The dire financial picture that independent charitable organisations have been confronted with during the coronavirus lockdown has been unprecedented. It quickly became apparent that there was a limit on how long many attractions could remain closed if they were to survive, and recent weeks have seen Creswell Crags’ future hanging by a thread.

Creswell Heritage Trust, which operates the site, has furloughed most employees and launched a public fundraiser on JustGiving, currently in receipt of around 30% of a £50,000 target.

Just four staff have remained in situ, all charged with researching and applying for emergency grants alongside working on fundraising initiatives to support the business.

Having raised the alarm over its future, one of the hugely positive outcomes has been the announcement from the Welbeck Estate, which owns the land the attraction operates on, that no rent will be charged while lockdown continues.

Describing the site as a “hugely important heritage site” that “must be protected for future generations”, Ian Goodwin, CEO of Welbeck Estate, says: “We are happy to support Creswell Crags through this challenging financial time, and so while the lockdown is in place we won’t be asking Creswell Heritage Trust for monthly rent payments.”

The limestone gorge, caves, footpaths, meadow, car park and Visitor Centre are all situated on land owned by the Welbeck Estate.

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© Karen Bassett/Creswell Craggs

“This has been a humbling situation, we’ve had so much support from so many of our visitors and friends in the heritage, arts and academic communities,” notes Paul Baker, executive director of Creswell Heritage Trust.

“Now our landlords, the Welbeck Estate are looking at ways they can help make these donations go further during this challenging period,” he continues. “I’m sure together we can find new ways to confront the challenges ahead.”

Creswell Crags was one of the first names on the UK museums closure threat map, alongside well-established independent museums such as Portsmouth’s Mary Rose and new kids on the block Vagina Museum.

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Dr Tim Caulton, chair of Creswell Heritage Trust, states that the lifeline handed to them by the landowner means the Trust is “no longer in danger of imminent insolvency” and is now able to apply for emergency funding available in support of heritage organisations at risk.

“The situation will still be financially difficult for the Trust as we are locked down at the peak of our trading season, but we are taking the time to restructure our organisation and the way we operate,” he adds.

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