Fire damage up in the roof space of Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester.
Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester has been added to the Heritage at Risk Register this year. A fire, thought to have been started deliberately, severely damaged the hall and destroyed much of the oldest historic fabric. © Historic England Archive. DP169877.
Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester has been added to the Heritage at Risk Register this year. A fire, thought to have been started deliberately, severely damaged the hall and destroyed much of the oldest historic fabric. © Historic England Archive. DP169877.

Heritage at Risk 2016

Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register 2016 is published today, providing the annual insight into the state of England’s most valued 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.

  • A 16th century ship wreck, a fort which defended Portsmouth from attack by the French and Brighton Old Town are now at risk, as well as a Hawksmoor Church immortalised in T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, where William Wilberforce worshipped
  • Newington Green Unitarian Church, often dubbed the “birthplace of feminism”  where Mary Wollstonecraft was inspired, is also now at risk
  • Castle Howard grounds, Crowland Abbey, Wilton’s Music Hall and a Gothic temple in Oxfordshire have now been rescued
  • There are 137 fewer entries on the Heritage at Risk Register than in 2015
  • A shortage of scaffolding and skilled tradespeople is contributing to the increasing gap between the cost of repairs and the end value of heritage sites, especially country houses, public baths and textile industry buildings

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “Across the country, thousands of historic sites are at risk of being lost. Many lie decaying and neglected and the gap between the cost of repair and their end value is growing. The good news is that this year, there are fewer entries on the Heritage at Risk Register than last year. But as some places are rescued, others fall into disrepair. Historic England will continue to provide grants and dedicate time and expertise to working with owners, developers and communities to rescue precious buildings and places so people can continue to enjoy them and the stories they tell about our past.”

Sites added to the Register in 2016 include:

  • Newington Green Unitarian Church in Hackney, London, has had connections to political radicalism for over 300 years. The most famous member of its congregation was Mary Wollstonecraft who, inspired by the church’s radical intellectual group, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), earning her the name “the Mother of Feminism”. The building is now in poor condition.
  • Hull’s Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church is one of the largest medieval parish churches in England and is a building of cathedral-like scale which dominates Hull Old Town. Construction started in 1300 and took 230 years. The interior is rich in monuments and works of art, including two colourful windows by Walter Crane. The asphalt on the nave roof is split and leaking. There is also some deterioration of the clerestory windows. National Lottery Heritage Fund funding has been secured and it is hoped that the roof will be re-covered during 2017; a fitting tribute to the celebrations of Hull as City of Culture.
  • A shipwreck off the coast of Dunwich in Suffolk is believed to be the remains of a 16th century armed merchant vessel or possibly a rare example of an early military transport vessel. It has been suggested to be a casualty of the Battle of Sole Bay in 1672. No ship structure or items such as ballast are currently visible although it is possible that they may be buried in sediments around the site. The site has been placed on the Heritage at Risk Register this year due the theft of a bronze gun from the site.
  • Fort Purbrook in Portsmouth is a so-called ‘Palmerston Folly’ built in the mid-1800s on top of Portsdown Hill, to defend the city of Portsmouth, and in particular the Royal Naval Dockyard from attack by the French. Part of the Fort is used as an activities centre but the condition of other areas is deteriorating.
  • Brighton Old Town Conservation Area contains Brighton's prosperous Lanes shopping area but also suffers with a number of vacant landmark buildings, the impact of increasing traffic which creates a barrier to the beachfront, and from the impact of poorly designed and out-of-place shop fronts.
  • The Church of St Mary Woolnoth, City of London is one of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s six London churches constructed between 1716 and 1727 during the long rebuilding of London after the Great Fire. This was the church where anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce worshipped and it was immortalised in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland”. Settlement in the tower is causing cracks and parts of the roof need repairing to keep it watertight.
  • Wythenshawe Hall in Greater Manchester was ravaged by fire in March. The timber framed Tudor hall at the centre of the site was devastated and much of the earliest historic fabric destroyed. Police suspect it was targeted by arson. We have been working with Manchester City Council since March to conserve what remains but the damage is severe.
  • Grade I West Horsley Place in Surrey is a remarkable example of a country house that was once a courtier's house in a family who were popular with the Tudors and Stuarts. It has been added to the Register because in periods of neglect, water has attacked the internal timber frame and there are signs of significant structural problems. The new owner, broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne, has formed a trust to tackle the problems. An opera house is being built in the grounds which will contribute to the upkeep and start the new life of the site while the house undergoes renovations.
  • Aviary at ZSL London Zoo designed by Lord Snowdon and when it opened was Britain’s first walk-through aviary and the second biggest in the world. Standing proud beside Regent’s Canal it has been a London landmark since it was built in 1965. It is now in need of repair and ZSL London Zoo has secured National Lottery Heritage Fund funding to turn it into a new innovative space for animals and visitors.
  • Grade II* Mersham Court Barn in Ashford, Kent is a large, very fine and rare timber-framed threshing barn dating probably from the 15th century. The barn has for some time been suffering from water damage caused by a leaking roof and structural movement after falling out of agricultural use. Solutions are being sought which will allow the barn to be restored and a new use found for it which is compatible with its special architectural qualities.
  • The Grade I listed King’s Lynn Minster in Norfolk was originally founded around 1095 as part of the Benedictine Priory serving the wealthy medieval port of Lynn. The Minster is over 230 feet long with dramatic twin west towers. It has decaying high-level masonry but the National Lottery Heritage Fund has offered a grant for the first phase of repairs to masonry of the west towers.

