Ironbridge Museum Awarded £1.14m From Culture Recovery Fund

Longwarehouse, Ironbridge

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in Shropshire has been awarded more than £1.1 million Government funding to help it get back on track after being hit hard by the pandemic, with visitor revenue down by almost £3 million last year. The Trust, a registered charity, saw around 340,000 fewer visitors than expected last year due to restrictions and closures introduced in response to the pandemic. And with 80 per cent of its revenue coming from visitors and the Trust costing £6 million annually to run, bosses said the funding will be a ‘lifeline’.

The funding announced on 2 April 2021 – £1.14 million – is part of the Government’s  £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help organisations in the arts, culture & heritage sector recover and reopen. It will allow the Trust, which runs 10 individual museums in and around the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, to get back onto an even keel over the next three months as visitors are allowed to slowly return.

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country including the Trust, in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced today. Trust boss Nick Ralls said after surviving the most challenging 12 months in its history, the funding news was extremely welcome.

“The last year has been difficult for everyone, and as a tourist attraction and an independent charity, we’ve been hit hard,” said Mr Ralls, Trust Chief Executive. Some of our attractions have been closed for more than 12 months now, and while we have a robust recovery plan in place to ensure each of our 10 museums has a strong future, severely reduced visitor numbers over the last year have left our reserves severely depleted. Given that 80 per cent of our revenue comes from ticket sales and visitor spending, this funding is a lifeline and will help us replace some – but not all – of that lost income, giving us some much-needed stability. This financial boost is not only vital for us, but for the wider community and local tourism economy – the local hotels, cafes and B&Bs that rely on trade from our visitors to survive.”

Mr Ralls revealed that some of the money will be used to install a new lighting system at Blists Hill Victorian Town that will allow the outdoor attraction, which is running at a reduced capacity, to open for longer during the autumn and winter, with an exciting programme of evening events planned for later on in the year. “Being able to offer people the chance to see Blists Hill lit up in the evening with our new lighting will add a new dimension to the special atmosphere people know and love. Culturally, we’re proud custodians of the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and we’re one of only 32 World Heritage Sites in the UK. We’re responsible for 35 historic buildings and structures in the Gorge and that the maintenance and keeping these buildings secure comes with considerable costs. There’s a real sense of history as you come through the Gorge, its importance cannot be underestimated and we’re very conscious that we have a duty to our visitors, the region and the nation to ensure we’re able to give people the best experience possible when they are with us – and this funding will ensure we’re allowed to continue to do so.”

The Trust recently announced it would be reopening Blists Hill to visitors at weekends only, kicking off on April 17 – 18, with a special celebration of steam weekend. Tickets need to be pre-booked ahead of time at http://www.ironbridge.org.uk. The ever-popular Furnace Kitchen, Coalbrookdale will also reopen on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for takeaway and outdoor table service from April 16 onwards.

“We can’t wait to welcome people back through our doors and we know our visitors are desperate to get out and about again. Being immersed in culture and heritage lifts the spirits and has an important part to play in the wellbeing recovery of the nation.”

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced. Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors – helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work. We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

The funding awarded in Round 2 is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute. 

Third Industrial Heritage Webinar Now Online

Historic England’s latest addition to its series of Industrial Heritage webinars is now online. Their webinars are free to register for. They provide an interactive and immersive live online learning experience on a variety of topics relevant to the wider heritage sector. 

The latest industrial heritage webinar looks at the identification, assessment, and recording of industrial heritage sites (landscapes, standing structures/buildings, archaeological remains) through the planning process in England, as well as considering potential public benefits arising from such work. The speakers were Norman Redhead (Heritage Management Director, Archaeology, Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory Service) and Dr Mike Nevell (Industrial Heritage Support Officer and Research Fellow of University of Salford, Centre for Applied Archaeology).

They shared a series of case studies from Greater Manchester. These included excavating workers housing at Angel Meadow; recording Ancoats’ steam-powered cotton textile mills; and the excavation and conservation of the Worsley Delph canal basin on the Bridgewater Canal. The focus was on the public benefit and research value of such planning-led archaeological and industrial heritage work.

Worsley Delph canal basin, Bridgewater Canal, after restoration by the local council, summer 2020.

