Heritage at risk in the East of England revealed



Historic England has just published the 2018 Heritage at Risk Register, the annual snapshot of the health of England’s historic places.

In the East of England, 48 listed sites have been newly identified as at risk in 2018. These include: Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire (pictured) where the main museum building roof is leaking, three conservation areas in Great Yarmouth where there are a range of issues from street clutter to under maintained buildings, Royston Cave in Hertfordshire where its mystical carvings are deteriorating through water penetration and worm activity, and 15th century Cutlers Guildhall in Thaxted, Essex which needs propping up until repairs are made.

There are 43 historic buildings and sites that have been saved in 2018. These include: the medieval Church of St Mary in Denton, Norfolk which has had its guttering and roof repaired, Drinkstone Smock Mill in Suffolk after repairs to its leaking mill tower and Howard House in Norwich where construction of a residential scheme has helped aid urgent repairs.

20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England’s tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need most help. Looking back over the last 20 years, huge progress has been made in saving our heritage and giving it new uses – more than two thirds of entries on the original 1998 Register for England have been rescued. Many of the remaining third of entries from that 1998 register have seen great progress despite being the hardest cases to solve.

Achieving this much in 20 years has depended upon sheer dogged determination by local communities, charities, owners and partners. Historic England’s technical advice, craft skills, grant aid and creative negotiation have all been needed to deliver people’s vision for how these places could be used.

Places of Worship

Historic England welcomes the fact that across England as a whole, more Places of Worship have been removed from the Register than added, but with 96 new entries across the country believes that support for our Places of Worship is still crucial. In the East of England 26 places of worship have been added this year and 24 have been removed. The East of England accounts for a disproportionate number of both additions and removals of the 96 new entries for the whole country. This is primarily due to the large concentration of historic churches in East Anglia.

The Heritage Lottery Fund remains the main source of funding for historic Places of Worship in need of major repairs, but the help and grants for maintenance and minor repairs available through the Government’s Taylor Review pilot project in Suffolk is a very important and welcome new initiative.  The grants enable the ‘stitch-in-time’ minor repairs that help to prevent Places of Worship from needing to be added to the Register in the first place.

Simon Buteux, Heritage at Risk Principal for Historic England in the East of England said: “Over the past 20 years we have used the Heritage at Risk Register to highlight places in need of care and attention. We have dedicated time, expertise and money to bring cherished places back into use and we are proud to have played our part in saving them from neglect. Despite the successes, other places continue to fall into disrepair. They have been added to this year’s Register and we will focus our attention on them in the years ahead.”

 Sites added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register in the East of England in2018:

