English Heritage is a United Kingdom government body with a broad remit of managing the historic environment of England.
Its best known role is that it is the steward of a large number of significant historical and archaeological sites, from Stonehenge to the world's earliest iron bridge. However it has major responsibilities in conservation, giving advice, registering and protecting the historic environment.
By caring for the built environment, English Heritage complements the work of English Nature which aims to protect the natural environment. Both advise the relevant Secretary of State on policy and in individual cases such as registering Listed buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments in EH's case. English Heritage has direct ownership over some historic sites and also liaises with private owners of sites that are managed under guardianship arrangements.
It is possible for members of the public to join English Heritage: membership confers benefits (such as free admission to its properties) but does not give the member a say in the running of the organization, which is a direct result of government policy.
English Heritage describes itself in these terms:
- "English Heritage is the Government's statutory adviser on the historic environment. Officially known as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, English Heritage is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Our powers and responsibilities are set out in the National Heritage Act (1983) and today we report to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport."
English Heritage is thus an unelected quango with a considerable degree of power and access to public money derived from taxation. At some of its properties it charges admission fees to supplement its government funding.
It may be contrasted with the National Trust which is an independent registered charity operating in the same sector.