32 years of saving the UK's heritage
The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was set-up in 1980 to save the most outstanding parts of our heritage at risk of loss to the nation, as a memorial to those who have given their lives for the UK.
The result is the national collection – an incredible world-class collection that will belong to the British people forever.
NHMF is unique in its ability to provide financial assistance towards the acquisition, preservation and maintenance of such a wide range of heritage treasures from trains to masterpieces, wildlife havens and manuscripts.
The recent purchase of the St Cuthbert Gospel, for example, joins a diverse range of over 1,200 iconic objects and places which have been safeguarded by the NHMF over the last 32 years, including;
• The Siegfried Sassoon Archive
• The Macclesfield Psalter
• The Mappa Mundi
• The Blue Rigi
• The Mary Rose
• Flying Scotsman
• The last surviving World War II destroyer, HMS Cavalier
• Brecon Beacons National Park
• Beamish Exhibition Colliery
• Sir Walter Scott manuscripts
• Antonio Canova’s ‘The Three Graces’
• Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage
It is hard to think of such iconic heritage leaving the country or even simply rotting away, yet without the NHMF, many treasured items and places would have been lost.
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 and independent board of Trustees, 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 30 years, the Trustees of the Fund have followed these instructions. Their difficult task is to decide what should be saves within the limited resources, from within 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.