General view of almshouses and well-tended gardens.
Progress: Lady Herbert's Homes, Chauntry Place, Coventry showing Lady Herbert’s Garden which had been a forgotten corner of the city centre © Historic England Archive
Progress: Lady Herbert's Homes, Chauntry Place, Coventry showing Lady Herbert’s Garden which had been a forgotten corner of the city centre © Historic England Archive

Heritage at Risk in the Midlands Revealed

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.

Sites rescued and removed from the Heritage at Risk Register 2021

Over the last year, 49 heritage assets in the Midlands have been removed from the Register. Many have been saved thanks to the hard work and dedication of local communities, who have come together to rescue places despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Charities, owners, local authorities and Historic England have worked together to see historic places restored, re-used and brought back to life.

A total of £3,147,977 in Heritage at Risk grants have been given to historic places in the Midlands throughout the past year. In the East Midlands, £2,226,094 has been awarded to historic places and in the West Midlands, £921,883. The government’s Culture Recovery Fund was the source £2,442,901 of the total figure. These emergency grants have kick-started essential repairs and maintenance at many precious historic sites during the pandemic and helped protect the livelihoods of the skilled craft workers who keep our cherished historic places alive.

Saved: Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire, East Midlands

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.

Lincoln Castle was 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, has contributed to urgent works which have now been completed. Whilst further conservation work is still needed on parts of the castle’s walls, it stands ready for the next chapter in a story extending back over a thousand years.

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

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 certainly 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 which was 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.

Saved: Canal Warehouse at the End of Peak District Forest Canal, Derbyshire, East Midlands

The Canal Warehouse was constructed in 1832 as a trans-shipment shed for the Peak Forest Canal and the High Peak Tramway. It played a vital part in moving goods around this busy industrial hub and incorporates an open channel for canal boats within its walls.

The Grade II* listed warehouse was removed from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register this year on completion of essential roof repair works funded by the Canal & River Trust and Peak District in partnership with the Whaley Bridge Canal Group, a community interest company. Having stood as a deteriorating empty shell for many years, the Canal Warehouse is now the focal point of the regeneration of the canal basin. It provides a significant community benefit to the area and is used as a food bank, a book sharing service and a Heritage Craft Club.

Saved: Ford Green Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, West Midlands

Originally a Grade II* listed farmhouse built in 1624, Ford Green Hall is thought to be the oldest building in Stoke-on-Trent – providing a wonderful glimpse of life in the area before the Industrial Revolution.

Timber parts of the south elevation cross-wing were water damaged, threatening the stability of the gable wall frame. A Heritage at Risk Repair Grant of £60,000 was awarded to the local Ford Green Hall Museums Trust for repair work which was completed in Spring 2021.

Saved: The Roundhouse, Birmingham - horseshoe-shaped former stables and stores (City of Birmingham Engineers Depot), Ladywood, West Midlands

One of the most distinctive buildings in Birmingham and Grade II* listed, The Roundhouse is located next to Birmingham’s central canal network. Originally used as a depot for the Birmingham Corporation, the highly distinctive complex consists of stables and stores.

The site was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2014. This year Historic England provided an additional grant of £200,000 for work to the roofing and rainwater goods, brickwork repairs, and the replacement of historic windows. These repaired buildings are now being run as a heritage enterprise providing office space, a visitor centre and canal-related leisure and outreach activities.

Saved: Grand Hotel, Birmingham, West Midlands

Located in Colmore Row in the centre of Birmingham, the Grand Hotel is a magnificent Victorian building dating from 1875 and includes a hotel, shops and offices. A key landmark in Britain’s second city, the Grade II* listed building overlooks Cathedral Square and boasts an important suite of public rooms.

In 2016, Historic England provided a grant of £200,000 to repair the exterior of the building. Since then, Historic England has worked closely with the owner while a major refurbishment of the hotel was undertaken. The mixed-use building is now fully repaired and occupied with shops, restaurants and bars as well as a luxury boutique hotel.

Sites where good progress has been made

Progress: Taylor’s Bell Foundry, Loughborough, Leicestershire, East Midlands

Taylor’s Bell Foundry is the largest and only historic purpose-built bell foundry in the UK still in use today. Built in 1859, it is a perfect example of the specialised metalworking industry that thrived during the 19th century. The Grade II* listed foundry has made thousands of church bells over the years, including the 17-tonne ‘Great Paul’ for London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

Following a successful programme of Historic England Repair Grants, Taylor’s Bell Foundry was awarded £449,918 for further essential repair works under the Heritage Stimulus Fund. Completed in the summer, these works have prepared the foundry for a major project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Progress: Torr Vale Mill, Derbyshire, East Midlands

Torr Vale Mill is a Grade II* listed former textile mill situated in a dramatic and scenic location in a ravine of the River Goyt. Built as a water-powered cotton spinning and weaving factory around 1790, the site was extended and remodelled in the 19th century. Used for textile production until the 1990s, its buildings are a remarkably complete example of English textile manufacturing from the Industrial Revolution through to the modern era.

