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Not just castles: Historic England offers grants to ‘ordinary’ places like pubs and terraced houses | Heritage

Historic England is launching a scheme to find overlooked, ordinary places that celebrate England’s working-class heritage.

The public body, which manages the official register of historic listed buildings and nationally protected sites in England, is looking for council estates, factories, mines and other “overlooked historic places” that tell an important story about England’s past.

On Wednesday, it will invite community and heritage organisations to apply for a new Everyday Heritage Grant scheme. Grants of up to £25,000 will be awarded to projects that highlight the hidden histories of local places and buildings, with a particular emphasis on those where “ordinary people” have worked, lived or socialised, such as terraced houses, pubs, clubs, farms, shipyards and railways.

“This is about recognising places that mean a lot to people whose stories aren’t necessarily often celebrated,” said spokesperson Sean Curran, adding that rich and historic sites are all around us.

“You don’t have to go and visit a castle to engage with heritage – you’re probably doing it everyday by visiting your local high street, going to the shop around the corner or the train station to get to work. These are places with really rich important heritage and social history. And sometimes we forget about them.”

As far back as 2011, a survey carried out by Historic England found that 85% of respondents thought that England’s industrial heritage should be valued and appreciated, and four out of five (80%) believed that such heritage was as important to preserve as were castles and country houses. A 2017 survey had similar findings.

“There’s definitely an appetite for celebrating working-class heritage,” said Curran. Previous buildings that Historic England has recognised through listing, or saved through grants, include the Salford Lads Club, a Grade II-listed leisure club for young men, and the Byker estate, where the BBC TV show Byker Grove, which launched the careers of Ant and Dec, was based.

The Byker estate in Newcastle upon Tyne
The Byker estate in Newcastle upon Tyne. Photograph: Islandstock/Alamy

Curran said that the new grants scheme would enable Historic England to see how communities told their own stories. “I’m from a mining family in Sunderland, and I can imagine an interview project with people who remember their parents working in the mines,” they said.

Grants are likely to be awarded for oral history projects of this kind and also proposals such as self-guided walking tours, artist collaborations and the creation of digital resources. The aim is to find ordinary everyday places, and then to find out what’s extraordinary about them, Curran said. “Hopefully, we will find out stories that we didn’t know about.”

Historic England is also hoping to fund projects that provide innovative volunteering opportunities for young people, or for people facing loneliness and isolation, as well as to contribute positively to participants’ wellbeing.

Only £300,000 of grant money is available in total, and the organisation is therefore keen to stress that it is particularly interested in funding smaller grassroots projects that need £10,000 or less.

Nigel Huddleston, heritage minister, said: “Our heritage belongs to us all and should be accessible to everyone. I welcome plans for new community-led projects to tell the story of working people across the country, bringing our collective and shared history back to life.”

The deadline for applications is 23 May. “We’re really looking forward to seeing the creative ways of recognising heritage that people come up with,” said Curran.

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