New heritage index reveals untapped potential of Britain’s historical assets

Britain’s heritage is much-loved but its immense value and potential is being underused in some places, according to a new heritage index published on Wednesday 23rd September by the independent RSA think-tank.

Produced in collaboration with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the new index reveals for the first time which areas could make better use of their heritage assets in order to drive local identity, improve residents’ well-being and increase levels of tourism.

Set out by local authority districts in England, Scotland and Wales, the index ranks which areas enjoy the most physical heritage assets – but also measures local ‘heritage activity’ – such as museum attendance, rates of volunteering and investment in local heritage organisations.

The index shows that there are some unexpected ‘star performers’ when it comes to levels of local participation and volunteering. Whilst the City of London and Kensington & Chelsea predictably top the asset charts – it’s Scarborough, South Lakeland (in the Lake District) and Norwich that take the top three spots in terms of ‘heritage activity’.

The index also reveals which places have the most ‘heritage potential’ – with high levels of assets but lower levels of current activity. These include places such as Islington in London, Bury in Lancashire, Dudley in the Black Country, and Moray in Scotland and Newport in Wales.

Commenting on the Index, Chief Executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor said:

“The UK’s heritage is much-loved but its immense value is being ignored. If leaders don’t assess heritage assets, find it hard to describe what they are and don’t know who best to talk to about them, it’s hardly surprising that their heart-felt enthusiasm for the history and identity of their places is not manifest in a convincing local heritage strategy.

The challenge for local authorities is to raise their sights from protecting history (although this is vital) to the possibility of heritage being at the heart of the conversation about a place’s future. The heritage sector too should develop an understanding of wider place challenges, and be willing to engage in hard choices about which aspects of heritage are the strongest in terms of local identity today and tomorrow. The sector must also begin to convincingly argue that what it is holding out is not a begging bowl but an untapped asset.”

You can download the full press release that contains further information about the heritage index here:

 Heritage Index press release

All information, including interactive maps can be found on the RSA website:

Heritage, Identity and Place

‘RSA – Seven themes from the Heritage Index’ By Jonathan Schifferes, Associate Director – Public Services and Communities, RSA can be downloaded here: 

RSA – Seven themes from the Heritage Index


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