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The Watercress Line receives lifeline grant from Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund

Almost 450 heritage organisations in England, including The Watercress Line, have been awarded cash from the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage

Grants of up to £1 million will deliver a lifeline for the heritage sector in England with further support to follow and larger grants for capital projects awarded through the Heritage Stimulus Fund

First major tranche of funding from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund


The Watercress Line is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

445 organisations will share £103 million, including The Watercress Line to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The grant awarded is £600,000 and this is in addition to the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £250,000 announced in early September.  Part of the new grant will fund staff costs throughout the winter period when trading revenue is expected to be low because of the impact of the virus.  It will also allow various developments to assist the railway to cope with the Covid-19 restrictions such as erecting screens in carriages, alterations to dining trains and additional signage.  Additionally the grant covers the cost of developing a brand new, world first event ‘Steam Illuminations’ (14th November - 3rd January 2021), introducing an up to date ticketing system to maximise revenue and a top up sum towards the new children’s playground at Ropley.

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund - funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

433 organisations will receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery. This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.

12 organisations, including English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, will receive £34 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England. The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.


Simon Baggott Watercress Line General Manager, said:

“We are enormously grateful to have been awarded this grant, which really should secure the railway’s continued existence beyond the coming very difficult winter period for the benefit of the local area.  This news will be warmly appreciated by everyone who visits the railway, volunteers or works here.  Being able to fund the staff over the winter will allow us to maintain the key engineering skills essential to the business and the associated training of young employees.  We are looking forward to welcoming more visitors back to the Watercress Line over the coming weeks, to our Autumn Steam Gala, Steam Illuminations & Father Christmas at the Watercress Line.”