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Heritage at Risk 2017

Historic England reveals sites at risk and places rescued as the 2017 Heritage at Risk Register is published.

  • The world's oldest gasholder, a Hawksmoor church and ‘Little Dorrit’s church’, an 18th century Smock Mill and Brighton’s Royal Pavilion gardens designed by John Nash have now been classed as ‘at risk’
  • A toll house, a former atomic bomb store, a bombed out church, J M W Turner’s retreat, and an entire conservation area have been saved
  • A total of 387 entries have been removed from the Register this year – at least one entry per day. 328 new entries were made, meaning a ‘net saving’ of important historic sites this year
  • Historic England reaches its target to rescue 15% of the sites that were on the 2015 Register, a year early
  • In their 50th anniversary year, there are more Conservation Areas added (47) to the Register than removed (22)

On this page:

Accumulator Tower, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, with the spire of St Anne's Limehouse in the background.
Accumulator Tower, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, with the spire of St Anne's Limehouse in the background. Both sites have been added to this year's Register © Historic England DP182780

Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register 2017 is published today, providing the annual snapshot of the state of England’s most valued vulnerable historic places. The Register brings attention to the sites across England that are at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “The Heritage at Risk Register is an annual health-check of the country’s most special and vulnerable historic places. We can celebrate the fact that 387 historic sites have been saved this year across England by organisations and communities working with Historic England and want to thank all those who have cared for at-risk places, bringing them back into life and into use. From the volunteer bracken-bashers at prehistoric sites to the apprentices learning and applying traditional craft-skills to medieval buildings, this is a huge, collective labour of love and it is well worth it.

“But across England, thousands of fascinating buildings and places full of history are still at risk and in need of rescue. There is much work to do to secure their future. The historic environment has a profound impact on our culture and identity as well as our economy, both locally and nationally, and it’s irreplaceable.”

The monument made from large rocks Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall photographed from below against a blue sky.
A chambered tomb from the Neolithic Period, Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2017 © Jim Champion, Creative Commons via Wikimedia

Sites added to the Register in 2017 include:

ADDED: Gasholder number 2, newly upgraded to Grade II*, Fulham Gasworks

Built in 1830, this gasholder dates back to the pioneering days of the gas industry and is by far the oldest surviving gasholder in the world. In recognition of the fact that it is the last standing example of its kind, the gasholder has been newly upgraded to II*. A remarkable feat in design, it was thought to be the largest in the world in 1830, breaking new ground in size and capacity as it was twice the diameter of most gasholders at that time. The triangular shaped uprights were the forerunner of those we recognise from many later surviving gasholders and the innovative structure of the bell (gas vessel) includes wrought-ironwork which was essentially hand-made by a blacksmith. The gasholder’s condition is deteriorating due largely to vegetation growth.

ADDED: Accumulator Tower, Mill Road, Limehouse Basin, London

This distinctive octagonal accumulator tower and chimney stack was built in 1869 by William Armstrong, inventor of the hydraulic crane. Hydraulic power was used extensively in the second half of the 19th century before electric power was generally available. This is the last surviving accumulator tower of three originally built in Regent’s Canal Dock, now known as Limehouse Basin. All three were once connected to a pumping station which fed water under high pressure into a hydraulic main that powered coal cranes around Regent’s Canal Dock. The accumulator tower ensured that the water pressure did not drop in times of high demand and was a key component of this busy industrial area on the banks of the Thames. The tower has some problems with water damage, vegetation growth and graffiti.

ADDED: St Anne’s Limehouse Parish Church, Commercial Road, Stepney, London

This church was designed by the revered architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and completed in 1730. It was named for Queen Anne, who raised the money to build it and several others from imposing a tax on coal coming up the Thames. Being so close to the river, the church has had a long connection with the Royal Navy: the golden ball at the top of its mast was for many years a sea mark for navigating the Thames and its clock, the highest church clock in London, was designed to chime every 15 minutes, guiding the thousands of ships which moored in the docks every day. The interior is suffering from water damage, leading to its addition to the Register.

