Heritage at Risk in the North East

Find out more about Heritage at Risk in the North East, including information about recent grants to help special places back into use.

For more information about our Heritage at Risk work, please contact Kate Wilson on: 0191 269 12211 [email protected].

Follow the links for more about:

Brancepeth Castle

Brancepeth Castle in County Durham has a remarkable history that spans more than 800 years. It began as a military fortress and has, more recently, been used as a war hospital, a regimental headquarters and a research centre for a glass company. 

One of just 388 Grade I listed buildings in the North East of England, the castle has been on the Heritage at Risk register since 2010. It consists of a series of towers and fortified buildings arranged around a large open courtyard. 

In 1978, Mrs Margaret Dobson decided to buy the castle, save it, and make it her family home. Today, it's still under the care and custodianship of the Dobson family.


Over the past four decades, the Dobson family have worked to tackle the leaking roofs and crumbling stone walling caused by ageing building fabric, construction defects and past neglect. Despite that investment, much work remains to be done to bring the entire building back to good health.

In September 2017, Historic England gave a grant of £400,000 for emergency roofing works and stonework repairs. Now complete, those works have ensured the continued use and well-being of a number of rooms that are available for weddings, functions and public events. 

As part of the project, members of the public were able to ‘have a go’ at repairing medieval stone rubble walling, stone carving and creating traditional roof details in lead sheeting. Heritage skills ‘taster’ days are part of Historic England’s campaign to raise awareness of the importance of traditional craft skills in sustaining our built heritage.

As well as being a treasured family home, the castle also houses a small community of businesses and other residents. The recent support has enabled the family to plan for the future of the castle, including growing the site’s business potential and public access to help fund future work, and finding new ways for people to engage with the site’s heritage.

Repairs to Brancepeth Castle’s roof and stonework underway.
Repairs to the castle’s roof and stonework underway © Historic England

Fulwell Mill, Sunderland

In May, the sails to one of the North East's most distinctive landmarks were finally hoisted back onto the Sunderland skyline. This was the result of a £400,000 partnership project between Historic England and Sunderland City Council which owns the Grade II* listed Fulwell Windmill, to secure the site's repair and public reopening.

Built on the site of an earlier mill, the 19th-century windmill is an unusually complete example of a vaulted tower mill. Six storeys high, the building contains the most complete set of internal machinery of any tower mill in the North East. It functioned as a mill until about 1956 and then operated as a visitor attraction until 2011 when parts of the sail and fantail were removed due to safety concerns.

Historic England has provided funding of almost £100,000 to enable repairs by specialist millwrights to the cap, fantail and associated working parts. Two heritage skills events showcased the specialist craft skills of those involved. The site is now to be re-opened as a visitor attraction and will be run by a not-for-profit community organisation.

The sails being put back onto Fullwell Mill
The sails being put back onto Fullwell Mill © Historic England

Dunston Staiths

Historic England in the North East has given a grant of £37,199 to Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust for repairs to this important monument and symbol of Tyneside's industrial past.

The 526-metre long structure is believed to be the largest timber structure in Europe and is a scheduled ancient monument. Built by the North Eastern Railway Company and opened in 1893 it was part of the Dunston Extension line, facilitating the export of coal.
The site has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2004, following a fire which destroyed part of the structure. Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund have previously funded urgent repairs to the first half of the structure, enabling it to be opened up to the public.

The latest grant from Historic England will help to finance a condition survey on the second half of the structure and the production of a schedule of works to inform its future refurbishment.

Plan a visit to Dunston Staiths

Sockburn Hall

Sockburn Hall is a Grade II* listed building in County Durham, overlooking the River Tees. The hall was constructed in 1834 for Henry Collingwood Blackett in an ornate style using local sandstone.

The hall has been on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register since 1998 and, having been left unoccupied for many years, had suffered from a lack of regular maintenance and fallen into a state of disrepair.

A change of ownership provided an opportunity for the hall to undergo extensive repairs. The new owner has worked with Historic England and Darlington Borough Council to transform the hall back into a family home, leading to its removal from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2017.

Sockburn Hall in warm sunlight.
The new owner of Sockburn Hall has worked with Historic England and Darlington Borough Council to transform the hall back into a family home, leading to its removal from the Heritage at Risk register in 2017 © Historic England

Bracken control

Historic England has been working with National Park volunteers to tackle the threat of bracken to archaeological sites in upland areas. Bracken is one of the main threats to archaeological sites found in upland areas - obstructing their visibility and causing damage to the sites themselves.

Upland archaeology is important because it provides a unique record about how past communities used to live. But bracken can cause extensive damage to this archaeology due to the fast rate at which its roots can spread and cause damage to underground features.

Historic England has therefore been working with Northumberland National Park to train volunteers in identifying archaeological sites at risk and tackling the bracken issue. Their work contributed in the removal of 11 sites from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2017.

To become a volunteer visit the Northumberland National Park website.

Rolling countryside with bracken in the foreground.
Bracken is one of the main threats to archaeological sites found in upland areas © Historic England

The Cooperage

The Cooperage in Newcastle upon Tyne is a Grade II* listed building and was one of just four heritage assets in the North East to be added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2017.

Built as a merchant's house in the first half of the 16th century, it escaped the great Quayside fire of 1854 and was later converted for various commercial uses including a grocers, coopers, restaurant and public house. The building has a sandstone ground floor and timber-framed upper floors that are jettied. Jettying was a common building technique during the medieval period and means that the upper floors jut out beyond the floors below.

Newcastle's Quayside was once packed with timber framed buildings like the Cooperage, which is now one of the city's most complete timber-framed buildings surviving from the medieval period. Unfortunately, the building has been standing empty since 2009 and has fallen into a state of disrepair due to a lack of maintenance. When buildings are left vacant they are at a greater risk of decay and so a new use now needs to be found for the building.

Black and white 3 storey timbered building
The Cooperage, Newcastle © Wikicommons

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