12 October 2012

English Heritage seeks help to hunt out Grade II buildings at risk

English Heritage has launched the Heritage at Risk Register 2012 and announced an ambitious programme to find out how the one major element of our heritage not already covered by the Register - the nation's Grade II listed buildings  - can be assessed. Adding those found to be at risk from neglect, decay, damaging alterations or dereliction to the national or local At Risk Registers would be a first step to securing their future.

Grade II listed Hill Top Sunday School in Burslem, Stoke on Trent

Grade II listed Hill Top Sunday School in Burslem, Stoke on Trent is known to be at risk.

There are some 345,000 Grade II buildings in England, accounting for 92% of all listed buildings. Beautiful, historic or architecturally special, they are the houses, cottages, shops, inns, offices, schools, town halls, libraries, farms, mills and other distinguished buildings that shape the character of our cities, towns and villages.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "Grade II buildings are the bulk of the nation's heritage treasury. When one of them is lost, it's as though someone has rubbed out a bit of the past - something that made your street or your village special will have gone.

"345,000 is not a large number in relation to all the buildings in England but it is too many for English Heritage to survey on its own. We need help and are prepared to fund nine to 15 pilot surveys around the country with local authorities, national parks, heritage and community groups as partners. For local authorities hard-pressed by cuts or other groups who come forward this means the chance to find out which buildings most need their scarce resources. And the results will help all parties involved, including the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant-givers, to get rescues underway where nothing has been happening for years.

"It isn't just bean-counting. It really works. In London, Grade II buildings have been included on the Heritage at Risk Register since 1991 and 96% of them have been saved since then."

Simon Thurley concluded: "We launched a first ever Buildings at Risk Register in 1998. We have expanded it over the years to include archaeology, monuments, gardens, conservation areas, places of worship, ship wrecks and battlefields. Now, with the economic climate putting more pressure than ever on Grade II buildings, it's time to plug the one remaining gap. It's going to take a tremendous team effort but as the Olympics have shown, that's something this country is good at. Heritage Makers please step forward!"

Heritage at Risk Register 2012

The new Register published today reveals that:

  • between 2007 and 2012 the total "conservation deficit" for listed buildings and monuments (which is the shortfall between the cost of repairs and how much an owner could recoup from the market value of the repaired property) increased by 28% from £330 million to £423 million and the average conservation deficit per individual heritage site at risk increased by 37% from £267,000 to £366,000. However, while the amount of funding needed has dramatically increased, English Heritage's grants budget has decreased in real terms over the same period by almost 40%
  • only 13% of the Grade I and II* buildings on the Register are thought to be economic to repair, indicating the vast scale of public subsidy required if these national treasures are not to vanish forever
  • there are now 5,831 listed buildings, monuments, archaeological sites, landscapes, battlefields, protected wrecks, places of worship and conservation areas at risk on the Register
  • 318 entries have been saved and removed from the Register since 2011. However, 360 have been added
  • 55% of buildings on the 1999 Register have since been rescued and removed
  • 1 in 6 of England's 19,759 scheduled monuments is at risk; the largest risks remain arable cultivation (44%) and scrub and tree growth (26%).
  • 99 of England's 1,617 registered parks and gardens are at risk
  • English Heritage offered £8.2 million in grants to 191 sites at risk last year and has given £75.3 million to Grade I and II* listed buildings at risk and structural scheduled monuments since the Register began in 1998.

Further analysis shows that an increasing proportion of buildings on the Register have become at risk not through any fundamental lack of potential, but simply as temporary victims of the current economic climate.

Grade II listed Kings Meadow Baths, Reading, Berkshire

Grade II listed Kings Meadow Baths, Reading, Berkshire which is at risk.
© SNICOL PHOTOS

New Heritage at Risk Teams

Another boost for the country's defining legacy of historic buildings and places is the announcement today of special Heritage at Risk teams in each English Heritage local office. These teams will be supporting owners, developers and local groups with heritage rescues so that more buildings and sites can be removed from the Register.

Heritage at Risk Support Officers, part-funded by English Heritage, will be appointed where there is a need for extra ground-level support for communities. Fourteen are already in place.

