Cannon Fort and surrounding trees viewed across a lake.
Saved: The Cannon Fort and adjoining dock, Newstead Park, Newstead, Nottinghamshire © Historic England Archive
Saved: The Cannon Fort and adjoining dock, Newstead Park, Newstead, Nottinghamshire © Historic England Archive

Historic England Reveals its Heritage at Risk Register 2021

Today, Historic England publishes its annual Heritage at Risk Register for 2021. The Register is the yearly health-check of England’s most valued historic places and those most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Over the last year, 130 historic buildings and sites have been added to the Register because of their deteriorating condition and some 233 sites have been saved and their futures secured.

Many have been rescued thanks to the hard work and dedication of local communities, who have come together to save places despite the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months.

Charities, owners, local councils and Historic England have also worked together to see historic places restored, re-used and brought back to life. Examples include:

  • iconic Battersea Power Station in London which has undergone an ambitious redevelopment programme and is due to reopen next year
  • a Victorian public lavatory that has been converted into a cosy bar in Bloomsbury
  • the world’s tallest three-sided obelisk to the Duke of Wellington in Somerset
  • Plumpton Rocks in Yorkshire, considered to be one of the finest 18th-century landscapes in the North of England and painted twice by J M W Turner
  • an extraordinary mock fort and dock built by the fifth Lord Byron around 1750 as an ‘eye-catcher’ to be seen across the lake from his home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. It also served as a mooring and suitably evocative backdrop for the ship which he kept on the lake for entertaining friends with recreations of naval battles!

Historic England gave £9.8 million in grants to historic places throughout the past year, plus another £5.6 million which was awarded to heritage at risk sites from the Culture Recovery Fund during the pandemic in 2020/21 as part of the Heritage Stimulus Fund (Round One). A further £3.6 million has recently been awarded for (Round Two) 2021/22. These grants help with emergency repairs to historic buildings and help protect the livelihoods of the skilled craft workers who keep our cherished historic places alive.

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 currently underway in Glasgow, this is an even more important moment to underline how heritage can play a role in reducing carbon emissions. Reusing those historic buildings and places rescued from the Register this year can help to tackle climate change by avoiding the high carbon emissions associated with demolishing existing structures and building new. To meet the government’s target of being carbon neutral by 2050, we know we must recycle, reuse and responsibly adapt our existing historic buildings.

Our heritage is an anchor for us all in testing times. Despite the challenges we have all faced recently, this year’s Heritage at Risk Register demonstrates that looking after and investing in our historic places can bring communities together, contribute to the country’s economic recovery and help tackle climate change. Our historic places deserve attention, investment and a secure future.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England

National headline statistics

The Heritage at Risk Register 2021 reveals that in England 233 sites have been saved and 130 sites have been added to the Register. The breakdown of the sites that are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change in 2021 is:

  • 1,459 buildings or structures
  • 2,001 non-structural archaeological sites
  • 923 places of worship
  • 104 registered parks and gardens
  • 491 conservation areas
  • 3 battlefields and
  • 4 protected wreck sites

There are 4985 assets on the Register in England, 112 fewer than in 2020. Across the country 130 sites have been added to the Register this year because of concerns about their condition.

Highlights of sites saved and removed from the Register 2021

Saved: Battersea Power Station, London

Iconic building’s future secured after 30 years on the Heritage at Risk Register

Battersea Power Station is a true London icon. It was built from 1929 onwards and at its peak it supplied one fifth of London's electricity. The power station gradually closed and was vacant by 1983. Following decades of sitting derelict was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 1991. An ambitious redevelopment plan is now in its final stages, offering a mix of uses inside and around the main building including new retail, leisure and dining experiences alongside contemporary housing and office space.

Extensive and highly skilled conservation work has taken place across the site to preserve and enhance the incredible historic features and spaces, including the rebuilding of the famous chimneys which was completed in 2017. Battersea Power Station is already a go-to destination for many visitors and has welcomed its first new residents.

After an extraordinary effort by many partners, the Grade II* listed power station is now at a place where it can be safely removed from the Register, ahead of its final opening next year.

Saved: WC Bar - former public conveniences at Guilford Place, Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury

Victorian public lavatory transformed into a cosy wine bar

The Victorian-era ladies and gentlemen's public conveniences or water closet (WC) at Guilford Place has been sensitively transformed into a cosy wine and charcuterie bar. The decorative railings and underground spaces date back to the late 19th-century and are Grade II listed. Many original features survive and have been converted to suit their new use, including the wooden stalls forming the booths and upholstered porcelain urinals used as additional seating.

Saved: Plumpton Rocks, Yorkshire

Considered to be one of the finest 18th-century landscapes in the North of England, it was twice painted by JMW Turner in works now hanging in Harewood House.

