Who owns and manages Stonehenge? This section looks at English Heritage as an organisation and its remit to manage Stonehenge on behalf of the nation. Stonehenge was designated a World Heritage Site in 1986 and this status also has implications on how the site is managed.
This section covers the following subjects:
- English Heritage's role in the management of Stonehenge
- English Heritage fact file
- Stonehenge fact file
- Stonehenge as part of a World Heritage Site
English Heritage’s role in the management of Stonehenge
Stonehenge was privately owned until 1918 when it was gifted to the nation. Now English Heritage manages Stonehenge on behalf of the state. English Heritage is the government's adviser on the historic environment.
It is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation. English Heritage receives three quarters of its funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the form of Grant in Aid.
It generates the remaining quarter of its income from admissions to its properties, and retail and catering outlets. In 2009/10 English Heritage generated £54.4 million in this way. £130.9 million came from Grant in Aid.
English Heritage's role is to:
- conserve and enhance the historic environment
- broaden public access to the historic environment
- increase people's understanding of the past
- acts as a national and international champion for heritage
- gives grants for the conservation of historic buildings, monuments and landscapes
- keeps registers of England's most significant historic buildings, monuments and landscapes
- advises on the preservation of the historic environment
- encourages broader public involvement with the historic environment
- promotes education and research
- cares for over 400 historic sites and properties
- maintains the National Monuments Record as the public archive of heritage
- generates income for the benefit of the historic environment
To find out more about English Heritage's aims and priorities download the English Heritage Corporate Plan 2011-15.
English Heritage fact file
- English Heritage manages over 400 sites and properties that are open to the public
- English Heritage charges admission fees at 100 of these properties
- 11 million people visit English Heritage sites each year
- English Heritage has 1 million members
- Each year there are more than 450,000 free educational visits to English Heritage properties
- English Heritage has an enormous archive of photographs, plans and surveys available to the public
- English Heritage gives out £30 million in grants each year
- English Heritage advises on 17,000 planning applications each year
Stonehenge fact file
- Stonehenge attracts more visitors than any other English Heritage site
- 1 million people visited Stonehenge in 2010
- Stonehenge was designated a World Heritage Site in 1986 along with Avebury
- The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site covers 2,665 hectares
- Stonehenge itself is managed by English Heritage but a large part of the surrounding land (827 hectares) is managed by the National Trust
- Records show that 20,000 people visited Stonehenge each year in the 1920s
- The existing visitor facilities were built in 1968
- General access to the stone circle stopped in 1978. This was due to too many visitors, which led to erosion and vandalism.
- The area around Stonehenge contains more than 350 prehistoric burial mounds. The World Heritage Site includes more than 700 known archaeological features. 415 are protected by scheduling within 180 scheduled monuments.
Stonehenge as part of a World Heritage Site
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) identifies World Heritage Sites that it considers to be of 'outstanding value to humanity'. There are over 900 World Heritage Sites worldwide.
In 1986 UNESCO designated Stonehenge and Avebury as a World Heritage Site. English Heritage is responsible for Stonehenge, while the National Trust is responsible for the wider site which includes earthworks and burial mounds.
To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must meet at least one of ten selection criteria and be of 'outstanding universal value'. Stonehenge and Avebury meet three of UNESCO's criteria:
- Criterion (i): to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.
- Criterion (ii): to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
- Criterion (iii): to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared.
View the full list of UNESCO's World Heritage Site selection criteria.
Find out more about how Stonehenge and Avebury meet the criteria.
World Heritage Site Management Plans are produced by each site, including Stonehenge, to make sure the sites and monuments are maintained for future generations. The Stonehenge World Heritage Site Management Plan 2009 was written by English Heritage, on behalf of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site Committee.