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Reports on our research and project outputs.

A busy year for the Historic Towns Trust

By Professor Keith Lilley
Trust Chair 2021


The Historic Towns Trust (HTT) has enjoyed a very busy and productive twelve months following the organisational restructuring of the Trust in 2020. Comprising three operations committees, Projects and Programmes (P&P), Fundraising and Friendraising (F&F), and Communications, Outreach and Marketing (COM), all HTT Trustees play a full and very active role in the core business of the HTT.

Highlights from the past year covered by this HTT Annual Report (October 2020 to September 2021) include new publications, greater outreach and engagement activity, and development of strategic plans for the future, including fundraising. All of this has been achieved despite the challenges created by the global coronavirus pandemic in this period.

Projects and Publications

New publications over the past year from the HTT demonstrate the Trust's commitment to pursuing our charitable objectives:

“the advancement of education and knowledge through the support and promotion of research into the history and topography of cities and towns in Great Britain and by the dissemination of the results of such research, in particular by the publication of historic town atlases and other maps and related works.”

In our HTT Town and City Historical Maps series, in 2020-21 three entirely new maps were published: Bristol 1480, Canterbury, and Coventry. Two further new maps were developed and prepared for publication: Alnwick & Alnmouth and Beverley; and a third, Oxford, substantially revised and republished.

This is a huge achievement and the result of very proactive roles played by HTT Trustees in securing funds, developing partnerships, and supporting collaborative research, as well as the significant contribution of the HTT's Cartographic Editor, Giles Darkes, in managing and producing our high quality publications. Moreover, our existing range of Town and City Historical Maps continues to sell well, especially the maps for Hull, and Medieval & Tudor London.

The creation and publication of the map of Coventry formed part of the Coventry's 'UK City of Culture' status for 2021. Each of the maps appearing in the series was produced collaboratively in partnership with local organisations, including Historic Coventry Trust, Medieval Coventry, Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Centre for Kent History and Heritage at Canterbury Christ Church University, Alnwick Civic Society, Georgian Society for East Yorkshire, and University of Bristol.

The HTT also made major progress this year on our long-term British Historic Towns Atlas (BHTA), with the preparation for publication of Volume VII, the City of Oxford (edited by Alan Crossley), which went to print in August 2021.

With the publication of the Oxford volume of the BHTA, the HTT is actively planning a future programme of atlas publications, and here particular attention is being given to increasing BHTA coverage in Wales, Scotland, and Northern and Western England. Trustees are engaged with local partners in developing potential BHTA volumes for Perth, Swansea, and Chester, for example. Atlases are also in planning for Canterbury and for Ripon. To help the HTT in delivering this ambitious programme, the Trust produced a report in March 2020 on Mapping a New Way Forward.

This report details a new publication format for the BHTA series, with the aim of maintaining high publication standards for the BHTA but at the same time reducing atlas project costs and making atlas production more streamlined. The report also sets out very clearly information for potential project partners, and is available to download as a PDF.

HTT-Digital futures for the HTT report
Download PDF • 1.44MB

Fundraising and Friendraising

A considerable effort to sharpen HTT fundraising during the past year has gained momentum. Recognising the need to grow the HTT in order to create more capacity for projects and outreach, as well as place the Trust on a longer-term financial footing, Trustees have secured professional input on developing a fundraising strategy.

Significant steps in this process took place during the first part of 2021, culminating in September with a very fruitful 'fundraising workshop' attended by Trustees and led by Kaufman Philanthropy. The aim of the workshop was principally to help the HTT begin to develop a 'case for support' setting out important and fundamental underpinning principles for shaping our fundraising, particularly through enhancing the Trust's endowment and investment portfolio to provide a greater level of funding for HTT personnel.

This is recognised by the HTT as a major need, to be able to finance staff positions to supplement that very valuable voluntary work undertaken by Trustees. Here, the Trust has long recognised the need for employing personnel, both for general administrative tasks as well as more specialised and technical work, including outreach and engagement.

The business model for the HTT is established and while Trust funds are maintained through returns on publications, as well as returns on existing investments, in order to expand our programme over the next 10 years, increased levels of funding will be needed to employ staff. Developing the 'case for support' for achieving this is being led by a Task and Finish Group, in consultation with Kaufman Philanthropy.

