Warrington has taken action over the last year to improve its heritage according to the Royal Society of Arts’ (RSA) Heritage Index.
Last year, the town was ranked bottom in the index’s assets category. This year, the RSA has assessed that Warrington’s heritage assets are worthy of climbing 21 places, while its increased heritage activities propel it 81 places up the activities rankings.
Reflecting this progress, this year the town climbed 24 places overall to be ranked the 296th best area in the Heritage Index compared to its overall ranking of 320 last year out of the 325 areas assessed.
Warrington was also ranked outside the bottom ten in all categories of the index, which is produced in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The RSA has applauded the work of the council and charitable trust, Culture Warrington who have worked in partnership to take positive steps to improve access to heritage across the borough.
The author of the 2016 Heritage Index, RSA associate director, Jonathan Schifferes, said: “We were impressed last year when Warrington citizens rallied around to understand how local heritage could be better recognised – and celebrated. Culture Warrington and other local partners haven’t failed to fulfil their ambition to see the borough do better.
“Heritage connects people to the places they live. Our research shows that the links between heritage and identity are strongest in places where local people are involved in heritage – and we are encouraged that many in Warrington seem to be taking this approach.”
Cllr Tony Higgins, executive member of culture, leisure and communities at Warrington Borough Council, added: “Everybody who lives and works in Warrington knows we have a cultural and heritage offer that grows stronger by the day. It’s fantastic that this is reflected in this year’s RSA Heritage Index.
“Over the last year we have worked closely with our partners, Culture Warrington to develop an active programme of events and activities which highlight our heritage and culture. This has included working with organisations across Warrington to expand our Heritage Open Days, opening up 11 historic venues across the town for residents to explore.
“We have also supported the publishing of a new book which highlights 50 of Warrington’s iconic buildings and we are looking to identify funding for people to nominate other buildings in Warrington which could be celebrated.
“2017 is set to be very exciting for Warrington, as we celebrate our 170th anniversary with a range of special events, including a Heritage Matters Conference. We can take the confidence gained from our new index placing into next year and continue to build on it in the future.”
The annual index combines more than 100 data sets with a range of indicators including nature reserves, heritage open days, archaeological groups, blue plaques and pubs that have been given protection as community assets.
As well as inherited physical assets, the index measures new forms of heritage activity like community initiatives and volunteering.
Maureen Banner, chair of Culture Warrington, said: “It is fantastic that the hard work carried out by Culture Warrington and Warrington Borough Council over the last year to showcase the town’s heritage has been recognised by the RSA.
“As well as a hosting numerous heritage events over the last 12 months, we have worked with an artist and young carers in Warrington to design and install a huge mural on the side of one of Warrington’s most iconic buildings. This illustrates the town’s industrial heritage, iconic structures and infamous stories.
“As we look forward to 2017, we are also exploring a variety of funding options to make heritage more digitally available and are developing an exciting programme of activity to celebrate the 170th anniversary of the borough.”
Analysis of this year’s index reveals that places which do most with their heritage have a higher quality of life than areas which have low levels of activity.
After launching last year, the index has since been adopted as an official performance measure by the government in the recent Culture White Paper.