Most homes in the UK are not featured on tourist maps as famous landmarks or as heritage buildings, but many houses do have their own story and history that is worth preserving. Dakota Murphey, an independent content writer working alongside Hutton & Rostron – historic house surveyors to answer the questions, who makes sure that these historic houses’ story is told and who looks after them?

Historic Houses Association

The Historic Houses Association (HHA) is a nationwide organisation that supports privately owned historic houses, castles and gardens. It was established in 1973 to assist owners to preserve and maintain houses and other places of interest in the UK, and also to carry out important advisory, marketing and lobbying work on behalf of member properties. The Historic Houses Association represents close to 2,000 of Britain’s private and charitably-owned historic houses, castles and gardens.

All the homes, buildings and gardens who are members of the HHA are Grade I or II* listed and are outstanding examples of historic Britain, with many being considered iconic symbols of a unique heritage.

Every year, around 24 million people visit the properties of HHA members. There are over 500 buildings, homes and gardens that welcome the general public, tour groups and arranged school visits. Some of the properties provide locations for films and advertisements, whilst others offer top-class accommodation and cater for weddings and other events.

The HHA provides the following by way of support:

  • Lobbying on the behalf of Members at local, regional and national level
  • Holding specialist workshops and seminars
  • Providing marketing advice and opportunities via the HHA website. These include monthly e-newsletters to Friends and Member properties, social media, and a quarterly magazine.
  • Offering a Friends’ Membership scheme and a Corporate Membership scheme for businesses
  • Hosting the largest heritage and conservation trade show in the UK
  • Keeping close ties with the Heritage Conservation Trust and with partners such as English Heritage and the National Trust
  • Working closely with the European Historic Houses Association in Brussels and Strasbourg

Why do properties need HHA help?

The public have access to more privately-owned houses than all of those in the care of English Heritage, the National Trust, and their equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland put together. HHA owners spend almost £150 million per year to maintain their buildings, yet only a tiny portion of the repair costs are funded by public grant.

Looking after and promoting these properties and their contents is a vital and essential role to help foster Britain’s unique heritage. Many owners of historic houses are key players in their local economies, especially in rural areas, where employment opportunities and business activities are few and far between.

The wonderful array of HHA Member houses, castles and gardens provide the perfect place for people to escape to and to enjoy. Almost one in five HHA properties offer educational visits to schoolchildren and, last year alone, over 400,000 pupils benefitted from these.

HHA Member houses

Tucked safely under the Historic Houses Association’s wing are stately homes like Castle Howard, Blenheim Palace, Knebworth House, Highclere Castle, Longleat and Burghley House. Smaller, more intimate houses on their membership list include Belle Isle in Northern Ireland, Treowen in Wales, and Traquair in Scotland. Almost all of these are private family homes. To view the portfolio of HHA houses open to the public or for more information on the HHA, visit the HHA website.

Although nearly 1,000 HHA Member houses are not open to the public on a regular basis – because they’re small or in a remote area – many of these will open their doors for a charity, or for an arranged group visit (like the Friends of the HHA). Each property has its own characteristics and historic charm, enriching the culture of our nation and deepening the knowledge of our British history.

In many ways, it’s these smaller, less well-known houses and gardens that need the help and support of the HHA. They’re all are part of the UK’s heritage, so as their representative body, the HHA offer technical advice and speaks up for them in the offices of Westminster, Whitehall, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Brussels.

Successive governments have recognised that private owners of historic houses, castles and gardens remain the most economic and effective guardians of our glorious heritage. They bring a long-term personal and passionate commitment to keeping history alive (and in good order), and have a direct interest in maintaining its long term health and survival.