Being part of an organisation which brings a historic building back into use is an enormously rewarding activity and not as difficult to set up as you might think. Here are some tips on where to go for further information and support.
First, seek ideas and information from other successful projects. A good way to learn about heritage projects and building restoration is to subscribe to one of the many newsletters that are circulated free of charge by various organisations. The Heritage Alliance exists to support voluntary heritage bodies, and their fortnightly Update is full of useful information on grants and toolkits and of case studies showing what others have achieved. The Alliance’s sister body, the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, also publishes a regular newsletter which is of especial interest to anyone facing the challenges of looking after a historic building that is used as a place of worship.
The Heritage Alliance also publishes a free online Funding Directory giving details of all the potential sources of support, financial and otherwise, for anyone seeking to undertake projects related to the heritage of the United Kingdom. As well as detailing sources of grants from trusts and foundations, the Directory also lists organisations offering loan finance, awards, scholarships and other ‘in kind’ resources.
If you are specifically searching for funding for work on historic buildings you should also explore the website of the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF), which helps not-for-profit organisations and charities to rescue, restore and re-use historic buildings in private, local authority or charitable ownership. The website has solid advice on setting up and managing building rescue projects and applying to funders. A very valuable part of the AHF’s service is its network of regional officers who can offer advice and support to your group, whatever stage you are at – even perhaps in the early stages of thinking about forming a group.
The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) promotes the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK. We do this by providing advice, information and financial assistance in the form of early project grants and loans for projects undertaken by charities and not-for-private profit organisations.
The AHF is unique in that we are able to offer support to local communities at every point in the life-cycle of a project – from start-up advice and grants for early development work and project planning, through to loans for acquisition and as working capital for project delivery.
We are often the first point of contact for community groups seeking to rescue historic buildings ‘at risk’. We have a network of local officers based in each UK nation who can offer advice and support to your group, whatever stage you are at. If we can’t help, we’ll signpost you to other organisations that may be able to.
Then of course there is the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund, two of the biggest sources of financial aid and expertise in the field of heritage research, training, skills development and the restoration of heritage assets – see their websites for eligibility criteria and the different grants steams on offer.
Finally, if you are interested in apprenticeships or training courses in traditional construction skills, such as lime plastering, stone masonry, and carpentry, check the ‘Training Courses’ page of the Cadw website, the website of the Tywi Centre, which specialises in courses in building repair based on traditional methods and materials, and Apprenticeships page of the Canal and Rivers Trust website, where you will find some inspiring stories of current and former apprentices explaining what first attracted them to the Trust and how their apprenticeship has furthered their careers.