Shropshire Star

Bumper 2022 for county heritage attractions as they prepare to re-open this weekend

As English Heritage attractions prepare to open again this weekend, figures show that two county venues enjoyed a bumper 2022.

Boscobel House enjoyed a record-breaking year of visitors in 2022.

Despite international visitors remaining at 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, domestic tourism returned in full strength last year, with British tourists re-discovering home-grown heritage attractions.

As a result, the charity hit a total membership of almost 1.2 million in 2022, its highest ever level.

On the Shropshire and Staffordshire border, Boscobel – the hunting lodge where King Charles II took refuge after his 1651 Civil War defeat – saw its busiest year ever, with visitor numbers 22 per cent up on 2021.

Famously the king hid for a day in an oak tree whilst Cromwell’s soldiers searched for him below.

Latterly a thriving Victorian farm, the site boasts a host of resident farm animals.

Meanwhile Wenlock Priory at Much Wenlock, saw its visitor numbers up 14 per cent – the busiest it has been since 1998.

Wenlock has been the site of a monastery for almost 900 years and was the home of St Milburga, an Anglo-Saxon princess.

At the end of the 11th century, it was refounded as one of the first Cluniac monasteries in England – the remains of which can be seen today.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, said it had been notable how many of the organisation's smaller sites – such as Boscobel, and Wenlock Priory, had been thriving in the post-lockdown tourism boom.

She said: “Last year was a year of recovery for English Heritage, with domestic tourism once again picking up to pre-pandemic levels and, in many cases, exceeding it. Many of our most recognisable attractions enjoyed their best-ever years in 2022, which is a clear indication that homegrown tourism is flourishing once again in areas such as Cornwall and Yorkshire.

“However, it is notable that many of our smaller sites, situated away from traditional tourist destinations, have also reported record years. We know that the public took advantage of the pandemic’s ‘stay at home’ mandate to rediscover the heritage on their doorstep and this new-found enthusiasm for history and culture has shown no sign of diminishing over the ensuing year. As a result, and no doubt spurred on by its great value, our Membership hit an all-time high in 2022 and it is these Members who are driving visitor numbers to our lesser known but equally fascinating sites.

“As we prepare to reopen our sites for the season this weekend, everyone at English Heritage is looking forward to an exciting 2023. Just last week, we added the fascinating Thornborough Henges in Yorkshire to the collection of sites in our care and this year also sees us launch a new museum at Lindisfarne Priory in Northumberland, re-create a Roman gateway at Richborough Roman Fort in Kent, and revive one of the great historic sites in the North East – Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens outside Newcastle.”