Creswell Crags and the Creswell Heritage Trust

Recognition of the scientific importance, vulnerability and popular appeal of Creswell Crags developed during the 1970’s leading to designation as an SSSI in 1981 and as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1985.  With a view to helping to protect the site and to providing a managed public amenity, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire County Councils negotiated with the landowner, Welbeck Estates, a joint management agreement supported by a 21 year lease on a peppercorn rent.

The lease area comprised the gorge and caves.  Under the terms of the lease the County Councils could use the land to allow the public to enter it and view the caves, for amenity purposes, and were required to carry out such maintenance works as were needed to protect and preserve the land.  The Welbeck Estates Company managed the woodlands on either side of the gorge as a pheasant shoot.  The terms of the lease still require the gorge to be closed to the public, other than on Sundays, during November, December and January as the pheasant shoots take place in the gorge and surrounding woodland during this closed period.

The County Councils took on the lease in 1975 and provided a small car park and picnic area.  Steel grills were fitted to the cave entrances in 1976 and a small visitor centre opened in the same year.  The County Councils appointed as Ranger a Sheffield University postgraduate archaeology student, Rogan Jenkinson.  Jenkinson began a programme of archaeological research designed both to provide visitors with high quality scientific information and to assess and consolidate the site's scientific significance.  

Jenkinson's work led to an extension of the visitor centre in 1979 to provide additional laboratory and display space, to enhanced awareness of the site's significance, and to increased public interest.  A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Sheffield University worked alongside local volunteers and unemployed people to collate information on previous research and to undertake new research designed to assess the site's continuing scientific significance.  Using a battery of new scientific techniques and undertaking limited test excavations, this significance was clearly established.  A proposal was made in 1986 by the Prehistoric Society for Creswell Crags to be included on a list of potential UK World Heritage Sites.  The then Department of the Environment accepted the scientific significance of the site but rejected inclusion on the UK list because of the presence of inappropriate infrastructure in the gorge, namely the sewage works and the road.

Jenkinson's work encompassed other Ice Age and more recent archaeological sites in the limestone area around Creswell Crags.  His work at Creswell Crags and in the wider area resulted in the County Councils organising a seminar to discuss issues relating to protection, conservation, scientific research and public presentation of the archaeological and natural heritage.  The seminar in turn led to the publication in 1986 of the Creswell Crags Heritage Area Strategy by a partnership including the County and District Councils, English Heritage, the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council and the Museums & Galleries Commission.  

The Strategy outlined the scientific and educational significance of Creswell Crags and proposed action to preserve and enhance the site and its setting, its management and presentation.  Key issues identified included the relocation of the Severn Trent sewage works and removal of the B6042, the need for improved conservation and access provision and improved museum and education facilities.  The strategy also identified the need to improve conservation and access provision at other key Pleistocene sites located in the limestone vales and gorges of the Creswell Crags Heritage Area.

To facilitate implementation of key proposals of the Strategy, Creswell Heritage and Groundwork Trusts were created in 1990.  Initially Creswell Heritage Trust was a subsidiary of Groundwork Creswell.  The two Trusts split in 1994 but continue to have a close working relationship in areas of mutual interest.

In 1995, Professor David Bellamy launched the Creswell Initiative to take forward the key proposals of the Creswell Crags Heritage Area Strategy.  At this launch Severn Trent Water announced their intention to relocate the sewage works from Creswell Crags.  This project was completed in 2001 at a cost of over £4.2 million.  It helped lever in over £1 million of funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) and others to restore the former sewage works site and carry out a major programme of conservation and access improvements at Creswell Crags.  These are detailed in the following section on the Conservation Plan.

In 1996 the Welbeck Estates Company made a deed of gift to the Heritage Trust of the archaeological and palaeontological finds from the 1980’s excavations at Pin Hole, enabling the Trust to obtain provisional status under the Museums Registration scheme operated by the Museums & Galleries Commission.  The Trust obtained full Registration status in 2002.

In 1998 Redland (now Lafarge) agreed to facilitate the relocation of the B6042 road through Crags gorge. Funding for this project was secured through the Landfill Tax credit scheme and through EMDA.  The project was taken forward by Derbyshire Consulting Engineers and the work was completed in 2006. The gorge was landscaped in 2007. The Heritage Trust works closely with local communities to promote interest, participation and ownership of the rich variety of local heritage throughout the area.  Through the Pride of Place programme, Trust staff work with local communities to create events and activities that celebrate local heritage including guided walks, festivals, local history study groups and workshops and education packs for local schools.  The recent improvements at Creswell Crags, supported by additional revenue project funding from the European Regional Development Fund, are enabling Trust staff to develop a programme of events and activities for local people at Creswell Crags. Trust staff also worked closely with the Model Village Residents Association and with the District of Bolsover to prepare the successful Townscape Heritage Initiative bid to restore Creswell Model Mining Village.

  1. CHT Draft Business Plan 14-17 PUBLIC 2015
    .doc file (4.72 MB)
    January 09, 2015

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