Plumpton Rocks is a Grade II* listed landscape designed in the mid-18th century, one of a collection of fantastic historic gardens across North Yorkshire.

The site’s condition had declined largely due to silting of the lake and the growth of self-set trees. But a long-running project with vital support and funding from Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship scheme, Historic England, the Historic Houses Association and the owner, has seen the site restored. The lake has been dredged to recover its 18th-century proportions, there have been repairs to the dam and work to manage trees and vegetation growth, as well as restoration work to the remaining parkland.

Plans are being developed to manage public access to this beautiful site as part of Harrogate’s rich landscape offer and already the local angling club are helping to control invasive vegetation.

The site features a man-made lake and dam, wood and parkland, with dramatic natural outcrops of millstone grit rock formations, shaped and eroded by wind and water. Considered one of the finest 18th century landscapes in the North of England, it was twice painted by J M W Turner, with both works now hanging in Harewood House.

The site has a rich history: the Plumpton family owned the estate from the time of the Norman conquest until it was sold to the Lascelles family of Harewood House in the 18th century. In the 1950s descendants of the original Plumpton owners bought it back.

Saved: Wellington Monument, Blackdown Hills, Somerset

£3.1 million labour of love saves the world’s tallest three-sided obelisk

The National Trust, partners and supporters celebrated the successful completion of a £3.1 million project to repair the monument to the Duke of Wellington in September 2021. Standing high on the Blackdown Hills, the Wellington Monument, at 175 feet, is the tallest three-sided obelisk in the world.

Although commissioned straight after the Duke’s military success at Waterloo in 1815, progress on the monument’s construction was erratic having run out of funding and being twice struck by lightning. A further phase of building followed the Duke’s death in 1852, but the Wellington Monument wasn’t completed to its current height until 1892. Despite regular repairs since coming to the National Trust in the 1930s, the monument again fell into disrepair. It was placed on the Heritage at Risk register in 2016.

Saved: Unitarian Meeting House, Ipswich, Suffolk

18th-century meeting house praised by English novelist Daniel Defoe

The Grade I listed Unitarian Meeting House, situated on one of the oldest streets in Ipswich, is regarded as one of the finest surviving 18th-century Dissenters’ meeting houses in the country.  It was opened for services in 1700 and has been used continuously for worship since then.

The exterior is self-effacing, giving little clue to the classical grandeur of the historically complete interior. large and as fine a building of that kind as most on this side of England, and the inside the best finished of any I have seen, London not excepted.
Daniel Defoe, English novelist, 1722

A year-long restoration project was made possible by grant funding of over £600,000 from Historic England and fundraising efforts by volunteers and community members who raised over £140,000.

Extensive structural repairs to the building were needed, including the re-covering of the entire roof, an overhaul of drainage, and works to remove corroding steel repairs and to rectify structural movement in the timber frame.

Repair work is now complete and the congregation and volunteers at the Unitarian Meeting House are welcoming visitors once again with plans for more public events in the future.

The Unitarian Meeting House team has recently been awarded a Suffolk Heritage Champion Award by the Suffolk Preservation Society in recognition of the restoration of this important building.

Saved: The Cannon Fort and adjoining dock, Newstead Park, Newstead, Nottinghamshire 

An extraordinary mock fort and dock that sparked the imagination of English poet Lord Byron

The fifth Lord Byron built this extraordinary mock fort and dock around 1750 as an ‘eye-catcher’ to be seen across the lake from his home, Newstead Abbey. It also served as a mooring and suitably evocative backdrop for the ship which he kept on the lake for entertaining friends with recreations of naval battles! His great-nephew, the famous Romantic poet who we know as the Lord Byron, was no doubt influenced by the gothic surroundings of Newstead Abbey in his writing.

By 2018, though structurally sound, masonry repairs were needed. Historic England awarded a grant for this work, and the repairs were undertaken in 2019 and 2020. Incidents of anti-social behaviour increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns, but the situation is improving, and this eccentric building and registered Newstead Park in which it sits, can be appreciated once more by the people of Nottingham.

This project followed on from the Historic England grant-aided repair of Newstead Abbey’s iconic west front, which had long been at risk.

Saved: Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire

One of England’s greatest castles, where both kings and convicts have walked

Lincoln Castle is considered one of England’s greatest castles, often finding itself at the centre of national events (not least its decisive role in preventing the future King Louis VIII of France also taking the English crown in 1217). It also served as a prison into modern times.

A major programme of masonry repairs, as part of the multi-million National Lottery Heritage Fund project ‘Lincoln Castle Revealed’ which was completed in 2015, helped rescue the castle and ensure it could develop as a major visitor attraction. However, in recent years the castle’s walls have become at risk due to the sloping banks on which they stand, which have been disturbed by tree growth and extreme weather, among other things.