Sites rescued and removed from the Register in 2016 include:

  • Thanks to a huge amount of time and effort the magnificent ruins of Crowland Abbey in Lincolnshire are no longer at risk. A repair programme grant-aided by Historic England has secured the nave and west front. For more than 1,000 years Crowland Abbey had survived fire, earthquake, suppression, and civil war, but this picturesque building was succumbing to time and weather. Now its tiers of outstanding medieval statues have been conserved and its stonework has been repaired. Crowland Abbey has been given another lease of life as a beacon for the community.
  • In London, Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest pub music hall in the world, has now come off the Register. After decades of dereliction, decay and a lengthy campaign to save and restore the building and a capital project to repair the building, it is finally structurally sound and back to its former glory.
  • The 1930s Poplar Baths, is now restored and once again open as a public pool, nearly 30 years after closing its doors.
  • The Grade I registered historic landscape of Castle Howard in Yorkshire is one of the grandest Baroque landscapes in England. Historic England has helped fund the repair of many of the monuments which dotted the landscape and with support from Natural England many of the lime trees planted in the 1720s have been saved. Trees for future replanting will be cloned from the originals. Repair grants from Historic England and Natural England mean that the Stray Walls once again form a dramatic feature within the landscape, punctuating the main avenue.
  • The tireless effort of Christopher Terry brought the ruins of Brougham Hall in Cumbria back to life. He stumbled across the hall in 1968 whilst on honeymoon with his wife and noticed a planning notice pinned to the 15th century door, advising that Brougham Hall was to be demolished and the site redeveloped. Over a period of 47 years Christopher worked on the site with his wife, then alone after she died, transforming it into a valued visitor attraction and using it as a centre to train people in crafts such as stone masonry, joinery and lead work. Sadly, Christopher died in August this year.
  • 72 barrows have been removed from the Register since last year but they still remain the top type of heritage site at risk. One success story is the Long Burgh long barrow in East Sussex which was built during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (3400-2400 BC) and represents the burial place of Britain's early farming communities. The Long Burgh was hidden to visitors to the South Downs National Park by thick bramble, trees and scrub that had grown across the monument through a lack of management over a number of years. Historic England worked with the new owner and the South Downs National Parks Authority to remove trees and vegetation to improve the condition and visibility of the monument.
  • The Grade II* Gothic Temple at Shotover Park in Oxfordshire was built in 1740 as an open loggia with particularly fine stuccowork. The folly fell into a state of disrepair through a lack of maintenance over a number of years. The Gothic Temple has been removed from the Register this year following a large programme of repairs, funded by Natural England, with advice from architects and surveyors from Historic England. Traditional craftspeople were used to repair the plasterwork, the roof has been repaired, and the surrounding vegetation cut back. Designed to face the house at Shotover Park along the length of an ornamental pool, the Gothic Temple is now reflected in all its glory in the waters again.