Places of Worship - Major Denominations to Take Part in National Survey

The Church of England, the Baptist Union, Methodist and United Reformed Churches, aided by grants from English Heritage, have taken up the challenge of assessing which of their churches are in poor or very bad condition by looking through the five-yearly condition reports carried out on all church buildings.

Information on which Roman Catholic churches are vulnerable is emerging from a review called Taking Stock undertaken by dioceses with English Heritage help. By 2014 the condition of the vast majority of England's 14,500 listed places of worship will have been carefully recorded.

Atomic Bomb Store Tower on Thetford Heath, Barnham, Suffolk

Atomic Bomb Store Tower on Thetford Heath, Barnham, Suffolk, a former top secret Ministry of Defence site has just been added to the Heritage at Risk register and is being restored and repaired.

Top Heritage Sites at Risk

Margate Dreamland Rollercoaster, Kent 

Built in 1919-20 as the main attraction of the Dreamland amusement park, the Grade II* Scenic Railway is Britain's oldest surviving roller coaster. Badly damaged by fire in 2008, it has become a sad reminder of Margate's heyday as the south of England's pre-eminent seaside resort. Its restoration is crucial to the cultural and economic regeneration of the town, which is why English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund are supporting Thanet District Council's plan for the Dreamland Trust to breathe life back into the amusement park with the Scenic Railway at its beating heart.

Taylor's Bell Foundry, Loughborough

Established in1839, the foundry is a celebrated part of Loughborough's industrial heritage but also has a significance that extends far beyond the region. It is one of just two operational bell foundries remaining in the country and its earliest surviving buildings are listed Grade II*. Many of the roofs are in poor condition, however, and there has been a long history of inappropriate repair. Now, with the help of an English Heritage project development grant, Taylor's are putting together exciting plans to repair the buildings and at the same time increase public access and community engagement.

Atomic Bomb Store, on Thetford Heath, Barnham, Suffolk

Britain's first nuclear bomb store is a scheduled monument and listed at Grade II*. From the mid 1960s onwards the five watchtowers were vandalised and fell into disrepair and the 66 kiosks used for storing the nuclear components also fell in to disrepair. The owners have worked closely with English Heritage to help refurbish five watchtowers, rebuild part of a concrete fence and restore six Kiosks which housed the nuclear component of Blue Danube, a cold war bomb but lots more is still to be done.

Hanwell Locks, Ealing, London

The Hanwell flight of locks, created in 1794, raises the Grand Union Canal by approximately 53 feet in the space of a third of a mile. This important Scheduled Monument includes the brick boundary wall of St Bernard's Psychiatric Hospital (formerly Hanwell Asylum). The locks and a windmill that once stood at the top of the flight attracted the attention of the famous and local Brentford landscape artist Joseph Mallard William Turner and inspired him to produce a number of works depicting them, some now in the Tate. 

The Crescent, Buxton, High Peak, Derbyshire

The Grade I listed crescent was built to establish the town as a fashionable Georgian spa town. English Heritage is helping to restore this important sweep of buildings. Once the repairs are finished we'll be able to remove The Crescent from the Register.

Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, Birmingham

One of the city's largest Victorian buildings and a local landmark, the Grade II* Grand Hotel has deteriorated badly since it closed for business in 2000. Encouraged by English Heritage, the City Council and the Victorian Society, the original owners now have ambitious plans for its refurbishment. Late 20th century finishes have already been stripped to reveal the faded but damaged grandeur of the interiors, which will now be conserved within the context of a luxury 21st century hotel.

Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, Wirral, Merseyside

First opened in 1864 and now listed Grade II*, the former Birkenhead Cemetery is today used mainly as a public garden. Some of its listed buildings as well as the grounds are in a poor condition; a Friends Group is working with the council to improve the area.

Kirkleatham Hall Stables and Landscape

Built by the Turner family, famous and local early industrialists, the Hall stables on the outskirts of Redcar is a significant group of buildings in the horse-racing history of the North of England. Steeped in equestrian history, famous racehorses such as "The Flying Dutchman" were stabled at Kirkleatham: the Stables were used as a stud farm for racehorses by Charles Turner (1726-1783) - an early owner who co-founded the Jockey Club.  An unusual circular tower in the courtyard complete with a cupola is thought to have been used for viewing the racing, breeding and stud horses as they were walked around the yard. After grants from English Heritage and the local authority the site is now repaired and off the Register.