The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) is a fund of last resort to save items of outstanding importance to the nation’s heritage that are either at risk or possess a marked memorial character. The Fund is given grant aid by central government in order to create a memorial to those who have given their lives for the United Kingdom.
The NHMF and its own history
After the Second World War, public appreciation of our national heritage was gradually forming against a backdrop of the loss of many country houses and the break-up of their estates. Despite this, the 1946 National Land Fund lay largely unused in the Treasury. The Fund was originally set up by the visionary Chancellor Hugh Dalton with a massive £50million to purchase land and buildings as “a thank-offering for victory and a war-memorial which would think finer than any work of art in stone of bronze”.
By 1957 it had been reduced to only £10million and the trigger which led to its revitalisation was the sale in 1977 of Mentmore House and its contents.
A new National Heritage Act was passed in 1980. It set up an independent board of Trustees and gave them the money remaining in the Land Fund as well as an annual grant. The National Heritage Memorial Fund was born.
This new Fund was for grants to help acquire, maintain or preserve and land, building or structure, or any object of collection which is of outstanding scenic, historic, aesthetic, architectural, scientific, or artistic interest. The ‘memorial’ title was kept to show that these grants are made to preserve in memory those who gave their lives for this country.
For the last 35 years, the Trustees of the Fund have followed these instructions. Their difficult task is to decide, with limited resources, what should be saved from the very broad span of our National Heritage of land, buildings, documents, objects and works of art.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund
In 1994, the NHMF and its Trustees were also given the major task of distributing the heritage share of Lottery money for good causes, which it now operates through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The NHMF continues to act as the fund of last resort, being able to act very quickly in emergencies. In contrast, Heritage Lottery Fund offers opportunities for conserving our heritage with an even greater emphasis on improved access, learning and engagement.