The term ‘heritage’ is used to mean both the physical remains of Britain’s past and the ideological use of that past in films, television, advertising and other media. The former sense often extends to the recent past (Paul McCartney’s childhood home from the 1960s was acquired by the National Trust in 1998) and the latter has become the basis for Britain’s ‘heritage industry’. A measure of how important certain buildings are is whether they are ‘listed’ by the Department of the Environment (which means they have restrictions placed on their alteration, refurbishment or demolition). Although Thatcherism opposed state intervention, during that era the number of listed buildings doubled and there are now 500,000 in England and Wales, as well as 42,000 in Scotland. Many twentieth-century buildings, such as Battersea Power Station, are now listed. The launch in 1984 of English Heritage enabled the regeneration of projects such as Liverpool’s Grade I-listed Albert Dock. Under the Labour government, English Heritage still receives over £100m annually, but its decisions, such as that to make one of its priorities ‘the heritage of the future’, encouraged government ministers to think it had lost its way; it is being forced to move from its London base to the regions. However, the establishment of a Department of National Heritage and of the Heritage Lottery Fund (with an income of £300m per year) has made the greatest impact on Britain’s heritage of important buildings. Works like the restoration of the Albert Memorial would never have taken place without it.
   Britain’s great cathedrals, particularly the medieval ones—Chester, York, Winchester and Durham—were already ensuring their future through marketing themselves to tourists. However, heritage is used to sell products to other markets than tourists. Britons buy a version of themselves which is packaged in television series like Inspector Morse or Heartbeat, whose characters inhabit a world far removed from that of people who live in urban high-rise flats or semi-detached suburban houses. Films of the 1980s and 1990s, such as The Remains of the Day or A Month in the Country or Merchant- Ivory’s oeuvre (see Merchant-Ivory Productions), are sold around the world as an image of an ideal Britain. Common elements of the aristocracy, venerable buildings and English eccentrics occur over and over in such films, offering a picture of a quaint, genteel and gentle England. They are eagerly consumed by Britons themselves as a kind of national myth.
   See also: National Lottery
   Further reading
    Storry, M. and Childs, P. (1997) British Cultural Identities, London: Routledge, 1997.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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