI) and the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates (Maynooth). Other university partners include the University of Plymouth. 

In 2018 we launched a joint PhD project with the University of Oxford . This three-year AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award explores the role of the independently owned country house in political and cultural discourse from the 1950s to 2000. 

Each year we offer one fully funded Historic Houses Attingham Trust Scholarship, enabling someone living or working at one of our member houses to attend the Attingham Summer School, a highly regarded course in country house studies. 

Awards

Historic Houses awards a suite of annual prizes, celebrating the ongoing life of our wonderful places through their physical fabric, their uses, and the people and communities who use, care for, and enjoy them.