Follow the link below here for the free recording and other Historic England Webinars:

Webinars | Historic England

Popular archaeology books on these industrial archaeology case studies are available as part of the Greater Manchester’s Past Revealed series. Download these books for free from the link below:

Publications « Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival Blog (wordpress.com)

Nenthead Lead Mines Under New Stewardship

Nenthead Mines Conservation Society, a volunteer-led charity, has made a successful application to Cumbria County Council for a community asset transfer (where a building or land is transferred from public ownership to a community, voluntary or social enterprise group). The council worked closely with the society in the lead-up to the formal handover in October. The transfer follows several years in which the society acted as custodians and caretakers of the site on behalf of the council.

The transfer means that the site is now in the hands of a community group that is best placed to drive forward the conservation, management and future of the site. Nenthead Mines Conservation Society is working alongside partners including the Environment Agency and the Coal Authority, along with local groups to effectively manage and maintain the site for the benefit of the local community and for visitors. The Nenthead Mines area is a nationally significant industrial heritage site. Parts of the area are classed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the majority of the land is classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) by Historic England, which provides protection against the land being redeveloped for other purposes.

Claire Driver, Cumbria County Councillor for Alston and East Fellside, said: “This is fantastic news for the society, who have been such passionate and enthusiastic caretakers of this site for a long time. To formally transfer the site to them is a milestone for the local community and the site is now in the hands of those who know best how to manage and maintain this nationally significant landscape. I am very pleased to know that the future of this important community asset is now assured, and I’d like to thank everyone involved behind the scenes to make this happen.”

Peter Jackson, Chairman of the Nenthead Mines Conservation Society Trustees, said: “Our members have put a great deal of time and resources into managing the Mines over the last few years. We are proud to be taking over the responsibility for caring for this fabulous historic site.”

Industrial Heritage Volunteer Working During the Pandemic: The North West IHN Meeting, November 2020

The second online Industrial Heritage Network meeting was held on 20th November 2020 by the North West IHN group.  15 people joined that meeting. Shane Gould of Historic England talked about current developments relating to Industrial Heritage. The current IHSO, Mike Nevell, then brought everyone up-to-date with the project and some of the impacts of COVID-19.

Mike noted that in October, 10 industrial heritage organisations in North West England received £1.21 million from the Cultural Recovery Fund. This was split into £0.41m from Arts Council England and £0.8m from Historic England. The grants were to support a variety of industrial heritage sites including the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, Catalyst, Leigh Building Preservation Trust, and the Ribble Steam Railway.

Members then discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has  impacted their work from volunteering to maintenance and visitor numbers. Only 50% of protected industrial heritage sites in England open to the public were able to re-open their doors after the first pandemic. More than 50 sites decided in July and August not to open at all during 2020. Most of these were smaller, largely volunteer-run, industrial heritage sites.

In general IHN NW members recorded no drop-off in volunteer numbers and enthusiasm, despite the first lockdown and continuing restrictions across much of the North West. Tim Kirker of the Calderdale Industrial Museum noted that although the museum was closed in the first lockdown, volunteers were keen to return once it re-opened. Anthony Pilling of the Heritage Trust for the North West also noted a strong desire by volunteers to continue to help, even during lockdown and even though some of their sites remained closed after July. Tony Nixon of Bancroft Mills also observed that whilst they were unable to open to the public after the first lockdown the entirely volunteer-run museum has continued to function with strong volunteer support. Andrew Fielding of ECOSAL commented that virtual meetings were a very useful way of staying in contact with volunteers and that such meetings were not only financially beneficial, but also reached a wider audience.

Finally, Mike Nevell noted that during the first lockdown the UK Government had issued guidelines for safe COVID-19 working by volunteers and that Historic England had issued specific guidance on adapting heritage sites for safe COVID-19 working. There is a link to the latter on the IHSO website site.

Second England COVID-19 Lockdown – Some Key Heritage Website Links

The UK Government has announced (31 October 2020) a second lockdown for England to run for four weeks from 5 November to 2 December inclusive. Museums, galleries, and and all non-essential retail venues will be required to close during this period. At the end of the period, England will return to a regional approach of Tier restrictions, based upon the latest data.