  • ADDED: Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire This is one of the oldest purpose-built museums in England.  It opened in 1847 and is still fitted out with its original Victorian display cases. Its collections are made up of natural science and the local fauna and flora of Wisbech and the surrounding Fens. The main issue putting the building at risk is that the roofs of the main museum building are in very poor condition, with leaks causing serious damage to internal plasterwork and detailing. Historic England has awarded a grant of £47,750 towards a full condition survey and the most urgent repairs.
  • ADDED: The Long Shop, Main Street Leiston, Suffolk - The Long Shop was built in 1853 for the manufacture of portable steam engines, agricultural machinery and trolley buses. It is now an industrial museum housed in one of the remaining parts of the Leiston Works. The building has been added to the Register because it needs to be re-roofed, the 1970s glazed roof lights are leaking and the guttering needs replacing. Historic England has offered a repair grant and the trust are seeking partnership funding.
  •   ADDED: Great Yarmouth Seafront Conservation Area, King Street Conservation Area and Market Place, Rows and North Quay Conservation Area - In all three of these conservation areas in Great Yarmouth there are a range of issues, including deteriorating and under maintained buildings, inappropriate repairs and alterations, and street clutter, in terms of unnecessary signs and hoardings. The Seafront conservation area also contains the Grade II* Listed Winter Gardens on the Seafront, which is vacant and semi-derelict and on the at risk Register. Some progress has been made to improve the conservation areas with building repairs and conservation-led regeneration projects, as well as a new council enforcement board, however more work needs to be done.
  •   ADDED: Cutlers Guildhall, Thaxted, Essex – This Grade I Listed Guildhall is occupied by Thaxted Town Council and in use as a community centre and art gallery. The impressive timber-framed building dates from the early 15th century, is three storeys high with an undercroft and a south-facing covered market. Part of the sole plate or Guildhall structure on the road side of the covered market is rotting, such that it now cannot support the weight of the timber framing above it. This area is currently propped. Essex County Council and Uttlesford District Council have applied for grant aid and will implement a scheme of repair in 2019.
  •  ADDED: Royston Cave, Katherine’s Yard, Melbourn Street, Royston, Hertfordshire - Royston Cave is sited in the chalk ground below Royston High Street. It is believed to have been a natural feature enlarged in the 14th century by the Order of the Knights Templar for use as a secret meeting place during their suppression. Its walls are covered with religious and mystical carvings that have been linked with their beliefs and initiation rituals. These carvings have steadily deteriorated due to water penetration and worm activity in the chalk. Between 2009 and 2014,  a project grant-aided  by Historic England was able to identify and control the causes of decay, but more recently, water leakage has increased, placing the carvings at greater risk.  Historic England is grant-aiding further work to trace the local sources of the problem and assess what more can be done.
  •  ADDED: The Town House, Ashwell, Hertfordshire. This Grade II* listed building lies at the centre of Ashwell village and is now the village museum. The front part of the early 16th century timbered-framed house is of two storeys, with restored shop fronts on the ground floor.  Ashwell Museum was added to the Register because the cement infill panels within the timber frame are slipping, allowing water to get in, which has caused rot in some of the framing which, if not tackled, will cause further and more rapid deterioration of the timber frame. A scheme for its repair is being developed with the help of grant aid from Historic England.
  •   ADDED: The Former Chapel to Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes.  This Grade I listed former chapel which is also a Scheduled Monument was the only part to survive the dissolution of the Benedictine Priory by Henry VIII. It was later used as an agricultural store, but has been conserved and reinstated as a chapel as part of the Milton Keynes Discovery Centre. It was added to the Register because the roof is leaking, endangering the medieval walls and their important wall paintings. 
  •  ADDED: Danbury Park, Sandon, Essex  - This Grade II Registered Park and Garden has been added to the Register because the site remains divided between multiple owners, with areas developed for agriculture, education, private housing and recreation as a country park. This differential management is affecting its overall character. Numerous features are also showing signs of deterioration, including the icehouse where ice was stored after being collected from the lakes in winter, the ha-ha which stopped the movement of livestock from parkland to gardens without the need for a fence, and the ornamental lakes. A shared vision and strategy for improved management across the whole site is needed.
  •   Briggens, Hunsdon (Registered Park and Garden Grade II - The park lies within the boundaries of Essex and Hertfordshire) - Briggens is an early 18th century landscape park. Briggens has been added to the Register this year because the site is in divided ownership with the majority of the parkland in use as a golf course and other areas have seen little management since the mansion’s closure as a hotel in recent years. The mansion, stable block and the 19th and early 20th century entrance lodges are unoccupied and in very poor condition. A vision and strategy for improved management across the whole site is needed.

Sites saved in the East of England in 2018 include:

