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The Less Glamorous side of Heritage Estate Management

With over 374,000 listed buildings in the UK, you’d expect there to be some kind of definitive guide to heritage estate management.

Turns out, this isn’t the case. With each site having totally unique features, requirements, and protected elements, they all have their own heritage management plan.

What we do know is that it’s not all strolling around rambling gardens and reading books by the fire. While old estates often have an air of old-fashioned romanticism about them, the running of such a place is a different story altogether.

There’s a whole load of paperwork, legislation, and tricky situations to navigate when it comes to heritage estate management.

For anyone wanting to peek behind the scenes of keeping our rich history alive through beautiful historic houses, we’ve compiled a list of the less glamorous parts of managing heritage estates. Keep reading to discover the secrets behind the brickwork.

Fire Safety

Fire safety has come a long way since these buildings were built and, naturally, many heritage buildings aren’t compliant with modern legislation. From warping solid oak doors to thick brick walls, their construction doesn’t always lend itself to practicing fire safety measures.

Unfortunately, this means devastating fires, such as those at Notre Dame in 2019 and the Glasgow School of Art in 2018, are all too common. But what are the rules around fire safety and heritage site management?

In short, each building has its own rules. Conserving the history of the estate must be balanced with keeping the building and its occupants safe. Fire door safety is often considered one of the most controversial aspects, according to the University of Oxford’s Fire Officer.

Fire doors are extremely effective but aren’t always suitable in these settings.

For example, if a historic building has beautifully carved doors crafted by a famous carpenter, you don’t want to replace these with generic fire doors. On the flip side, if a door is just a door and doesn’t play a key role in preserving the character of the building, can you replace it with a modern fire door?

Getting this balance right is a tricky part of heritage estate management and one you should seek advice on.

A heritage advisor or fire door survey expert is your best bet here.


Pretty much every building needs insurance, and I’m sure it’s no surprise to learn that insuring historic sites is a little more complex than a regular home. However, insurance is a necessary part of every heritage site management plan regardless of how tedious it is.

Older buildings, particularly those that are listed, require more specialist skills and materials in the event of damage, which means costs quickly escalate. In turn, the insurance premiums are often much higher.

Finding the right insurance package for your needs is a challenge in itself and not one you can do via a simple comparison site. You need to consider planning legislation and additional statutory duties if your property is open to the public.

Once again, anyone tasked with heritage estate management finds themselves dealing with tedious legal paperwork to preserve the future of these significant structures.

Repairs and Maintenance

As buildings age, decay is inevitable.

A rigorous heritage management plan is crucial for keeping on top of the seemingly endless repairs and maintenance.

Maintenance is necessary to keep properties safe and limit deterioration. Keeping up with routine care and surveys is a cost-effective way to prevent hefty repair bills further down the line.

Of course, some repairs are inevitable. Particularly as heritage sites are exposed to weather, flooding, and storm damage without having the modern capabilities to withstand such conditions.

Not only are repairs and maintenance incredibly time-consuming, but they can also be expensive and require strict compliance with regulations and legislation. The eye-watering cost of heritage estate management is often one of the biggest hurdles private owners face.

It’s why many buildings are taken over by specialist conservation charities, who can raise the large funds required to keep such places running.

Damp Proofing

With their cold solid walls, many historic buildings are prone to suffering from dampness. If left untreated, damp can lead to untold structural damage, cause contents to decay, and allow mold to form.

As moisture moves differently through old buildings than in newer ones, understanding the root cause is crucial for effective treatment. Roof and chimney damage or deterioration is often a culprit in older properties, which is why a heritage estate management plan is necessary.

Damp-proofing listed buildings require specialist expertise, often coming at a premium cost. With so many mounting technicalities and bills, it’s easy to see the less glamorous aspects of heritage site management peeking through.

Authentic Materials

In order to preserve the history and character of heritage sites, authentic and traditional materials must be used for any repairs.

This brings its own range of issues. For starters, understanding what materials you need can take a lot of time and investigation. Sourcing what you need can then take even longer, and said materials aren’t generally cheap.

For example, some granite may only come from one specific quarry in Cornwall to ensure the stone type and color is an exact match to the original. Heritage estate management requires you to be very particular and thorough research before making any decisions, especially for listed buildings.

Why Heritage Estate Management Matters

Although we’ve covered the less glamorous and more tedious aspects of managing historic properties, we can’t stress enough the importance of the task. Britain is known for its beautiful and striking historic buildings dotted around the country.

Without these, we’d lose part of our national identity.

We’d lose the reasons why so many people travel from around the world to visit our country and see the sites.

Can you imagine London without Buckingham Palace, or Scotland without Edinburgh Castle? It’s for this reason that heritage site management matters and why we must do everything we can to preserve these special places.


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