ADDED: Church of St George the Martyr, Borough High Street, Bermondsey

St George the Martyr is often referred to as “Little Dorrit’s Church” for its intriguing connection with Charles Dickens’ life and works. The churchyard was used for many years as a burial place for prisoners who died in Marshalsea debtors’ prison next door, where Dickens’ father, mother and some siblings were incarcerated in 1824 for debt. Debtors’ prisons and workhouses feature throughout Dickens’ novels and Marshalsea was the place of imprisonment for the Dorrit family in Little Dorrit, with the church of St George the Martyr featuring regularly in the text. The church even has a depiction of the character Little Dorrit in one of its stained glass windows. Although currently in a poor condition, the church recently received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its restoration.

ADDED: The Royal Pavilion Gardens in Brighton

The Royal Pavilion Gardens surround the iconic Royal Pavilion and were designed by English architect John Nash. They are a picturesque layout of serpentine walks, drives, open lawns, shrubs and trees. Since the late 1980s, when the gardens were subject to landscape restoration, their increased popularity with visitors is affecting their overall condition. The special character of the Gardens is also being eroded by a disparate range of fencing, litter bins, signage and lighting and these combine to weaken the sense of the Gardens’ rich history for visitors. Historic England will be working with Brighton and Hove City Council to develop a Conservation Management Plan which will identify how to redress the balance and develop a strategy for keeping the historic gardens in good condition for visitors to enjoy for many years to come.

ADDED: Drinkstone Smock Mill, Drinkstone, Suffolk

Drinkstone Smock Mill houses milling technologies that are unique in England. Dating from the late 18th century, the timber-framed mill incorporates the base of an earlier horse-driven mill. In the late 19th century it was adapted to become a wind powered mill and in 1932, an engine house was built next to it and its sails were taken off. The smock mill was recently upgraded from Grade II to Grade II* because of its unique three-phase milling history. It has been added to the Register this year because the protective covering around the mill machinery in the middle of the tower is leaking. Historic England has offered a grant of £188,000 for repairs to the smock mill and the machinery and it is expected to come off the Register next year.

ADDED: 32, Close (The Cooperage), Newcastle upon Tyne

The Cooperage is the most complete timber-framed building from the late medieval period in the city. The Cooperage is Grade II* listed and is one of the most prominent buildings on the quayside, having escaped the great quayside fire of 1854. Built in the first half of the16th century as a merchant’s house it was later converted for commercial use including a grocers, coopers, restaurant and public house. It was a popular bar but since its closure in 2005 it has fallen into disrepair due to neglect and a lack of regular maintenance. On a quayside that is once again a vibrant commercial district of Newcastle, a new use needs to be found for the Cooperage if it is to survive.

ADDED: Trevethy Quoit, Cornwall

Trevethy Quoit is an outstanding example of a chambered tomb (also known as a portal dolmen) dating from the Early Neolithic period and is one of the best known archaeological monuments in Cornwall. It has been added to the Register as a result of increased erosion by livestock as well damage to the field and land caused by fencing. When the site came up for sale, Historic England helped to safeguard it by giving a £19,000 grant to the Cornish Heritage Trust to purchase the field. Historic England is working with the Trust and English Heritage to improve the site, protect the monument and ensure that it can still be enjoyed by local people and visitors.

ADDED: New Sedgwick Gun Powder Works, Cumbria

This scheduled monument has been the victim of flooding. The gunpowders manufactured here from 1857 until 1935 were used for mining, quarrying and other blasting activities. Today, many remains can be seen, including those of mills, a pump house, a saltpetre refinery, a boiler station, stables and a joiner's shop, together with large parts of the water management system which powered the waterwheels and water turbines. Historic England is going to work with the National Trust to address the problems caused by the flooding and protect the site in the longer term.

