General view of the Dovercourt outer lighthouse with stormy sky and lightening
Dovercourt Lighthouse, Harwich, Essex added to the Heritage at Risk Register © Historic England DP248862
Dovercourt Lighthouse, Harwich, Essex added to the Heritage at Risk Register © Historic England DP248862

Heritage at Risk 2019

Historic England has revealed the historic sites most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development by publishing the annual Heritage at Risk Register 2019.

The Register gives an annual snapshot of the critical condition of some of the country’s most important historic buildings, sites, monuments and places.

Across the region 310 sites have been removed from the Register because their future has been secured, often by community intervention, while 247 sites have been added to the Register because of concerns about their condition.

Highlights include:

  • The London church that inspired the traditional wedding cake design, a Sikh Gurdwara in Leeds, a gunship wreck off Hampshire, and First World War aircraft hangars in Cheshire have been saved
  • The oldest surviving timber trestle railway bridge, a 19th century lighthouse in Essex and military complex constructed during the Napoleonic Wars are now at risk

Over the past year, Historic England has offered £8.5 million in grants to help England’s best loved and most important historic sites.

Sites rescued and removed from the heritage at risk register in 2019 include:

SAVED: Congregational Chapel, High Street, Roxton, Bedfordshire

This Grade II* listed congregational chapel was created around 1806 in ‘Cottage Ornée’ style, with plastered walls and thatched roofs. The thatched roof was deteriorating and water getting in was rotting structural timbers at the east end of the chapel.

A National Lottery Heritage Fund Our Heritage grant was awarded in June 2018 towards the cost of re-thatching and related roof repairs. The work has now been completed, allowing its removal from the register.

SAVED: Physic Well, Barnet, London

The Grade II Physic Well in Barnet has a brick-lined vault which dates back to the 17th century, and was a fashionable rendezvous for Londoners for the medicinal qualities of the mineral waters.

It was visited by Samuel Pepys who drank its medicinal waters there and wrote about it in his famous Diary: “There I drunk three glasses and went and walked, and came back and drunk two more. The woman would have had me drunk three more; but I could not, my belly being full … and so we rode home … and my waters working at least seven or eight times upon the road, which pleased me well.”

The timber-framed well house which dates to 1937 had been on the Heritage at Risk Register for more than two decades. A project was launched to restore it jointly with Historic England, the Heritage of London Trust, Barnet Council and Barnet Museum, and restoration work includes a new roof, timber work and windows, enabling the public to enjoy visiting this unique site.

SAVED: Church of St Bride, Fleet Street, London

Repairs to the steeple and to the church, both inside and out have resulted in the rescue of this Sir Christopher Wren church. Building of the church began in 1671. It has the tallest of all Wren steeples, which is famous for inspiring the tiered wedding cake. A baker, William Rich, wished to create a spectacular cake for his wedding, but was unsure how, until one day he looked up at the steeple of the church in which the marriage was to be held, and inspiration hit him: a cake in layers tiered. St Bride's was one of the first churches to be opened after the 1666 Great Fire of London.

SAVED: Moseley School of Art, Birmingham

It is thanks to the vision of the current owners of The Moseley School of Art, now known as the Moseley Community Hub at the School of Art, that this cherished and important city building has been removed from the Register.

When the Moseley Muslim Community Association purchased the building from Birmingham City Council in 1984 it had a flooded basement and deteriorating stonework. The association then embarked on years of repairs, and finally the building was brought back into use in part thanks to a £264,000 grant from Historic England, which helped to complete the restoration of stonework and the roof.

Built in 1899, the Grade II* listed building functioned as an art school from 1900 and became one of the leading art schools in the area producing cultural stars such as Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie and Pop artist Peter Phillips. It ceased being a school in 1975.

SAVED: Potternewton Mansion, Leeds

This building has lived several lives. It was originally built as a country house in 1817 for the woollen merchant James Brown, but by the late 20th century it was being used as a school for disabled children. It was later bought, in a dilapidated state, by the Sikh community in 2006 who had a vision to use it as a Gurdwara and knit the building back into the local community.

A grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2012 meant the badly leaking roof could be repaired and one of the late Georgian rooms could be transformed into a space to display art from the local community. More recent funding has seen historic outbuildings brought back into use, with the aim to use them as a space to teach local children to learn to play traditional Sikh instruments.

SAVED: HMS Invincible, off Horse and Dean Sand, The Solent, Hampshire

The Invincible was a 74-gun warship built at Rochefort in France in 1744. The warship was captured by the British at Cape Finisterre off Galicia in Spain in October 1747 and taken into service in the British Royal Navy. In February 1758, the Invincible hit a sandbank and ran aground on Horse Tail Sand in the Solent near Portsmouth.