The HTT has also invested considerable time and effort in 2020-21 in addressing our digital needs for the future. The HTT recognises the importance a digital strategy has for the Trust, not only in terms of creating digital publications and promoting outreach, but more fundamentally too, in providing a vehicle for fundraising and 'friend-raising'.

To this end over the past year, a further Task and Finish Group was established to review the HTT's digital needs and begin to map out a 'digital future' for the Trust. The resulting report identifies especially the need for securing funds to enable the HTT website to be overhauled and redesigned. As the Trust's window onto the world, the website provides an important means to raise wider awareness of our charitable objects and ambitions, and also, critically, promote our fundraising plans and needs.

HTT-Digital futures report annexes
Download PDF • 234KB

Together, the activity around the digital futures discussion and the development of the case for support are complementary, and draw on the considerable commitment and support of our HTT Trustees. This past year has shown clearly how strongly felt this ambition is for ensuring a vibrant future for the HTT. With this longer term view in mind, the Trustees have looked very carefully at short-, medium- and longer-term plans, essential for fundraising and financial planning, particularly in terms of defining realistic and achievable targets for extending the geographical coverage of our map and atlas publications, across England, Scotland and Wales. Carefully costed project budgets, for maps and for atlases, based on experience as well as taking into account our new atlas format, have helped provide a framework for fundraising and developing our case for support, which will be pursued further in 2022.

Communications, outreach and marketing

The ongoing global pandemic continues to provide both opportunities as well as challenges to the HTT. Significant challenges faced include planning of events for outreach and engagement, including launch events, while opportunities include especially the wider use and acceptance of online events and activities.

To this end, the HTT has had a particularly successful year of events that have helped publicise and market the HTT and our charitable objects and ambitions. This programme has been led by the HTT COM operations committee, supported in its delivery by all Trustees. Notable achievements this past year include a Spring Lecture Programme, undertaken in partnership with the University of Bristol.

Lectures were free and open to the public online, and included talks given by HTT Trustees as well as speakers from other organisations. The lectures were streamed as well as recorded and are available to view in Education & Outreach. The use of Zoom and YouTube as channels for the HTT Lectures shows a step-change in the HTT's use of technologies for achieving greater outreach. This is also evident too in the use of Twitter via the HTT's account (@hist_towns) which has gained nearly 500 followers over the course of the past year.

As well as on-line lectures led by the HTT, the Trust has also partnered with other like organisations to participate in major events, including National Library of Wales, and its on-line Carto-Cymru symposium, which included contributions by three Trustees, and the International Commission for the History of Towns' (ICHT) annual conference, and its session on historic towns atlases from across Europe. The latter is very important in connecting the BHTA into a wider European programme of national historic towns atlas projects, sharing expertise, ideas and developing research and engagement opportunities.

The international reach of the BHTA is a major asset for the HTT, and places our maps and atlases into a wider comparative setting, and a particularly close relationship with the Irish Historic Towns Atlas (IHTA) is evidence of this. The ICHT accepted a joint proposal from the HTT/BHTA and the IHTA for hosting the ICHT conference in Ireland in 2022, the programme being developed during 2021.

The HTT and BHTA has also played an active role in 2020-21 in the international Historical Ontology of Urban Space (HOUSe) project, funded by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange, including an online workshop in June 2021.

Local events in towns and cities across Britain continue to be an important dimension of the HTT's outreach programme, and although few in-person events have been possible, the HTT has been able to work with organisations and partners such as Historic Coventry Trust, Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, and Centre for Medieval Studies (University of Bristol).

The Trust is also exploring synergies with the British Cartographic Society, British Association for Local History, Historical Association and Geographical Association, particularly to collaborate to develop shared teaching, learning and education resources. The 'advancement of education and knowledge' is a core part of the HTT's mission and finding ways of widening use of HTT maps and atlases among more diverse audiences is our ambition.

Annual Report & Accounts

The HTT's accounting year runs from 1st October to 30th September. The report and accounts for the Historic Towns Trust for the year ended 30th September 2021 are available below to view as a PDF. The accounts for the year 2020 to 2021 are in the course of preparation and will appear here after they have been submitted to the Charity Commission.

Report & Accounts YE Sept 2021
Download PDF • 1.08MB

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