ADDED: Lady Row, Goodramgate, York

Lady Row is Grade I listed and dates from c1316 and is probably the oldest complete timber framed building in York. It now consists of a ten bay timber-framed row, No.72, the west-most bay, was hit by a lorry in 2016. As well as the impact damage, the timber-framing is extensively decayed. This property at the end of the group has been scaffolded and cordoned off ever since. Historic England has offered specialist assistance to City of York Council to secure appropriate repairs, and work is due to start soon.

Argos Hill Windmill, Argos Hill, Mayfield, East Sussex. The volunteers who helped to restore it are standing in front of the windmill.
Argos Hill Windmill, Argos Hill, Mayfield, East Sussex has been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2017. The volunteers who helped to restore it are in front of the windmill © Historic England

Sites rescued and removed from the Register in 2017 include:

SAVED: Toll House, Clopton Bridge, Stratford-upon-Avon, West Midlands

Built in 1814, The Toll House in Stratford-upon-Avon, is a Grade I listed building occupying a very prominent position on the 15th century Clopton Bridge. The Stratford Historic Building Trust carried out urgent conservation work to the roof and stonework, with £197,456 grant aid from Historic England,. The building has been creatively transformed into an attractive, modern office space providing support to local communities, jobs and new business space in the town.

SAVED: Former RAF Barnham Atomic Bomb Store on Thetford Heath, Suffolk

RAF Barnham was built in the 1950s to store and maintain Britain’s first nuclear bombs – a free-fall type code named ‘Blue Danube’, carried by V-bombers. It is the only Cold War facility of its type in England surviving largely intact, and documents a crucial phase in the nation’s defence history. Historic England has given more than £500,000 in grant aid over the past decade to repair a number of buildings and structures at the once top-secret installation, such as the watch towers, fences, ‘hutches’ to store separately the fissile cores of the bombs, and loading gantries - reinforced concrete overhead supports which enabled bomb components to be lifted on and off trucks. This work has greatly improved the condition of the site. However, unusually, one individual building, the bomb inspection building known as ‘Building 58’, has gone onto the Register while repairs are underway to deal with deterioration of its reinforced concrete frame.

SAVED: St Luke’s ‘Bombed Out’ Church, Liverpool

This early 19th century Gothic church was burned out in the Second World War and had been on the Register since its inception in 1999. We have worked with Liverpool City Council to bring the Grade II* listed building back into use, contributing £250,000 towards the repair costs. Works included removing vegetation, repairing walls, stabilising the masonry and bell frame, securing the tower stonework and re-roofing the tower. The refurbished church will now be home to an arts and events space. Run by a community company, it will support vulnerable people and provide volunteering opportunities.

SAVED: Sandycombe Lodge, Twickenham

This villa in Twickenham was designed and lived in by the artist JMW Turner. Although one of England’s greatest painters, his aspirations to pursue a career in architecture are less well known. Sandycombe was built in 1813, to Turner’s own designs, as a retreat for himself and his father from the hectic London art world. After a £2.4m restoration, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the charitable trust which now owns the building has been able to provide a tantalising glimpse into Turner’s architectural ambitions. The house opened its doors to the public earlier this year.

SAVED: Nags Head engine house, Pontesbury, Shropshire

In the late 18th century the lead smelting industry was centred on the small Shropshire village of Pontesford. The Nag’s Head Engine House is the oldest and only surviving example of a group of early pumping engines in the village. They were constructed to exploit the local coal field but the others have been demolished or significantly altered. The Engine House became disused in the middle of the 19th century. Apart from the large stone base used to secure the engine cylinder, nothing remains of the steam engine and its component parts. A scheme to secure and repair the masonry remains was carried out this year with grant aid from Historic England. The works included rebuilding part of one demolished wall to ensure structural stability, stone renewal, repointing and soft capping of exposed wall heads.

SAVED: Argos Hill Windmill, Mayfield, East Sussex

Grade II* listed Argos Hill Windmill is a post mill, clad with weather-boarding with a brick round house. Its fan and the shutters of its sweeps were missing and the building was suffering from lack of maintenance. A volunteer group, the Argos Hill Windmill Trust leased the windmill with a view to saving it, and launched a fundraising campaign for its restoration. Advice from Historic England, and successful funding bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Architectural Heritage Fund, have resulted in its repair and removal from the Register this year.