Overall national picture of Heritage at Risk

There are fewer entries on the 2016 Register (5,341) compared to 2015 (5,478) but fewer are economic to repair. The conservation deficit, which is the difference in the cost of repair compared to the end value, has increased substantially this year, driven in part by a skills shortage affecting both consultants and tradespeople and in some cases a scaffolding shortage. The average is now £652,000 but there are some types of site that account for a third of the country’s overall deficit of £613m: country houses and textile industry buildings.

Other types of site with a high conservation deficit are public baths and music, speech and dance venues. There are 17 music, speech and dance venues on the Register and five of them have an estimated conservation deficit of more than £1m each. One example is the Grade II* listed Wellington Rooms in Liverpool which was originally built in 1815 as a private assembly room. It has lain empty for around 20 years despite being located right in the heart of the city’s university district. Historic England is in discussions about grant aiding urgent repairs as part of a funding scheme with the freeholder who is Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Buildings Preservation Trust and Liverpool's universities.

Dating back to 1875-8, the Winter Gardens in Blackpool is an enormous Grade II* listed complex comprising the Pavilion Theatre, Opera House, Floral Hall and Spanish Hall. The two most urgent priorities are the roofs of the Pavilion Theatre and the Spanish Hall. Historic England has just offered a £500k grant towards £1.2m roof repair scheme for the 1930s Spanish Hall.

There are nine public baths on the Register and their collective conservation deficit is £26.5m. Moseley Road Baths in Birmingham is one of the most complete examples of Edwardian Bath Houses in England. It has been on the Register since 2005 and continues to decline in condition. The Friends of Moseley Road Baths and the Moseley Road Baths Action Group responded to the plight of the baths following the collapse of the City Council’s plans for a National Lottery Heritage Fund bid. Through their hard work, and Historic England funding, an options appraisal has been completed and we look forward to working with the community and City Council to develop a sustainable future for the building. Recently the Baths have won the Monument Watch grant for £10,000 and essential maintenance to the fabric of the building will be carried out shortly.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, added: “Some extraordinary chapters in England’s history are represented on this year’s list of our most important heritage at risk. The Unitarian Church on Newington Green represents a place known historically for dissent and radical thinking but its generally poor condition puts the building at risk. But it is wonderful to see that the magnificent grounds of Castle Howard in Yorkshire are no longer considered to be at risk. There are grounds for optimism. However owners and developers are now facing a larger gap between the cost of repairs and the end value of their property. Reasons include skill shortages in key professions and trades in our sector, and in some cases, even the supply of scaffolding. These obstacles can be overcome, especially with funding from us, Heritage Lottery Fund (now National Lottery Heritage Fund)  and Natural England, but we face a significant challenge in saving these sites for future generations.”

National Heritage at Risk findings

Places of worship

  • 926 (6.3%) of listed places of worship are on the Register
  • 129 places of worship have been removed from the Register following repair work, and 129 have been added


  • 2,582 (13.0%) of England’s 19,848 scheduled monuments are on the Register
  • 186 archaeology entries have been removed from the 2015 Register for positive reasons, and 79 have been added
  • 42.2% of archaeology entries (1,413) on the baseline 2009 Register have been removed for positive reasons
  • Arable cultivation (39%) and unrestricted plant, scrub and tree growth (26%) remain the most common sources of risk

Parks and gardens

  • 95 (5.8%) of England’s 1,639 registered parks and gardens are on the Register
  • The South East has the greatest number (24) 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 2015 Register for positive reasons, and 3 have been added


  • Of the 46 registered battlefields in England, 6 (13.0%) are on the Register
  • 3 of the 6 entries are in Yorkshire

Wreck sites

  • 6 (12.2%) of the 49 protected wreck sites around England’s coast are on the Register
  • 4 lie off the South East coast, 1 off the South West and 1 off the East of England

Conservation areas

  • 304 local planning authorities (90.5%) have taken part in the survey of conservation areas
  • 8,286 of England’s 9,848 conservation areas have been surveyed by local authorities and 496 (6.0%) are on the Register
  • 167 (30.4%) conservation areas have been removed from the 2010 baseline Register for positive reasons

Historic England funding 

  • £10 million in grant was spent on 287 entries on the Heritage at Risk Register during 2015/16