Heritage at Risk in the North East
Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register 2018 is published today (Thursday 8 November), providing an annual snapshot into the state of England’s most valued historic places. The Register brings attention to the sites across England that are at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
In the North East this includes places across the region, from archaeological sites in Northumberland to architecturally distinctive and imaginative churches in County Durham. Our register raises awareness of the threats to vulnerable heritage and helps us to prioritise our action towards saving these sites.
Here are highlights from this year’s Heritage at Risk Register in the North East:
Added: Christ Church, Consett, County Durham
Christ Church in Consett (Grade II) was built in 1866 for the town’s growing population. Consett was once a booming industrial town, helped by the easy availability of coal in the area. A once sparsely populated place suddenly became an industrial giant and by 1864 the population of Consett and surrounding areas had reached more than 15,000. In response to this growth it was deemed that a new church was needed and John Cory, an architect from Carlisle, was called upon.
This well looked after church features beautiful stained glass windows. However, problems affecting the tower mean it has been added to the HAR register. Cracks in the tower (present for many years) could lead to further problems if not addressed. The church’s architect and engineer are in the process of determining the best way forward and preparing budget estimates for the proposed repairs.
Added: Red Barns House and Red Barns Hotel, Redcar and Cleveland
Red Barns was built in the mid-19th century as the family home of the Bell's (Sir Hugh Bell, 1844 - 1931). Bell held many positions in the North East, including mayor of Middlesbrough three times – in 1874, 1883 and 1911, and High Sheriff of Durham in 1895. He was also a local industrialist whose enterprise included a steelworks in Middlesbrough. Red Barns was designed by Bell’s friend, the architect Philip Webb, a member of William Morris and Partners. A blue plaque on the wall of Red Barns honours Gertrude Bell (daughter of Sir Hugh) the renowned 20th-century explorer, mountaineer, archaeologist and diplomat.
The building is vacant and deteriorating due to a lack of regular maintenance, but planning permission has been granted for the conversion and reuse of part of the building and this work is now well under way.
Added: Woodhorn Colliery, (head gear of two shafts) Ashington, Northumberland
The pit head structures at Woodhorn Colliery in Queen Elizabeth II Country Park are rare survivals of England’s mining heritage. The colliery, a scheduled monument, is owned by Northumberland County Council and operated as a visitor attraction by Museums Northumberland. The museum houses the Ashington Group collection of artworks, commonly known as the ‘Pitmen Painters’.
The head gear machinery (which supported the pulley wheels that in turn supported the cables used for haulage) is becoming very difficult to maintain in a sound and weathertight state. While some repairs have been completed in the past five years, further work is needed. Historic England is working with Museums Northumberland and the Council to help develop a programme of repair and maintenance works for the site as a whole. Woodhorn Colliery was sunk in 1894 by the Ashington Coal Company and in 1914 employed more than 2,000 workers. Woodhorn went into decline in the 1960s because of the availability of cheaper alternatives such as oil and gas, and production ceased in 1981.
Removed: Fulwell Windmill, Sunderland
Built in the early 19th century, Fulwell windmill is a rare example of a vaulted tower mill. The site functioned as a mill until the 1950s and was open as a visitor attraction until 2011 when parts of the sails and fantail were removed due to their poor condition and safety concerns. The building was placed on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2014 because of its deteriorating condition and uncertainty about the site’s future use.
The mill is owned by Sunderland City Council, which initiated a repair programme with grant funding from Historic England. Repairing buildings like this requires specialist skills, so the repair of the cap, fantail and sails has been carried out by a team of millwrights possessing the necessary expertise. Now that the repairs are complete, the local authority will be leasing the building to a community organisation and it will be open to the public as a visitor attraction at the end of the year.
Removed: Amble Conservation Area, Amble by the Sea, Northumberland
The town centre conservation area in the port of Amble has undergone improvements in recent years to its buildings and streets. Following a joint project between Northumberland County Council and Historic England (then English Heritage) grants were given to building owners in the main shopping area of Queen Street, and once-vacant buildings are occupied again.
New housing at the harbour has been developed, and private investment attracted. Public realm improvements by the County Council have begun to stitch various parts of the conservation area back together, providing a platform for economic development.
Today, independent trading seems healthier in the town, and Queen Street appears to have seen a general uplift in trading.
Removed: Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Newcastle upon Tyne
Built in 1827-30, St Thomas’ is a prominent building on the green next to Newcastle’s Civic Centre at Barras Bridge. Problems with the original design of the roof had led to persistent leaks that resulted in internal plaster damage and saturation of external stonework and roof timbers. Following repairs to the gutters, rainwater pipes and the repair of internal plasterwork and redecoration, the church is no longer on the Heritage at Risk Register.
There is still work to be done and regular, routine maintenance will be needed to protect the building fabric and the contents of this important church. The church was designed by John Dobson (1787-1865), a noted architect and houses by him dot the North East. He is best known for designing Newcastle Railway station and for his work with Richard Grainger in developing the centre of Newcastle.
Follow us on Twitter @HE_NorthEast for updates on this and other special places that Historic England is bringing back into use.