SAVED: Derby City Centre Conservation Area

One of the most notable successes to be celebrated this year is in Derby, where the city centre conservation area has been removed from the Register. In 2009, when Historic England found the conservation area to be ‘at risk’, Derby topped a national table of towns and cities with the highest proportion of empty shops, at 22 per cent. Many historic shop units lay empty and were falling into disrepair. However Historic England and Derby City Council took action by launching a partnership scheme which has refurbished 97 properties, mainly in the Cathedral Quarter. Both organisations contributed £844,000 over eight years, with £900,000 coming from the private sector. The scheme has brought 2,800 square metres of floorspace back into use and created 42 new jobs.

SAVED: Chain Test House, Swindon

The Swindon Chain Test House is a rare example of a railway chain testing house, built in 1873 and listed Grade II*. It is part of the great expansion of the works in the 1870's and one of an important group of industrial buildings at the Great Western Railway works in the Swindon Railway Works Conservation Area. It was put on the Register in 1999. Now the site has a new lease of life as it is being converted into housing. A significant amount of works are now complete with apartments occupied and on sale.

SAVED: Penyard Castle, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire

The ruins of Penyard Castle, a 14th century Marcher Castle, are set in Penyard Park to the south east of Ross on Wye, Herefordshire. The castle was partly rebuilt as a farmhouse in the 17th century but this building had got into a ruinous state also. It has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 1998 but now the vegetation that was damaging the structure has been removed and the site has been stabilised and repointed thanks to a grant from Historic England. This means the site is being taken off the Register this year.

SAVED: Birkrigg Stone Circle, near Ulverston, Cumbria

Thanks to local volunteers, the pre-historic remains at Birkrigg Stone Circle, which had been on the Register since 2014, are safe once more. Bracken infestation had caused some damage so Historic England funded a post to help with ‘bracken bashing’ and worked with the Morecambe Bay Partnership to protect these archaeological remains which date to between 1700 and 1400 BC.

Volunteers bracken thrashing at Birkrigg Stone Circle, Cumbria.
Volunteers bracken thrashing at Birkrigg Stone Circle, Cumbria © Historic England

Overall national picture of Heritage at Risk

Over the past year, a total of 387 entries have been rescued and removed from the Heritage at Risk Register – at least one site per day across the country and 328 were added making the total number on the Register 5,290.

Historic England has also met its target to reduce the number of sites on the 2015 Register by 15% (746 sites) in 2017 a year ahead of schedule.

The Heritage at Risk Register 2017 reveals that in England, 1257 Grade I and II* buildings, 2480 scheduled monuments, 937 places of worship, 96 registered parks and gardens, 4 battlefields, 4 protected wrecks and 512 conservation areas are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change. There are 5,290 assets on the Heritage at Risk Register, 97 fewer than in 2016.  

Conservation areas

Of particular concern is the high number of Conservation Areas on the Register in the 50th anniversary year. 47 Conservation Areas were added this year, making a total 512 at risk. A recent YouGov poll commissioned by Historic England found strong public support for conservation areas, but only a small majority of those surveyed who live in a conservation area (56%) were aware that they actually live in one. Historic England would like to see local authorities raising awareness of Conservation Areas, especially among homeowners and commercial property owners. Common problems facing Conservation Areas are unsympathetic doors, windows and new extensions, poorly maintained streets and neglected green space.  Historic England continues to work with councils and other partners to address these issues.

Volunteers

Over the past five years, 1240 nationally-important archaeological sites have been removed from the Register across England.  Historic England monitors the condition of these monuments and these records are used, in consultation with landowners, to inform management decisions.  Volunteers can play a valuable role in this process by visiting sites on a regular basis and recording their condition. A good example of this partnership with volunteers is the management of the South Dorset Ridgeway which has been described as one of the most important prehistoric cultural landscapes in Northern Europe.

