Coronavirus: Hogwarts and Downton Abbey sites get grants to avoid falling into disrepair

Harry Potter and Downton Abbey are in the money as the government hands out more than £100m to protect heritage sites from disrepair and job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gloucester Cathedral, used for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, and Highclere Castle, Downton Abbey in the film and TV series, are to receive grants from a new culture recovery fund for heritage.

Also in line for cash is Wentworth Woodhouse, a South Yorkshire mansion that doubled for Buckingham Palace in the Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, which earned Gary Oldman an Oscar for the starring role.

Announcing the handouts, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said grants from the £1.57bn culture recovery fund already announced, would be a lifeline for a total of 445 heritage organisations.

“As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past,” he said.

“This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce-back post-COVID.”

Gloucester Cathedral and its cloisters were used in several Hogwarts scenes in Harry Potter films.

It was home to the original door to the Gryffindor Common Room and the corridor that spelled out the ominous words: “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened!”

Highclere Castle, near Newbury, was used for the exterior shots and some indoor scenes in Downton Abbey and as a result was visited by 60,000 tourists a year until it was forced by the coronavirus pandemic to close earlier this year.

Other heritage sites receiving cash will include Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, the entertainment complex that for many years hosted political party conferences, and the Blyth Tall Ship restoration project in Northumberland.

Also benefiting will be the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre memorial in Lincolnshire and the Piece Hall in Halifax, a former cloth market now a tourist attraction hosting TV shows like Antiques Roadshow.

Welcoming the handouts, Lucy Worsley, chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, said: “Sadly, the pandemic meant that we had to stop some of our critical conservation work.

“The grant we have received from the Culture Recovery Fund will enable to this work to resume – so we can give some of Britain’s most historic buildings the care and attention they deserve, while supporting the specialist craftspeople who are vital for the future of our national heritage.

“We are enormously grateful to the government for this support.”

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, said: “These grants range from giving skilled craft workers the chance to keep their trades alive to helping heritage organisations pay the bills, and to kick-starting repair works at our best-loved historic sites.”

But Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet.”

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