  • SAVED: Barn at Hall Farm, Hall Road, Hemsby, Great Yarmouth (NR29 4NJ) – This significant and impressive Grade I timber-framed barn was thought to date to the early 14th century but recent tree ring dating has pinpointed a date of 1278. The roof of the building was badly damaged in a recent storm and, following repairs, the owner has decided to transfer ownership of the barn to the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust.
  • SAVED: Church of St Mary, Denton, Norfolk - St Mary’s Denton is a medieval Grade I Listed church which was in a very poor condition and in need of urgent repair. It is an example of the extraordinary concentration of medieval churches in Norfolk, built largely as a result of the vast wealth created by wool. Of the 921 that were originally built, 659 remain: a testament to their skilful construction from flint, in a region devoid of freestone. Repairs to the leaking roof, guttering, timber rot and for the removal of algae growing inside the church were funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £249,400.
  • SAVED: Howard House, Norwich, Norfolk - Howard House was built by Henry Howard, the Duke of Norfolk on the site of an Augustinian Friary on Norwich’s King Street in the later 17th century. From the 19th century, Howard House was offices for a brewery built in its grounds but has been disused for over 25 years since the brewery closed. It was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 1998. In 2003, Historic England negotiated a residential scheme on the brewery site, which includedrepair of Howard House. Unfortunately this was not implemented. However, in the following decade, Historic England engaged in discussions with a building preservation trust and advised on temporary works including a roof and scaffold propping of the end wall. Following another change of ownership, construction of the residential scheme was finally started in 2015 and repairs to Howard House for its reuse as offices are now completed, allowing its removal from the Register in 2018.
  •  SAVED: Drinkstone Smock Mill, Drinkstone, Suffolk - This timber-framed smock mill dates from the late 18th century. The mill incorporates the base of an earlier horse-driven mill and houses a range of milling technologies. 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.  It has been removed from the Register this year after repairs were made to the leaking mill tower or ‘smock’, which was endangering the machinery. Historic England awarded a grant of £188,000 towards the works and these were completed this summer.
  • SAVED: Eye Town Hall, Broad Street, Eye, Suffolk - Eye Town Hall is a quirky Victorian building constructed in 1857, which is well-used by the local community for special events. Its eccentric design takes advantage of its unusual triangular site. It has been removed from the Register after repairs were made to its badly leaking roof. Historic England offered a grant of £95,000 towards the repairs which were completed this summer.

20 Years of the Heritage at Risk Register in the East of England

Since the Register began in 1998, the Heritage at Risk team in the East of England has worked tirelessly to monitor and improve the region’s rich heritage. 69% or 56 sites in the East of England have been rescued and removed over the past 20 years, but 25 sites remain on the Register.

Some of the big success stories over the past 20 years include: Langham Airfield Dome Trainer in Norfolk – one of only six Second World War training domes in the country which has been transformed into a living history centre and a museum, the medieval gatehouse at Pentney Priory near Kings Lynn in Norfolk which underwent major structural repairs and a new roof and the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Clophill in Bedfordshire which was the very first entry on the Register in 1998.It was removed in2014 after a major restoration programme led by the Clophill Heritage Trust. A series of eco lodges has been created there for walkers, giving the site a viable new use.

Other rescues include: St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth where the chapel has been repaired and adapted to form a new multi-purpose arts venue, Greyfriars Tower in Kings Lynn, Norfolk which has been conserved and the gardens redesigned, Naze Tower in Essex which after structural repairs and re-pointing  continues its use as an art gallery and tea room, St Mary’s Church in Ickworth, Suffolk which needed urgent repairs to the timber roof structures enabling it to reopen to the public, Howard House in Norwich, Norfolk which has been repaired and reused as offices, Kersey Mill in Babergh, Suffolk which after major repairs opened to the public and Tilty Abbey in Essex which has had its walls consolidated through funding from Natural England.

Historic England has given £1,378,449 in grant aid in 2017/18.

Headline statistics for the East of England 2018:

·         Across the region 43 entries have been removed from the Register, while 48 entries have been added because of concerns about their condition.

·         Over the past year, Historic England has spent £1,378,449 in grants to help some of the region’s best loved and most important historic sites.

·         The Heritage at Risk Register 2018 reveals that in this region:

o   103 Buildings or Structures  - (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments)

o   89 places of worship,

o   142 Archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments),

o   8 parks and gardens entries

o   no battlefield entries

o   no protected wreck sites

o   and 48 conservation areas

…are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change.

·         In total, there are 390 entries on the region’s 2018 Heritage at Risk Register.


Top 10 sites in the East of England that have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register since it began in 1998:

1. Church of St Mary the Virgin, Clophill, Bedfordshire

2. Langham Airfield Dome Trainer, Norfolk

3. Pentney Priory, near Kings Lynn, Norfolk

4. St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

5. Greyfriars Tower, Kings Lynn, Norfolk

6. Naze Tower, Essex

7. St Mary’s Church, Ickworth, Suffolk

8. Howard House, Norwich, Norfolk

9. Kersey Mill, Babergh, Suffolk

10.Tilty Abbey, Essex