Public Engagement & Value



New Burlington House was purpose-built for the Society of Antiquaries and the other Courtyard Societies in the 1870s “to conduct their valuable pursuits in contiguous apartments…for the advantage of the country.” (Then Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, Hansard, 19 June 1857). The Society has been delivering benefit for the country ever since.

Public Benefit and Value

The Society has been developing an extensive public engagement programme since 2007, when it held a major exhibition at the Royal Academy to celebrate its tercentenary.

Over the last six years, the Society has focused its activities at Burlington House on introducing the public to its museum and library collections and the expertise of its Fellowship. It has done this through public lectures, exhibitions, open days showcasing the results of our research grants programme, and post-graduate and young researcher open days and conferences.  Since 1962, the Society has owned Kelmscott Manor (Oxon), former home of William Morris, the 19th century designer, artist, poet, political thinker and Fellow of the Society. The Manor is open to the public, but it is presently in the midst of a multi-million pound programme of repair and rejuvenation.

Table 1 summarises the public value delivered by the Society at Burlington House in as estimated by PWC in 2019 following Treasury Green Book rules

Table 1: Gross estimated Public Value (£ per annum)
Category Value
Knowledge generation and dissemination £1,315,000
Library & collection £3,706,000
Supporting education £61,400
Public outreach & engagement (including policy) £296,000
TOTAL GROSS VALUE (min) £5,378,400

Table 2 provides some key statistics of our public engagement, grants, and publications programmes at Burlington House and Kelmscott Manor.

In summary, the Society is a determinedly outward-facing charity, and over the last six years:

  • 52,179 people have used or visited Burlington House.
  • 122,637 people have visited Kelmscott Manor.
  • £825,866 has been distributed in conservation research grants; the latter focusing on early-years and independent researchers and/or high-quality projects that find it difficult to attract funding from other sources.
  • 174,982 digital downloads or full text views of our academic journals and monographs have taken place.

Public outreach at Burlington House has been developed despite the restrictions imposed by the lease and rent issue which has been ongoing since 2012. Specifically:

  • The lease prevents the Society obtaining significant funding to invest in the fabric of the building since it prevents a funding body or lender taking a charge on the property.
  • Additional income generation through sub-letting or commercial activities is prevented by the lease.
  • The 3000% increase in rent has diverted money from our charitable activities, including public engagement.
  • Most significantly, for 8 years the Society has been kept in a state of uncertainty over the affordability of remaining at Burlington House. This has stifled public engagement initiatives such as the launch of a membership scheme which would be open to all, as well as any meaningful forward planning for the redevelopment of the Society.

In contrast, the Society’s historic estate at Kelmscott Manor is entirely owned by the Society. At the Manor, visitor numbers have steadily increased until 2019, when a major campaign or repair, reinterpretation and rejuvenation commenced. The Society has raised over £6 million to fund the project from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, other funding bodies and individuals. The property will reopen in 2022, and we expect visitor numbers to double after five years. The Society has been able to do this because it owns the property, and the investment demonstrates the determination of the Society to deliver public benefit.