What is a World Heritage Site?
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UNESCO World Heritage Site status
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of Outstanding Universal Value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
Places as diverse and unique as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Taj Mahal in India, the Grand Canyon in the USA, or the Acropolis in Greece are examples of the 1154 natural and cultural places inscribed on the World Heritage List to date (2021).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
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Our World Heritage Site
Why do we have World Heritage Site status?
Cornwall and west Devon’s mining landscape, shaped during a period of intense industrial activity, is testimony to one of the greatest periods of economic, technological and social development Britain has ever known.
From 1700 to 1914, the metal mining industry played a vital role in transforming our way of life. It provided essential raw materials to feed the Industrial Revolution in Britain and pioneered technological developments that helped shape the society we live in today. For example, Richard Trevithick’s advances in steam engine technology – originally motivated by the need to pump water out of mines – ultimately enabled the development of steam trains, changing the world forever through the mass movement of people and goods.
This and other new engineering solutions and inventions developed here were exported to mining regions across the world – including Australia, the Americas and South Africa – playing a key role in the growth of an international capitalist economy. There are in excess of 175 places across six continents where Cornish mineworkers took their skills, technology, and traditions, creating a truly global heritage.
The Governance of our World Heritage Site
We do not receive funding from UNESCO or central government. Our work programme is funded and managed exclusively by a Partnership Board of local authorities – Cornwall Council, West Devon Borough Council, and Devon County Council. The Partnership Board also includes other major ownership or management interests such as the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Cornwall and the Tamar Valley, and the National Trust.
The Partnership Board is responsible, on behalf of the UK Government, for the production of the Management Plan which sets out the policies covering how it is cared for, and for gathering information on the conservation of the Site to report back to UNESCO.
The Partnership is advised by the Technical Panel, which is a working group with representatives from a number of organisations such as Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, West Devon Borough Council, AONB's, and others. This group also works collectively to implement the decisions of the Partnership Board.
The Cornish Mining World Heritage Site team reports to the Partnership Board and is responsible for delivering the Management Plan priorities. The team is hosted by Cornwall Council, within the Culture and Creative Industries Team in the Economic Growth department.