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Heritage at Risk 2015

Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register is published today, an annual snapshot of the health of England's historic environment.

  • A Napoleonic watch tower in Essex, a lighthouse in Sunderland, a 20th century concrete church in Birmingham and the remains of a First World War munitions factory in Northamptonshire, among England's heritage now at risk
  • Margate's Dreamland rollercoaster, the Post-War bear pit at Dudley Zoo and vast airship sheds in Bedfordshire now rescued and no longer at risk
  • England's ancient barrows are the most at risk of all types of heritage
  • A third of all sites on the 2010 register now rescued, beating Historic England's national target

Naze Tower covered with scaffolding
A lookout post during both the Napoleonic and First World Wars, Naze Tower, Essex, grade II* was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2015

Added to this year's Register

Across England, fascinating places full of history have been added to the Register, as they're in need of rescue:

  • Naze Tower, Essex, grade II* - a lookout post during both the Napoleonic and First World Wars, and used as a Radar station during the Second World War
  • Hidden in bushes to the side of the M40 the National Filling Factory in Northamptonshire, originally built to fill shells with high explosive and by 1918 converted to produce poison gas
  • Church of St Thomas More, Birmingham, grade II - a 1968 Roman Catholic church built entirely from concrete, by nationally-important architect Richard Gilbert Scott
  • The White Lion in Wandsworth, grade II - a sprawling Victorian pub that was a live music venue in late 70s and 80s. Punk bands played there regularly including 'X Ray Spex'
  • The Mausoleum of Joseph Hudson, grade II - one of Kensal Green cemeteries' most ornate tombs, Joseph Hudson fought in one of the decisive naval battles of the Napoleonic war with France
  • Old Pier lighthouse, Roker, Sunderland, grade II* - built around 1856 and used until 1903. It was moved in 1983 to a nearby park

Cardington Airship Sheds
Cardington Airship Sheds, Bedfordshire, grade II*. Shed No.1, the only pre-1918 hanger to survive in Europe, was taken off the Register

Taken off this year's Register

An equally compelling collection of sites have been rescued in the past year and are now off the Register, they include:

  • Cardington Airship Sheds, Bedfordshire, grade II* - built nearly 100 years ago, Shed No.1 is the only pre-1918 hanger to survive in Europe. Measuring 20,000 square metres and 50 meters high, it was on the first ever Heritage at Risk Register in 1998
  • The Scenic Railway, at Dreamland, Margate, grade II* - Britain's oldest surviving roller coaster, badly damaged by fire in 2008, it's now one of the star attractions at the newly-opened amusement park
  • Brown Bear Pit and kiosk, Dudley Zoo, grade II* - built 1935-7 by architects Lubetkin and Tecton, the Bear Pit is one of 27 innovative and daring structures in the zoo using reinforced concrete

A national view

For the first time, Historic England (formerly known as English Heritage), has compared all types of heritage on its Register to find out the types of heritage that appear the most; from domestic buildings, to protected wrecks, archaeological ruins to industrial sites and places of worship.

Barrows, the ancient burial mounds that cover the length and breadth of the country, are the most at-risk making up 15.6% of the Register (853). Nationally, much is being done to improve their fate.

The most common threat to barrows is farming through growing crops and ploughing the land they sit in. Overgrown plants and shrubs and animal burrowing can also cause problems.

Since 2014, 150 barrows have been rescued and taken off the Register. Historic England has done this through working with owners, in particular Natural England, to find ways of restoring these ancient sites.

Residential buildings, anything from Roman Villas and Georgian town houses to individual prehistoric huts and roundhouses, are the second most common (6.6% 360).

Settlements, small concentrations of dwellings such as deserted medieval villages, are the third most common type on the Register (6.4% 352).

Historic England has also compared types of heritage across each region and found a different category is most at risk in each part of the country. Each category tells the story of that place, for example commercial sites - from shops, showrooms, marketplaces, warehouses to guildhalls - are the most commonly at risk in the North West, hinting at the region's rich mercantile and industrial past.

The South East's coastal defence sites, once the last defence from invasion, are on the Register more than any other type of heritage.

Castles are the sites that come up most on the West Midlands Register, reflecting a time when the England/Wales border was a less peaceful place.

London's most frequently at risk sites are commemorative monuments, a nod towards the capital's role in public life.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, said: "This year's Register gives us the most complete assessment of the state of our nation's heritage yet. It shows that we are making progress, but also that the challenge is still significant. We are committed to working with local authorities, civic societies and everyone who is passionate about and values our heritage across England. The very things that make our regions special, are the things most at risk. If they're lost, then a sense of that region is lost too. Together we can safeguard our most precious places and buildings for future generations."

On target

A third of all sites on the 2010 register have been rescued, which means Historic England has beaten its target of getting 25% off the register over five years. Across the next three years, we aim to take a further 750 sites off the Register.

The 2015 Register is the most comprehensive to date, with listed buildings, places of worship, industrial sites, scheduled monuments and archaeology, conservation areas, parks and gardens, protected wrecks and battlefields at risk and in need of rescue.

Mounting challenges for listed buildings

There are fewer listed buildings on the Register than ever before but it's getting more expensive to save the remaining ones.

For the first time the conservation deficit, the difference in the cost of repair compared to the end value, has gone above £500,000. This is because the buildings left on the Register are the ones hardest to repair. Research also suggests the cost of materials for conservation jobs is also rising.

Next steps

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