A second lockdown in England will place extra strain on the Industrial Heritage sector. Only 50% of the c. 600 protected industrial heritage monuments and museums accessible to the public in England were able to open their doors after the first lock down ended in July. Even before the second lockdown was announced many sites were already closing for their normal winter maintenance period, whilst others had chosen not to re-open until spring 2021. However, that leaves a large number of industrial heritage sites and museums that would normally be open in the autumn and winter facing another closure. Furthermore, the continued restrictions on group meetings is also putting strain on the activities, fieldwork, and research of industrial archaeology and industrial heritage volunteer groups and societies.

There are some differences from the first lockdown so its important to keep up-to-date with the latest regulations. You can read the November UK Government guidance here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november?s=0

The latest UK Government Coronovirus Advice can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

For further updates on the impact of the Second Lockdown on the wider heritage sector see the Heritage Alliance website here:

The UK Government also announced the following financial support measures for the second lockdown:

  • workers in any part of the UK can retain their job, even if their employer cannot afford to pay them, and be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2500 a month.
  • the flexibility of the current Coronovirus Job Retention Scheme will be retained to allow employees to continue to work where they can.
  • employers small or large, charitable or non-profit are eligible and because more businesses will need to close, they will now be asked to pay just National Insurance and Pensions contributions for their staff during the month of November.
  • the Job Support Scheme will not be introduced until after the Job Retention Scheme ends.

Arts Council Announce Further £75million of Cultural Recovery Grants

On 23 Oct Arts Council England announced the awarding of a further £75 million in grants from the UK Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. This investment will go to 35 of the country’s leading cultural organisations and venues. These grants are worth between £1 and £3 million, with just over £8m going to organisations looking after industrial heritage sites.

Four organisations who look after industrial heritage sites will receive grants in this latest round. These are:

  • the Birmingham Museums Trust (which runs the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and Sarehole Mill) (£1.87m);
  • the Black Country Living Museum Trust (a 26 acre site) (£2.55m);
  • the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (which encompasses 10 museum sites and 35 listed buildings and is at the heart of the World Heritage Site) (£1.86m);
  • and the London Transport Museum (with sites at Covenant Garden and Acton) (£1.75m).

A second round of grants over £1 million and the recipients of the £270 million loans package will be announced in the coming weeks. For further details follow this link:

https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/culture-recovery-fund-further-investment-75-million

BIAG Industrial Archaeology Twitter Conference, 15 Sept 2020

The Berkshire Industrial Archaeology Group are holding a twitter conference on Tuesday 15 September 2020. This is part of the Heritage Open Day online events for 2020. This trail blazing event for local industrial archaeology groups, and HOD, starts at 4pm and runs to 7pm with seven papers on topics ranging from what is Industrial Archaeology to Berkshire’s Gas Industry. Our own Industrial Heritage Support Officer, Dr Mike Nevell, will be tweeting about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Industrial Heritage site. #BIAG20

The Programme is as follows:

  • 16.00 – I like it – tell me more: Getting into Industrial Archaeology– Jo
  • 16.15 – Saving a Revolution: Industrial Heritage and the Impact of COVID-19 – Mike
  • 16.45 – Surviving the Wrecking Ball: Industrial Buildings in Berkshire – Jo
  • 17.15 – Funiculars: The Ups and Downs of a leisure Transport Phenomenon – Victoria
  • 17.45 – Berkshire’s Gas Industry – Jo
  • 18.15 – Reading Cemetery: The Industrialisation of Death – John
  • 18.45 – The Conservation of Industrial Written Heritage – Jo

Full details here:
http://biag.org.uk/heritage-open-day-biag-twitter-conference-15-sep/

Historic England Industrial Heritage Webinars Now Online

The Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, run by the Canal and River Trust.

Over the summer of 2020 Historic England ran two industrial heritage training webinars. If you missed the two industrial heritage webinars run by Historic England earlier in thee summer no need to fret! Both are now available to listen to online, along with a host of other subjects.

The first of webinar provided an initial overview of Historic England’s developing Industrial Heritage Strategy from Shane Gould (Head of Industrial Heritage Strategy, Historic England). Norman Redhead (Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory Service), described the work of a local authority archaeological officer in the identification, assessment and recording of industrial heritage sites through the planning process, as well as the assessment of public benefit regarding such sites. Finally, Dr Joanne O’Hara, (Somerset West and Taunton Council) considered the role of enforcement powers in tackling industrial listed buildings at risk drawing on a case study in Somerset.