After falling into disrepair and becoming a long-term fixture on the Heritage at Risk Register, Torr Vale Mill began to be used once more as a place of manufacture – in this case, for chemical pumps. Recent repairs and conversions have seen the creation of holiday lets, business units, and event spaces, but significant parts of the mill complex are still unused and at risk. Historic England has provided a grant of £583,145 for the complete repair of the main mill roof which is nearing completion.

Progress: Phoenix Works chimney, Stoke-on-Trent, West Midlands

The Phoenix Works in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, is a former pottery factory complex and a key feature of the Stoke-on-Trent Ceramic Heritage Action Zone. The site houses a Grade II listed chimney and two bottle ovens within the Longton Conservation Area.

Next to King Street and the Stoke-Derby railway line, the 27-metre-tall brick masonry chimney and bottle ovens are prominent local landmarks. The chimney, thought to be at risk of collapse due to the suspect condition of the original mortar and brickwork, is undergoing urgent repairs thanks to a Historic England grant of £190,000. This work is supporting the continued development of the site for new uses in the future.

Progress: Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone, based around The Burges

Coventry was well known as a medieval centre before the Blitz of 1940 when much of the historic core was destroyed or seriously damaged. This year, the surviving length of the medieval city wall and one of the gate houses, Cook Street Gate, have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register following the completion of repair works to the scheduled monuments, funded by a grant of £142,106 by Historic England.

Special focus has been given to Lady Herbert’s Garden and The Burges Conservation Area, which is the National Demonstrator for the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme – under which Historic England has provided £2 million to the Historic Coventry Trust. The result has been transformative with shop fronts sensitively restored, breathing new life back into what had been a forgotten corner of the city centre.

Sites added to the register

At risk: County House, 23 High Pavement, Nottingham, East Midlands

This Grade II* listed townhouse, with possible 15th- or 16th-century origins, was remodelled and extended in 1833 to form judges' lodgings. County House is in a very bad condition with extensive evidence of rainwater damage and localised structural failures. Whilst the building is currently disused, its owner is working with Nottingham City Council on plans to ensure its future.

At risk: The Royal Hotel, Station Road, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, East Midlands

The Grade II* listed Royal Hotel was built in the early-19th century and has been empty since its closure in 2018. There is defective plaster work and failing ceilings due to water ingress, and the rooves, gutters and downpipes need renewing. The building owners commissioned a condition report in 2020 and there are planning proposals for a large amount of new development at the site.

At risk: Severn Wharf Building, Ironbridge Gorge, Telford and Wrekin, West Midlands

The Severn Wharf Building 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, a recent inspection revealed that due to leaking gutters the building’s structural stability is under threat. A Historic England repair grant of £58,050 is being used to carry out further urgent investigations, surveys and repairs to the building.

Scheduled monuments in the Midlands saved by agri-environment schemes

Thanks to the collaborative success of agri-environment schemes this year we are celebrating removing an impressive 23 scheduled monuments within the Midlands from the Heritage at Risk Register, 17 of which are in the East Midlands. Funded by the Department for Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and administered by Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency, financial incentives are offered to farmers, foresters and land managers to protect the environment through the Countryside Stewardship scheme, and its predecessor Environmental Stewardship.

Of the sites removed from the Midlands Heritage at Risk Register this year, the vast majority were under arable cultivation, which can cause erosion of archaeological layers. This year, £230,000 has been invested to remove the risk of modern cultivation pressures on agricultural land, which helps to better conserve irreplaceable archaeological heritage.

For example, the farmer of a 12-hectare site in Northamptonshire has saved the below-ground remains of a Romano-British settlement from deterioration by removing the site from deeper ploughing and agreeing to minimum tillage.

Particularly at risk of cultivation are early Neolithic long barrows (mounds of earth and rubble that hold information beneath them) which date from 5,000 years ago. The Lincolnshire Wolds is home to a vast number of these prehistoric sites, including one located within a complex of Bronze age round barrows at Cold Harbour Farm, which is part of the Stenigot Estate. Assessed by aerial photographs as part of the Lincolnshire Wolds Project, the Stenigot monument is one of five Neolithic long barrows in the Midlands removed from the Register this year. This was made possible by reverting the arable land to pasture, thereby removing the risk of damage through cultivation.

Heritage at Risk 2021 in brief

The Heritage at Risk Register 2021 reveals that in the Midlands:

  • 195 (5.3%) buildings or structures (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments)
  • 265 (7.9%) places of worship
  • 209 (7.0%) archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments)
  • 16 (5.3%) parks and gardens
  • No battlefields
  • No protected wreck sites
  • 130 conservation areas

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

In total, there are 815 entries across the Midlands on the 2021 Heritage at Risk Register.

Due to the ongoing restrictions of COVID-19 we have only been able to assess sites and collect data where it has been safe to do so. This has given us a helpful temperature check of the condition of our historic environment in the last 12 months, but it has not been possible to carry out an analysis of trends as we have in previous years.