Free is always best but free entry into historic sites is rare. Therefore, to make the best use of your money, membership into one or more of these preservation societies is absolutely essential if you intend to visit several sites a year. For a family of four, where entry for the family averages 20 GBP, four visits will have made the membership worthwhile.
The English Heritage own and manage over 400 properties and membership allows you free access to all of them for as many times as you wish each year. There are incentive discounts, such as paying by Direct Debit to get 15 months for the first year of membership. In addition, they have reciprocal agreements in Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man, so that entry into properties in these areas are only 50% for the first year and free thereafter. Members are also entitled to discounted entry into properties run by other societies, notably Sussex Past, but not The National Trust.
Membership allows free access to these properties only on regular entry. If there are special events at these properties, there may be a fee for the events. Similarly, at properties run by other societies, your concession may not be valid.
Once you have signed up for membership, you will receive a handbook detailing all their properties plus all those at which you will receive discounted entry. Information contained in this book include the location, directions, opening times and dates, discounts, amenities, what will be open to the public, etc. You will find that some properties have free entry for all; however, they may not be open. Others only allow external viewing. Some properties may be hired out for special occasions and others contain holiday cottages that you can rent.
You can sign up for membership at any English Heritage site or online. Although there is no family membership, children have free access with an accompanying adult. In fact, an adult card allows access for up to 6 accompanied children under the age of 19. Unaccompanied children can enter free upon presentation of their parent’s membership card.
Each year, you will also receive five issues of the English Heritage magazine, highlighting special events which can help you arrange special visits. Although the many benefits of membership may be enticing, be sure that you will be able to fully use these benefits before deciding to join. It would make no sense to join and visit only one property.