Contested Histories

The rescued buildings in Landmark Trust’s portfolio deliberately set out to represent Britain’s history in all its richness. We look after the dwellings of cotton workers, herring fishers and slate miners with just as much care as those of aristocrats and princes.  Such breadth means that our buildings also sometimes bring us face to face with the complexities of history, with acts by our predecessors that we find troubling and shameful today, that prompt a sense of injustice, alienation and even exclusion for many people.

It is undeniable that wealth generated by the exploitation of enslaved peoples underpinned the creation of some of our eighteenth and nineteenth-century buildings. So all-pervasive was this wealth that it is impossible to escape. It is just as true that the Highland Clearances and industrial cotton mills subjugated people within our own shores. Much like the present, the past can be an uncomfortable place to contemplate.

Landmark tries hard to be dispassionate and wide-ranging in how we communicate about our buildings, on our website and through our history albums and activities. However, as contested heritage rightly becomes ever more keenly debated and brought to the fore, we recognise that there is no place for complacency. Long accepted versions may be open to different tellings and reinterpretations. More than ever, we are scrutinising the interpretation and presentation of our buildings to ensure that we are providing thoughtful and inclusive information. More than ever, we are seeking new ways to reach out to all groups of society, to open up new conversations and new paths of understanding, and to find new and creative ways to interpret our sites for all audiences.

We do our utmost to make sure that Landmark’s buildings bring joy and meaning for everyone, and that we hurt no one in how we share them and present their histories. We know we must work even harder to make sure the multicultural and sometimes contested histories embodied in our buildings help bring together everyone living in Britain today, and we welcome suggestions to help us do that, at [email protected].