Caring & conserving

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Funding advice

Ian Lush By Ian Lush Published 14 December, 2012

Ian Lush was a Trustee and Deputy Chair of the Heritage Alliance from 2006-2012.


There are many different sources of financial support for projects to restore historic buildings, and a short article cannot possibly list them all.  What this article can do, however, is to outline the different types of funding and the sources of advice that are available.

Types of funding

Most historic buildings in the UK are privately owned and hence are funded by individuals from their own resources or through borrowing.  A small number of funding bodies will support building restoration projects with grants where the owner is a private individual or commercial enterprise, but these are the exception, and most funding goes towards projects undertaken by charities and other not-for-profit organisations.

There are two main types of funding: grants towards specific items of work or the overall costs of a project; and specialist loans which may be short-term or longer-term, the latter along similar lines to a mortgage.  Most lenders will expect to have some form of security for their loan, usually as a charge on a building or other asset, or through a guarantee given by a body such as a bank or local authority.

Potential sources

The main sources of funding for heritage restoration projects can be broadly grouped as follows (n.b., by no means all these sources would apply to every project):

Historic England and other funding from Government departments and agencies;

European funding;

Local Government and local/regional agencies;

Lottery funds and in particular the Heritage Lottery Fund;

The Architectural Heritage Fund (small grants and large loans) and other low-cost loans;

Charitable Trusts and Foundations;

Commercial sector (including planning gain and enabling development, plus contributions in kind);

Community share issues;

Private individuals/Friends schemes/local fundraising.

Criteria for support

All funders will have their own criteria for the projects which they will support.  These may include the statutory designation of the building (is it listed or in a conservation area?), the nature of the applicant (see above), the work being undertaken, the total cost, whether the project will involve public access to the building and the location.  Similarly the level of support varies from small grants given by locally-based charitable trusts, through large loans from the AHF and others, to very large capital grants (sometimes in excess of £10 million) from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is important before approaching any funding body for support that you check their criteria carefully and only apply if your project meets those criteria which the funder states are essential.  General fund-raising appeals are almost always a waste of time.

Information available

Advice and support on funding is available from a number of organisations and through on-line directories.

If you represent a charity, voluntary organisation or other not-for-profit entity the Architectural Heritage Fund can advise on its own and other funding sources.  Advice is also available in most areas from a Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) and in some cases from the local authority.  Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund each have a network of offices covering all regions and can advise on their own funding, and some of the larger charitable trusts and foundations are also able to offer advice by telephone or email.

Architectural Heritage Fund:

Historic England:

Heritage Lottery Fund:

There are two main on-line funding directories about support for heritage projects:

‘Funds for Historic Buildings’:

Heritage Alliance Funding Directory:

Both are fully searchable by type of project, location etc., are free of charge and are regularly updated.

There are various more general funding directories, some of which are free of charge and some requiring a subscription.  These include: published by the Directory of Social Change (paid for); published by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO, free).

Locality, the membership body for community development trusts and Settlements offers advice on  community asset transfer and forming the right type of charity

Some advice is tailored to specific building types, in particular places of worship, and a good starting point is

The UK Association of Preservation Trusts offers advice on forming a building preservation trust and comprehensive guidance on project delivery

Information on community share issues is available from