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November 26, 2012updated 28 Jan 2016 6:49pm

Hudson's Heritage Awards Recognise Our History

By William Cash

This Thursday will see the winners announced of the 2012 Hudson’s Heritage awards at a lunch ceremony at Goldsmith’s Hall in London

This Thursday will see the winners announced of the 2012 Hudson’s Heritage awards at a lunch ceremony at Goldsmith’s Hall in London. Spear’s is proud to be Associate Partner of these awards which have quickly become regarded as ‘the Oscars of the UK heritage industry’.

Thursday’s awards will be presented by Hudson’s founder Norman Hudson OBE (pictured below), along with judges Lady Lucinda Lambton, Loyd Grossman (chairman of the Heritage Alliance), Jeremy Musson (former architectural editor of Country Life) and heritage consultant Simon Foster.

Inaugurated last year, the awards were created to celebrate achievement and success in the UK heritage industry at a time when heritage tourism is a growing sector within the UK economy, with growth at 2.6% – more than manufacturing.

Read more: Spear’s Save Britain’s Landscape Campaign

The Hudson’s awards fill a much needed gap in the heritage sector for industry awards – with the only competition being the HHA’s Restoration and Best Garden awards, sponsored by Sotheby’s and Christie’s respectively.

The Heritage Angel Awards, inaugurated last year by Lord Lloyd Webber, have also helped to recognise new benchmarks of excellence in the heritage sector. But the Angel awards are more for artisans and conservation ‘heroes’ rather than the owners or managers of Britain’s just 1500 or so historic houses and gardens open to the public (either owned privately or by English Heritage and the National Trust).

The success of both the Hudson’s Heritage Awards at Goldsmith’s Hall on 29th November and the Heritage Angel Awards demonstrates the growing importance of the heritage sector in the public consciousness. This is also borne out by the rapidly expanding membership growth of the National Trust and the increase in heritage site visitor numbers across the UK.

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One in three people now say that they want to see a heritage site when taking a weekend break. This is partly because people are spending less money travelling abroad and are preferring to enjoy the unique heritage open to the public on their own doorstep.

As shown by the success of our Spear’s Save Britain’s Historic Landscape Campaign, which was acknowledged by the Prime Minister in a letter to Spear’s from Downing Street following publication of the new NPPF planning reforms, the heritage industry is critical to UK economic recovery. Heritage tourism is bringing in over £20 billion to the economy and the sector is one of the few growing parts of the economy. Within this £20 billion, historic houses, castles and gardens directly contribute over £8 billion to the economy – including local employment – according to English Heritage.

Against a challenging background, the Hudson’s heritage awards – handed out by Norman Hudson, the godfather of the UK heritage industry – are critically useful in giving a boost to a sector that is currently not getting enough support from the government.

Privileged Oxbridge types like David Cameron (Eton), George Osborne (St Paul’s), and Nick Clegg (Westminster), may be wary of being seen to be ‘elitist’ but there is nothing elitist about protecting and promoting the rich heritage that makes Britain’s historic houses and gardens, open to the public, unique.

These 1500 or so historic buildings contribute well above their weight to our tourist economy, making our rich heritage – from Downtown Abbey-like ‘Treasure Houses’ to small moated manor houses at the end of lonely valleys – the envy of the world. A recent survey carried out by Visit Britain found that ‘the main reason’ that visitors now come to this country from abroad is because of our ‘historic houses and heritage’.

Yet the threat of a new Mansion Tax – compounded with the new VAT on much needed repairs on our crumbling castles and historic houses (a £400 million repair backlog) will only add further financial misery to the often struggling owners of historic houses that open to the public.

One of the reasons we have such a rich and unique architectural heritage is that, unlike France – and indeed most of Europe – we do not have any legacy of the Napoleonic Code (Code civil des Français) which was introduced under Napoléon I in 1804. The code prohibited any privileges based on birth, promoted religious toleration and specified that government jobs should go to the most qualified. Historian Robert Holtman has argued that the Napoloenic Code is one one of the few documents that has influenced the entire world.

But not having such a code inflicted on Britain has certainly been a major factor in ensuring that the English country house has become one of Britain’s most successful cultural exports.

Read more by William Cash

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