Heritage Railways and COVID-19: Getting Back on Track

A new report from Historic England (November 2021) reviews the impact of COVID-19 on heritage railways and some of the valuable lessons learned which are relevant to the rest of the heritage sector.

Heritage railways experienced wide-ranging challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. However, some have demonstrated notable resilience in face of these difficulties, benefiting from strategies that they have employed themselves or that have been implemented by the heritage railway sector at large.

The study draws upon primary evidence generated by interviews with seven representatives of heritage railways across England and a set of contextual secondary sources. The report highlights a selection of the approaches adopted during the pandemic in order to support individual railways and the sector as whole, from accessing public funds, fundraising through online donations, and philanthropy, to investment in IT infrastructure, outdoor opportunities and developing flexible revenue streams, effective crisis management, and engaging with supporters and volunteers.

Finally, the study discusses the wider applicability of these approaches across the heritage sector to support better resilience to known and unexpected challenges in the future.

The full report can be downloaded here: https://historicengland.org.uk/research/results/reports/8449/HeritageRailwaysandCovid-19_GettingBackonTrack

September 2021 COVID Update Reminder for IH Sites Ahead of Heritage Open Days

Over the summer of 2021 many of the COVID restrictions introduced last year have been lifted or altered. Below are some of the key points for those running industrial archaeology and industrial heritage sites in England to bear in mind, ahead of this year’s Heritage Open days (10-19 September: https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/). Full details can be found on the UK Government’s website here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Test & Trace No Longer a Requirement

Although no longer a legal requirement in England, businesses are encouraged to display QR codes for visitors to check in using the NHS COVID app, to support Test and Trace.

Live Events 

All restrictions on live events have been removed, including restrictions on the number of attendees. There is no requirement for table service, nor restrictions on singing or dancing.


The NHS COVID Pass on the NHS app demonstrates a person’s Covid-status. The UK Government is planning that, by the end of September when all over-18s have had the chance to be double-jabbed, full vaccination will be the condition of entry to venues where large crowds gather.


The UK Government recommends a gradual return to the workplace over the summer and into autumn. Businesses must not require a self-isolating worker to come to work, and workers and customers who feel unwell must not attend the setting. Businesses will be encouraged to ask staff and visitors to clean their hands regularly and clean surfaces that people touch regularly.


In cafes the requirements for table service and distancing between tables have been lifted.  

COVID restrictions and requirements are subject to change, so remember to check regularly the relevant sections of the UK Government’s Coronvirus webpages for the most up-to-date advice: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Latest Guidance and Courses from Heritage Digital

The latest round of free online seminars and guidance from Heritage Digital is out and includes several items relevant for Industrial Heritage organisations and individuals. Heritage Digital is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.

Webinar: Recruiting, retaining, and managing digital volunteers

Volunteers are often the bread and butter of heritage organisations – what would we do without them? Watch this webinar from Claire Sully at Community Makers who offers tips on how to create an engaged volunteer community.

Digital Guide: Digital Marketing Strategy Guide

Learn the key components of a digital marketing strategy that every organisation should know. Whether it’s attracting new audiences or telling your story digitally, this free guide is available for you to download and use within your marketing team.

Recording: How to use digital assets to support your strategy

Re-watch this session by Naomi Korn from 2020’s #HeritageDigitalNow event to find out how to make the most of digital assets to support your strategy.

Details on how to watch the seminars can be found by following this link: Charity Digital – Heritage Digital

NHMF Launches £40 Million COVID Impact Funding

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) have announced a new funding stream to save heritage assets at risk of loss due to the impact of Covid-19. Charities, not-for-profit, and public sector organisations are welcome to apply over the next two years. There are no deadlines for applications.

The new fund is formed from £20m from NHMF reserves, plus an extra £20m from the Government to safeguard heritage assets in England. To apply, you must first submit an Expression of Interest, and you are encouraged to contact NHMF beforehand. More information about the fund and how to apply can be found at: https://www.nhmf.org.uk/funding/covid-19-response-fund

COVID-Recovery Regional Funds Now Available from the Museum Development UK Network

Since 2020, MDUK https://mduk.org.uk/ and The Art Fund have forged a new partnership to distribute recovery funding to museums across the UK. Recovery Grants and Programmes are administrated by the UK-wide Museum Development providers with grants of up to £5000 available. Follow the links below for details of the support funds available for these English regions:

Museum Development North East

Museum Development Yorkshire

Museum Development North West

Museum Development East Midlands

Museum Development West Midlands

Museum Development East of England (SHARE Museums East)

Museum Development London

Museum Development South East

Museum Development South West

Some examples of activities for which grants can be used include:

  • Online ticketing software or contactless payment / donation equipment
  • Consultancy on reviewing your business model 
  • Improvements to digital audience engagement, such as website upgrades, short films or webinars
  • Community engagement or co-curation projects
  • Audience data research such as ‘Audience Finder’
  • Wellbeing initiatives for staff and volunteers.