It was added to the Register in 2013 because archaeological monitoring had revealed significant parts of the site were becoming exposed due to lowering seabed levels. The protected wreck site is being removed from the Register this year following three seasons of excavation. The wreck was recorded in detail and at-risk artefacts such as swivel guns, barrels, and a sand glass were recovered from the seabed for study, conservation and public display.

SAVED: Eleanor Cross, Hardingstone, Northampton

Repairs and conservation, supported by a Historic England grant, are nearly finished on the Eleanor Cross at Northampton.

It is one of only three Eleanor Crosses still standing of an original twelve which were constructed between 1291 and 1294 on the orders of King Edward I as a memorial to his much-beloved deceased wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile. The Eleanor Crosses were constructed at the sites where the Queen’s body lay overnight as her funeral procession journeyed from Harby in Nottinghamshire to London’s Westminster Abbey. The Cross is close to Delapre Abbey, which was a stopping point of the procession.

SAVED: Former Providence Chapel, Charlwood, Surrey

The Grade II* listed former Providence Chapel was originally built in 1797 as the guardhouse of a barracks in Horsham, during the Napoleonic Wars. After the war in 1815, the unusual wooden building was moved to Charlwood on horse-drawn wagons and opened as a non-conformist chapel by Joseph Flint who was a Protestant Noncomformist.

The restoration work, which included repairs to the roof, guttering, timber structure and weather boarding have cost around £260,000, funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The building hasn’t been a place of worship since 2013. It is now available for use by the local community and as a study centre for the nearby primary school.

The Surrey ‘Pevsner’ architectural guide called it “a startling building to find in Surrey, or even in England. It would not be out of place in the remotest part of East Kentucky.”

SAVED: Carrshield lead mines and ore works, North Pennines

Situated in the Allen Valley in the North Pennines, this scheduled monument includes the remains of two lead mines and an ore works, which collectively span three centuries of mining history. At its heart is the mid-18th century Barneycraig lodging shop, which served as the centre of mining operations, containing accommodation, an office, a blacksmiths and stables for the pit ponies.

In 2017, the building was at imminent risk of collapsing beyond repair. However, thanks to funding from Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, it was renovated using traditional methods and now serves as a camping barn for walkers, cyclists and dark sky astronomers.

SAVED: St Andrew’s Church, Roker, Tyne and Wear

Early 20th century architect Edward Prior wrote that his main purpose was to provide: “a dignified distinct building dedicated to the service of the Church”. Build in 1906-7, his masterpiece St Andrew’s Church in Roker achieves this and much more.

Known as the cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Grade I listed church is famed for its majestic limestone exterior and exquisite interior, which includes stunning wall and ceiling murals, which depicts the creation of the cosmos.

Concerns about the structural integrity of the windows and leaks in the tower led it to being placed on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2013. An extensive programme of repairs has resulted in it coming off the Register this year.

SAVED: Hooton Hangars, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire

The final phase of works has been completed on two of the three Grade II* former First World War aircraft hangars where the roofs had collapsed (the central and southern hangars).

More than 100 years ago the British War Department requisitioned land at Hooton Park near Ellesmere Port. By 1917 it was the home of Royal Flying Corps squadrons where pilots trained for action in France. The three aircraft hangars were built in 1917 to house the planes and no single piece of timber in the roof structure was more than 6 foot long.

The ‘Belfast trusses’, developed in the shipyards of Northern Ireland, were strong and cheap to build but prefabricated buildings of this kind were never intended to last over 100 years. The hangars were used for aviation purposes until after the Second World War and subsequently by the Vauxhall motor company. The Hooton Park Trust was formed in 2000 to oversee and manage the restoration of the hangers.

Sites added to the register in 2019 include:

AT RISK: The Dovercourt lighthouses and causeway, Harwich, Essex

Believed to be a unique example of a 19th century prefabricated lighthouse, the construction of the Dovercourt lighthouses employed numerous technological advances of the time in terms of the materials and methods required for such an exposed location, including an early use of screw foundations, which were driven into soft ground to provide solid foundations for the legs of the lighthouses.

Marking a milestone in the history of lighthouse design and in the sequence of navigational aids developed for this important deep water harbour, the 'Lights' are a well-regarded landscape feature but the fabric of the lighthouses is deteriorating. A survey was carried out in 2018 with a view to repair work commencing over the next two years.

AT RISK: Wickham Bishops timber trestle railway viaduct, Wickham Bishops, Maldon, Essex

The oldest surviving timber trestle railway bridge in England, the structure at Wickham Bishops comprises two adjoining viaducts, one crossing the River Blackwater, the second the Wickham Mill leat. It was part of the Braintree to Maldon branch line, built to carry freight and passengers inland from the port at Maldon. The line was operational between 1848 and 1966 although it closed to passenger traffic in 1964.