The castle was therefore added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2020, and a major programme of stabilisation and repair works began. A Covid Emergency Heritage Stimulus Fund grant of £1,281,990, administered by Historic England and supported by specialist technical advice, has contributed to the urgent works. These have now been completed, and although further conservation work is still needed on parts of the castle’s walls, Lincoln Castle stands ready for the next chapter in a story extending back over a thousand years.

Saved: Cresswell Tower, Northumberland

Cresswell Tower, until recently a roofless shell with a history of vandalism and graffiti, has been transformed into a remarkable community space.

The project has seen public and private organisations and the local community work together to restore this Grade II* listed building and scheduled monument.

The castle-like structure is a 14th-century pele tower, originally a three-storey sandstone building, with an entrance on the first floor accessed with a ladder or wooden staircase. Pele towers were common across Northumberland between 1350 and 1600, built to protect local families from Border Reivers, who launched raids from both sides of the border.

The conservation project began in 2014 when parish councillor Michael Wright met with Parkdean Resorts, holiday park operator and owner of the tower, along with Cresswell Parish Council and Historic England. The team applied for a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other funders to help restore Cresswell Tower. There has been a huge amount of local interest and involvement and as the tower begins a new chapter, local volunteers will continue to be involved in running it as a visitor attraction and working on the restoration of the nearby walled garden.

Saved: First White Cloth Hall, Kirkgate, Leeds

One of Leeds’ most significant historic buildings is given a new lease of life through private and public sector investment and expertise.

The First White Cloth Hall on Kirkgate in Leeds was built in 1711 for the sale of undyed cloth, a role successively taken on by the second, third and fourth White Cloth Halls. Today, only the first and third survive.

The hall represents the beginnings of the city’s wealth, through its successful cloth trade. It was originally built to dissuade traders from moving away to a new covered cloth hall in Wakefield. Over the years the building was used for many purposes, but by the 1980s it was largely vacant. Completely disused by 2010, it fell into very poor condition.

Today, thanks to the passion of the Leeds Civic Trust and a regeneration project led by Rushbond, in partnership with Historic England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Leeds City Council, the story of this Grade II* listed building begins a new chapter as an occupier is sought for this amazing space.

Two sides have been dismantled and rebuilt, one wing completely rebuilt from scratch and the remaining wing has been integrated into the new steel frame that holds all together, with the courtyard glazed over.

Highlights of sites added to the Heritage at Risk Register 2021

At risk: Warley Place, Essex

Remains of a wild natural garden created by famed horticulturalist Ellen Willmott

Warley Place features the evocative remains of a natural garden created by Ellen Willmott (1857-1934) one of the country’s most influential women horticulturalists and an early exponent of ‘wild gardening’.

Ellen moved to Warley Place with her parents in 1875. She transformed the grounds into one of the most celebrated gardens in the country. Described by British garden designer, photographer and artist Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) as ‘the greatest living gardener’, Willmott was an influential member of the Royal Horticultural Society and a recipient of the first Victoria Medal of Honour.

More than 60 plants have been named in honour of either Willmott or Warley Place, among them a tulip, narcissus, phlox, bellflower, anemone, sweet pea, wallflower, iris, lily, lilac and several roses. Having dedicated her life and much of her money to her famous garden Ellen was almost penniless when she died in 1934. The house was demolished in 1939 and the gardens fell into dereliction for over 40 years.

Since 1977 Essex Wildlife Trust has managed much of the site as a nature reserve with the help of an enthusiastic volunteer team. Urgent action is needed to fund and implement a Conservation Management Plan for this important landscape to repair ruinous structures, uncover hidden architectural features and save the essential beauty of Willmott’s famous garden, as well as enhancing the wildlife value of this important nature reserve.

At risk: Blake's Cottage, Felpham, Bognor Regis, West Sussex 

Home to poet William Blake and where he wrote the words to the famous hymn ‘Jerusalem’

This 17th-century, Grade II* listed, thatched brick and flint cottage was the home of the 18th-century poet, artist and visionary William Blake and his wife Catherine from1800-1803, and was where he wrote the words to the famous hymn 'Jerusalem'.

In recent years the cottage was purchased by The Blake Cottage Trust who placed it into trust for the nation in 2015 and are now launching a fundraising appeal to restore the building. The Trust applied to Historic England to put Blake's Cottage on the Register due to the decay and failure of part of the thatch, roof structure and supporting masonry.

