Culture Recovery Fund grant for Caverns

A much-needed helping hand for the caverns as we transition back to normal and thrive for better times ahead

Kents Cavern receives grant from Government’s

£1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund


  • Kents Cavern is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the latest round of awards from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund 
  • This award will make Kents Cavern more resilient and sustainable as it reopens


The prehistoric caves at Kents Cavern have received a grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help the organisation recover and reopen. 

Nearly £400 million has been awarded to thousands of heritage and cultural organisations across the country including Kents Cavern in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced today.

Kents Cavern is Britain’s most valued prehistoric cave site with geological heritage spanning 400 million years, connected to ancient human occupation over 500,000 years.  A major visitor attraction in the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark and located in Torquay, Devon, its labyrinth of underground passages were used during the Stone Age and have been known to humankind through every period of history since.

Excavated by the Victorians the caverns provided scientific proof for the antiquity of humans and have operated as a visitor attraction since June 1880.  The caves, normally open every day, are independently operated by Kents Cavern Ltd. The conservation and heritage remit is entirely fulfilled by revenues generated from being open to the public.

The grant will be used to retain experienced personnel and continue pursuing a strategy to make Kents Cavern resilient, secure and sustainable.  The funds will be used to adapt and transform activities to keep the caverns open and available to as wide an audience as possible.

Over £800 million in grants and loans has already been awarded to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

This brings the Government's total investment across grants, capital and repayable finance from the Culture Recovery Fund so far to more than £1.2 billion across over 5,000 individual cultural and heritage organisations and sites.

The second round of awards made today will help organisations like Kents Cavern look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead. 

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said:

“Our record breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they've ever faced.

"Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors - helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead."

Director of Kents Cavern, Nick Powe, said:

“The award is a lifeline for the heritage we care for. It acknowledges the value of Kents Cavern as a heritage asset and our contribution to Devon’s visitor economy.

“Since 1880, the protection and operation of the cave has been reliant on trading economically and sustainably. The restrictions imposed by the pandemic has severely threated our survival.

“Today, as we look forward to celebrating 141 years of being open in June, this grant will make a tremendous difference to a successful recovery and our planned reopening on 17th May.  

Ros Kerslake, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Spring is definitely here, bringing not only sunshine but that sense of optimism and hope for the future. We are all looking forward to heritage places and other visitor attractions reopening and I am very pleased that we have been able to support DCMS in delivering this vital funding to ensure the UK’s heritage sector can rebuild and thrive, boosting local economies, creating jobs and supporting personal wellbeing.” 

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said:

“The value of our heritage sites and the people who run them has been amply demonstrated, as they have provided an anchor for so many of us through the dark    days of the last year. Vital grants from the Culture Recovery Fund have helped them survive and will now help them recover, as the places we all cherish start to reopen in the months ahead.”

The funding awarded today is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England as well as the British Film Institute and Arts Council England.

  • ENDS

Notes to Editors

At the Budget, the Chancellor announced the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund would be boosted with a further £300 million investment. Details of this third round of funding will be announced soon. 

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund 

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.  Follow @HeritageFundUK on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund   

About Historic England

We are Historic England, the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

About Kents Cavern

  • Kents Cavern is a prehistoric cave site of international value with a geological heritage spanning 400 million years and a connection to the ancient human occupation of Britain from over 500,000 years ago.  
  • The cave’s international reputation stems from the pioneering work of Victorian explorers whose recordings provided scientific proof for the antiquity of humankind.  Ongoing scientific research reveals prolific Stone Age activity here by three different species of humans (Homo Sapiens, Neanderthals and Homo Heidelbergensis). 
  • The caves lie within the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark and Kents Cavern is a key promoter of Torbay’s prestigious designation.
  • The caverns have been operated by the same family since 1880 and on 19 June 2021 will celebrate 141 years of being independently run and open to the public.  
  • The business operates within the remit of three statutory designations: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SX934641), Scheduled Monument (10717) and Geological Conservation Review.  
  • The caves are intrinsically linked to the designated Ice Age collections at Torquay Museum.
  • The excellent condition of the caverns and the surrounding estate reflects the success achieved over many years independently managing this heritage landmark.

More information about Kents Cavern’s archaeological, geological and cultural heritage click here