Join the AIA Young Members Board

In July 2020, the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) established a Young Members Board (YMB) as a sub-committee of the Association, comprising early or mid-career people with an interest in industrial heritage. The AIA recognises the current demographic of both the membership and Council, and believe that by engaging with younger, more diverse, people they can together better deliver the aim of the Association to ‘give our industrial past a future’.

The YMB provides an exciting new opportunity for individuals to work with like-minded people to influence the direction of the Association and industrial archaeology generally, raise your own profile, develop your personal skills and knowledge, build your CV, network with interesting and knowledgeable people, and take on real responsibility.

The YMB are seeking new members to join them and fill vacancies on the Board. To apply, please submit your CV and a short description of why you would like to joint to: ymbcontact@industrial-archaoelogy.org by 31sdt May 2021.

Coldharbour Mill Seeks a New Chair of Trustees

Coldharbour Woolen Mill, Devon. Image courtesy of the Coldharbour Mill Trust.

Coldharbour Mill Trust is seeking someone with a solid background and understanding of the heritage sector to take on a leading role on their board of trustees, who support Coldharbour Mill in their charitable mission. As the current chair retires this year – this provides an exciting opportunity for someone to join the committed board of trustees in creating a sustainable future for this heritage attraction.

Until 2020 the listed Coldharbour Mill in Devon had been on target to meet the objectives of their strategic plan and had done so in the previous two years. Then the pandemic hit and it was touch and go for their survival. However the Chief Executive, Martin Halse and a number of volunteers managed to secure over £300,000 of funding through to March 2021, with further applications in progress.

The impact of the pandemic has resulted in a complete review of the strategic plans for Coldharbour Mill and during the course of 2021 they are embarking on the charities biggest ever consultation on the future of Coldharbour Mill to ensure its resilience and relevance to stakeholders old and new.

The chair will be the leading voice of our board whose responsibility it is to secure a bright future for this nationally significant historic site. The Chair will lead the Board and the organisation externally at an exciting time in the 230 year history of the Mill as we prepare for the next 200 years. The Trust is now taking applications for the post of Chair. More information can be found at: Chair of Trustees – Coldharbour Mill Museum

Culture Recovery Fund For Heritage Round 2 Now Open

A second round of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage is now open. This fund is part of the rescue package announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to safeguard cultural and heritage organisations across England from the continuing economic impact of COVID-19.

This latest round of funding looks forward to next spring and early summer when it is expected that cultural organisations will be able to operate with fewer restrictions. Over £300 million of grants will be available, covering the period April-June 2021, to support cultural organisations with the costs they will face as they welcome back visitors and customers.

Historic England are working in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund to distribute £36 million of this Government funding to organisations in England, based on criteria set by DCMS. This second round will offer grants of between £10,000 and £3 million to support organisations to make the transition towards full reopening. The fund will be open for applications from Thursday 7 January 2021 and organisations can apply any time from then until Tuesday 26 January 2021. 

Follow the link here for application details: Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage: Second Round | The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage: Second Round Opens 7 January 2021

Part of the rescue package announced by DCMS earlier this month (December 2020) is specifically to safeguard cultural and heritage organisations across England from the economic impact of COVID-19. The second round of the Culture Recovery Fund looks forward to next spring and early summer when it is expected (hoped) that cultural organisations will be able to operate with fewer restrictions.
Over £300million of grants will be available, covering the period April-June, to support cultural organisations with the costs they will face as they welcome back visitors.

Grants for Heritage

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is distributing £36m of this government funding to organisations in England, in partnership with Historic England, based on criteria set by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). This second round will offer grants of between £10,000 and £3m to support organisations to make the transition towards full reopening. The fund will be open for applications from 7 January 2021 and you can apply any time from then until 26 January 2021.

Repayable Finance

The other element of Culture Recovery Fund support available is Repayable Finance, which has a budget of up to £100m. Culture Recovery Fund 2: Repayable Finance allocations have a lower limit of £1m and no upper limit. Both not-for-profit and commercial organisations will be able to apply.

The guidelines for applications to both funds from the 7 January 2021 can be accessed via this link:

Heritage Alliance to Launch ‘Heritage, Health and Wellbeing’ Report

The Heritage Alliance will be launching their ‘Heritage, Health and Wellbeing’ report on September 28th at a virtual event. The report explores the positive impact heritage can have on individual and community wellbeing, analysing existing work and several case studies, with recommendations.

The event will discuss these recommendations and hear from a number of speakers from across the heritage sector about their experiences in integrating wellbeing into their work. There will also be an opportunity for audience Q&A. Booking here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/heritage-health-and-wellbeing-report-launch-tickets-116203883945