At risk: The Restoration protected shipwreck, Goodwin Sands, Kent

The highly mobile sandbank has migrated off the wreck exposing the remains of the hull and cannon

The Restoration is a protected shipwreck lying off the notorious Goodwin Sands near Deal in Kent. Built in 1678, this 1,055-ton Third Rate British warship sank in the Great Storm of 1703. The Goodwin Sands is a graveyard for many shipwrecks over the centuries.

The Restoration has been added to the Register this year because a recent geophysical survey revealed that the highly mobile sandbank had almost completely migrated off the wreck, exposing the surviving archaeology to an extent not previously seen in years. The surviving material, including the wooden remains of the hull, and several iron cannon are now exposed. This will result in erosion due to wave action and biological attack from marine organisms. Historic England is analysing how best to help protect the wreck from further deterioration.

At risk: Bourn Mill, South Cambridgeshire

One of the oldest windmills in England is at risk of collapse. This mill provided inspiration for the work of one of our most eminent architects Lord Foster

The main post of Bourn Mill is believed to be from a tree felled after AD 1515, probably making this the earliest mill main post yet dated in England. An open trestle post mill, Bourn mill is rotated around a central post, a simple but impressive task carried out by two or three people.

John Cook, the first recorded owner, sold the mill in 1636 to Thomas Cook of Longstowe.  From 1701 to 1875 the mill was owned by baker John Bishop and his family. Their initials are carved into the interior side timber of the mill. The last miller at Bourn was George Papworth, whose father was landlord of the village pub. The mill became redundant in 1926 and was sold for £45, before passing into the care of local charity Cambridgeshire Past, Present and Future in 1932. A dedicated team of volunteers have kept the mill running with activities and regular maintenance.

Bourn Mill provided inspiration for the work of one of our most eminent architects, Lord Foster, who prepared drawings of the mill whilst studying architecture at Manchester University.

Now, the mill is at risk of collapse due to rotting in its central supporting beams (cross trees). Historic England has awarded a Heritage at Risk grant for emergency propping of the mill and to develop a future repair project for which Cambridgeshire Past, Present & Future are actively fundraising and seeking volunteer support.

At risk: Streatham Hill Theatre, Streatham Hill, London

Grand theatre turned bingo hall in need of TLC. Its revival is being championed by patrons of the arts including Simon Callow and Baroness Floella Benjamin

Streatham Hill Theatre opened in 1929. It is an unusually lavish example of a theatre built outside of the West End and was designed by William George Robert Sprague, one of the leading theatre architects of his generation. It is a rare survival as only a few of his buildings still exist today.

The theatre received a direct hit to the rear of the building during World War II and the interior was repaired in 1950, largely following the original design. Despite this, a significant amount of the original building and its features survive. It remained in use as a theatre until 1962 and then as a bingo hall until 2017, but now most of the building is no longer open. The theatre is in private ownership, leased by bingo operators Merkur.

The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre, supported by the Theatres Trust and Lambeth Council, are actively working to secure a route to bring the Grade II listed building back into good repair and reopened with a new viable cultural use. Next steps include a thorough condition survey to identify the repairs and conservation work needed. Streatham Hill Theatre is also on Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register.

At risk: Severn Wharf Building, at Ironbridge, West Midlands

An impressive former warehouse with structural problems

The Severn Wharf Building, Ironbridge, is a Grade II* listed former warehouse on the north bank of the River Severn sitting within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. Now home to the Museum of the Gorge, it dates from the mid-19th century and was built in the gothic style with a complex roof form.

A recent inspection revealed that due to leaking gutters the building’s structural stability is under threat.

Historic England has awarded a repair grant of £58,050 to carry out further urgent investigations, surveys and repairs to the building; these are progressing well.

At risk: Former Offices and remains of foundry of Harvey and Company (24 Foundry Square), Hayle, Cornwall

Community effort to help restore one of Hayle’s most significant buildings

The Former Offices and Remains of Foundry are an important part of the story of the town of Hayle and of Cornwall’s global mining industry.

Although the building is currently in use as part of the Hayle Heritage Centre, its fabric now needs significant repair. 24 Foundry Square is being placed on the Heritage at Risk Register because there are structural issues, drainage and damp problems, and potentially subsidence.

Harvey’s Foundry Trust, a community development organisation who own the building, have welcomed the addition of 24 Foundry Square to the Register, and are keen to get started on a solution. As a first step, they are staging an exhibition highlighting the importance of the building to the local community and to kickstart conversations about its condition and repair.

24 Foundry Square is part of the wider Harvey’s Foundry complex, a two-hectare site which includes six listed buildings and one scheduled ancient monument. Working in partnership with Cornwall Council and a number of funding partners, the Trust has successfully regenerated much of the site as part of an ambitious 10-year regeneration scheme.