Despite extensive repairs in the 1990s, many timbers are suffering from rot and decay caused by damp, lack of maintenance and heavy tree growth across and through much of the monument.

AT RISK: Leas Lift, Lower Sandgate Road, Folkestone, Kent

The Grade II* listed Leas Lift is a very rare cliff funicular railway built in 1885 to transport people between The Leas promenade and the beach and seafront. It is one of only three remaining water-balanced lifts in the UK but closed in January 2017 due to safety issues with the braking system. Since then, the buildings, tracks and machinery have degraded further.

A trust has been formed to care for and manage the building in the long-term. Their aim is to bring the lift back into use by making essential repairs and access improvements and to create a community facility to secure a sustainable future for the lift. The trust aims to fund some of this work with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is in the early stages of planning their bid but hope that if successful, the lift will re-open by 2023. Historic England is working closely with the trust as they develop their proposal to secure the long term future of the building and water-balanced lift.

AT RISK: Former Weedon Barracks, Magazine Enclosure, Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire

The extraordinary military complex at Weedon Bec was constructed as a major depot for arms and ammunition during the Napoleonic Wars. It included barracks and a military prison, and would have served as a refuge for the king and government had Napoleon invaded. Until the 1960s depot remained a primary supplier of arms, clothing and other equipment to the British Army.

The complex includes several at risk buildings, but in recent years a new private owner has carried out improvements and introduced new businesses to the site. The east gate lodge was recently converted to a heritage centre telling the story of the site, with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Historic England has given a grant for a condition survey of the most vulnerable parts of the site and is discussing next steps with the owner.

AT RISK: Beckford’s Tower, Bath

Beckford’s Tower is a much-loved landmark in Bath. Standing at 120ft and enjoying panoramic views over the city, the early 19th century tower is exposed to increasingly severe weather and is suffering from water penetration.

It was built in 1827 for writer William Beckford (1760-1844) the author of the Gothic novel Vathek. Designed to house Beckford’s collection of art, books and furniture, the tower was also a retreat, an observatory, and a vantage point from which to view the city of Bath. Beckford was finally laid to rest here when the grounds were consecrated for burials. Lansdown Cemetery, this integral part of Beckford’s estate in Bath is now a registered historic park and garden. It is also being placed on the Heritage at Risk Register this year as some of its principal features, including the Grotto Tunnel, are in poor condition.

The Bath Preservation Trust acquired Beckford’s Tower in 1993 and carried out extensive repairs, opening the building to the public in 2001. The Trust are now preparing for another phase of major repairs which is dependent on fundraising.

AT RISK: Leeds Grand Quarter

This area was the first to be developed beyond Leeds' medieval boundaries in the 1600s. It was transformed by the wealthy cloth merchant and philanthropist John Harrison, who also funded the construction of St John's Church in the 1630s- the oldest church in the city centre. The area continued to develop and buildings from each following century remain today, including the fine Victorian Grand Theatre, home to the national opera company Opera North. But heavy traffic, empty shops and loss of architectural details have left it looking down at heel, so it has been added to the 'At Risk' Register this year.

The Grand Quarter has recently been chosen as a High Street Heritage Action Zone where our funding will help revive and improve the area’s special character.

The message is clear – our heritage needs to be saved and investing in heritage pays. It helps to transform the places where we live and work, and which we visit, creating successful and distinctive places for us and for future generations to enjoy. But there’s more work to do. There are buildings still on the Heritage at Risk Register that can be rescued and can be brought back to beneficial use and generate an income, contributing to the local community and economy. These are the homes, shops, offices and cultural places of the future.

Historic England’s experience shows that with the right partners, imaginative thinking and robust business planning, we can be confident in finding creative solutions for these complex sites.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England

National headline statistics

  • Across the country 310 entries have been removed from the Register (for positive reasons), while 247 entries have been added because of concerns about their condition.
  • Over the past year, Historic England has spent nearly £8.5 million (£8,467,643) in grants on helping some of the country’s best loved and most important historic sites.
  • The Heritage at Risk Register 2019 reveals that in England:
    • 1,462 Buildings or Structures - (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments and GIIs in London)
    • 913 places of worship
    • 2,089 Archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments),
    • 102 parks and gardens
    • 3 battlefields
    • 3 protected wreck sites
    • and 501 conservation areas
      …are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change.
  • In total, there are 5,073 entries on the 2019 Heritage at Risk Register, 87 less than in 2018.