In the second industrial heritage webinar Shane Gould considered in greater depth the topics and issues addressed by Historic England’s developing Industrial Heritage Strategy. These include planning & conservation, reuse, industrial sites as heritage attractions, knowledge & skills and research, whilst our own IHSO England officer, Dr Michael Nevell, provided an overview of the Industrial Heritage Support project.

Follow this link to hear both webinars: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/training-skills/online-training/webinars/

New Culture Recovery Funds Launched

Headstocks at Blistshill, Ironbridge, July 2020

As part of the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund to support cultural, arts, and heritage organisations, two major funding programmes for museums, heritage sites, and heritage organisations were launched on 29th July 2020.

1) Arts Council England – Cultural Recovery Fund
A grant fund of £500million is available to support museums which were financially sustainable before Covid-19 but are now at imminent risk of failure. The aim is to ensure that, by March 2021, successful applicants are either fully or partially reopened, or operating on a sustainable, cost efficient basis, so that they are able to reopen at a later date.
All Accredited museums and those working towards accreditation are eligible to apply. Museums can apply for a minimum of £50,000 to a maximum of £3million of funding to be spent in the period October 2020 to March 2021; no match funding is required.
Round one opens 10th August 2020 and closes for applications 12pm 21st August 2020. Round two opens 21st August 2020 and closes for applications 12pm 4th September 2020. Arts Council England expect to allocate 75% of the funding in the first round. The grants will fund costs incurred during the period October 2020 to March 2021 that enable a museum to: remain open, reopen, or partially reopen; costs to allow reduction of activity to preserve the museum; and costs to ensure value for money of a museum’s financial sustainability. For further details see here:

https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding

2) Historic England in partnership with National Lottery Heritage Fund – Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage
A grant fund of £88million is available to help heritage organisations or businesses cover operating costs, assess and adapt their business models, and become financially viable. This may include the costs of reopening, operating, hibernation, mothballing, or recovery costs. An additional £4 million is being used to top up other support schemes for the sector.

Applications open across England on 30th July 2020 and close on Monday 17th August 2020. There will be one round with applicants being notified by the end of September. Those eligible are: not for profit organisations managing heritage sites, venues or attractions; local authorities, universities, and other public sector bodies managing heritage sites, venues or attractions; private owners of heritage sites, venues or attractions which are normally open to the public 28 days a year or more; heritage businesses including conservators, contractors, specialists, and suppliers; and organisations that manage culturally significant assets or collections.

Organisations can apply for a minimum of £10,000 to a maximum of £3million. Grants must be spent by the end of March 2021 and the deadline for applications is 12pm on the 17th August. Further details here:

https://historicengland.org.uk/coronavirus/funding/recovery/

Museum Development Network: Supporting Your Industrial Heritage Museum

All the roughly 600 preserved industrial heritage sites usually open to the public in England were closed on 23rd March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number are now starting to re-open, or are preparing to re-open, from heritage railways and pumping houses, to wind and water mills. Now is a good time to remind industrial heritage site owners, and those running such sites, of the free support on offer from the Museum Development network.

This is a well-established network of regional museum support groups funded by the Arts Council and local authorities, for non-national museums. Each has its own dedicated team of advisors, and these regional museum support networks offer a range of services from grants and case studies, to events lists and training: on making your museum ready for COVID-19 return for instance. Links to the relevant regional websites are below:

Museum Develpment East Midlands: https://mdem.org.uk/news/

Museum Development North East: https://museumdevelopmentne.org.uk/

Museum Development North West: https://museumdevelopmentnorthwest.wordpress.com/

Museum Development Yorkshire: https://www.museumdevelopmentyorkshire.org.uk/

Share Museums East: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/

South East Museum Development: https://southeastmuseums.org/

South Museum Development: https://southwestmuseums.org.uk/

Supporting London Museums: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/supporting-london-museums

West Midlands Museum Development: https://mdwm.org.uk/

The Long Warehouse, Ironbridge, March 2020.