Of the 200 Scheduled Monuments in the South Dorset Ridgeway, 119 have so far been surveyed. Following training, volunteers select and visit sites visible from public Rights of Way or on Open Access land and complete a survey which is sent, along with photographs to Dorset County Council Historic Environment Team and Historic England so that they can update their records.

Volunteers are also making a huge contribution towards the rescue of prehistoric and other archaeological sites by cutting back scrub and bracken. For example, ‘bracken bashing’ working parties have been successful in helping to remove Birkrigg Concentric Stone Circle and a nearby prehistoric hut settlement from the Register in the Morecambe Bay area this year.  

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England added: “Retaining, maintaining and conserving our rural heritage enhances the appearance and character of the countryside as well as benefitting the local economy and communities. Historic places belong to all of us and we would like to thank those volunteers who dedicate their time to record and monitor important archaeological sites and help us look after them.”

National Heritage at Risk findings

Buildings and structures

  • Nationally, 840 (3.8%) of grade I and II* listed buildings (excluding places of worship) are on the Register. The proportion varies from 2.1% in the South East to 8.0% in the East Midlands 
  • 59 building or structure entries have been removed from the 2016 Register because their futures have been secured, and 54 have been added
  • 62.4% of building or structure entries (891) on the baseline 1999 Register have been removed from the Register because their futures have been secured
  • Only 13% of building or structure entries on the Register are thought to be economic to repair, indicating the scale of the public subsidy required

Places of worship 

  • 937 (6.3%) of listed places of worship are on the Register 
  • 115 places of worship have been removed from the Register following repair work, and 130 have been added

Archaeology

  • 2,480 (12.5%) of England’s 19,855 scheduled monuments are on the Register
  • 155 archaeology entries have been removed from the 2016 Register for positive reasons, and 77 have been added
  • 45.7% of archaeology entries (1,530) on the baseline 2009 Register have been removed for positive reasons
  • Arable cultivation (38.3%) and unrestricted plant, scrub and tree growth (25.8%) remain the most common sources of risk

Parks and gardens

  • 96 (5.8%) of England’s 1,652 registered parks and gardens are on the Register
  • The South East has the greatest number (25) of parks and gardens on the Register, but the highest proportion (10.9%) is in North East (6 entries)
  • 2 park and garden entries have been removed from the 2016 Register for positive reasons, and 3 have been added

Battlefields 

  • Of the 46 registered battlefields in England, 4 (8.7%) are on the Register 
  • 2 battlefield entries have been removed from the 2016 Register for positive reasons, and none have been added
  • 2 of the 4 entries are in Yorkshire

Wreck sites

  • 4 (7.7%) of the 52 protected wreck sites around England’s coast are on the Register
  • Of these, all 4 lie off the South East coast
  • 3 protected wreck entries have been removed from the 2016 Register for positive reasons, and 1 has been added

Conservation Areas 

  • 308 local planning authorities have taken part in the survey of conservation areas, with 4 participating for the first time in 2017
  • 8,494 of England’s 9,868 conservation areas have been surveyed by local authorities and 512 (6.0%) are on the Register
  • 22 conservation areas have been removed from the 2016 Register for positive reasons and 47 have been added
  • 184 (33.5%) conservation areas have been removed from the 2010 baseline Register for positive reasons

Historic England Funding

£10.5 million in grant was spent on 260 entries on the Heritage at Risk Register during 2016/17.

Risk assessments of heritage assets are based on the nature of the site. Buildings and structures include listed buildings (excluding listed places of worship) and structural scheduled monuments; archaeology assessments cover earthworks and buried archaeology.

Aerial photo of St Luke's Church and surrounding streets in Liverpool
St Luke's Church in Liverpool, known as the 'bombed out church', was saved. We have worked with Liverpool City Council to bring the Grade II* listed building back into use, contributing £250,000 towards the repair costs. © Historic England
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