English Heritage Thematic Strategies

The Historic Environment: What do we need to know?

The protection and enjoyment of England's rich historic environment depends upon understanding its significance. The complex landscapes of England's towns, cities, countryside and marine environment have evolved over thousands of years, each epoch leaving traces which give depth to our culture. But much of this legacy is vulnerable, either because it is not fully understood or because it is under threat from natural or man-made causes. Research can provide new knowledge which allows us to appreciate not only what is important but also the pressures that affect the historic environment and what can be done to protect and enhance it.

Chester from the air

With a Roman amphitheatre (centre) and medieval and post-medieval buildings and streets, Chester exemplifies a highly complex urban historic environment whose protection has been informed by English Heritage research.

Thematic Research Strategies

English Heritage is developing a number of Thematic Research Strategies which address some of the most critical issues facing the historic environment today.

They are primarily intended to help English Heritage identify research which will further the organisation’s goals and to provide criteria for the allocation of research resources in a highly competitive arena. However, since English Heritage shares its responsibilities with many other agencies, they seek also to express wider concerns and reflect views from the different communities engaged in understanding, managing and presenting the historic environment.

The draft Strategies presented here will be further developed in parallel with the National Heritage Protection Plan, providing more in-depth analysis of research needs for the protection of specialist aspects of the historic environment and proposals should therefore make reference to the relevant Thematic Research Strategy.

Please see section below for details on how to comment on the draft Strategies.

Tewkesbury during the floods of 2007

Flooding like that at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, can present a severe risk to historic towns and places of worship. Research is necessary to understand those risks and develop appropriate management responses.

Consultation Process

Dialogue about research priorities is essential to maintain each Strategy's relevance to changing needs, and their periodic refreshment will be informed by consultation and horizon scanning.

The current draft Strategies will be revised following the development of the National Heritage Protection Plan over the summer and early autumn of 2010, and formally published. In the meantime, their availability on this website allows for informal consultation over the same period. 

Comments on these draft Strategies, which can be accessed via the right hand side of this page, should be sent to the relevant contact by 30 September 2010. 

Contact details for each of the draft Strategies and links to pages containing background information on the Prehistoric and Urban History strategies are as follows:

Soil-encrusted gold and garnet sword pyramid from the remarkable Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard.  English Heritage funded the emergency recovery of the hoard after its discovery and reporting by a responsible metal-detectorist.

Soil-encrusted gold and garnet sword pyramid from the remarkable Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard. English Heritage funded the emergency recovery of the hoard after its discovery and reporting by a responsible metal-detectorist.
© The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Research Projects

New research projects are undertaken both by English Heritage's own teams and by a wide range of partners in the heritage sector. Proposals for research are invited from potential partners by application to the Historic Environment Enabling Programme (HEEP). The Thematic Research Strategies set out some of the criteria by which applications will be judged.

HMS Colossus dive visitor trail

Research can inform the innovative presentation of historic sites, such as the dive visitor trail on the Designated Wreck Site of HMS Colossus (1798), Isles of Scilly. © Kevin Camidge

Status of strategies

The following draft Thematic Research Strategies are available for comment:

The following Strategies are in preparation:

  • Roman Archaeology
  • Places of Worship
  • Marine and Maritime Archaeology (to follow the current Resource Assessment and Research Agenda project)
  • Archaeology of the Contemporary Past
Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton Brewery, Oxfordshire, was built 1898-9 to designs of William Bradford. One of the finest traditional breweries still operating, the brewhouse (pictured) contains a 1899 steam engine which is still run regularly.