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Today we've published the 2019 Heritage at Risk Register (Thursday 17 October). It's the annual snapshot of the health of England’s most valued historic places.
In the last year 21 historic buildings and sites have been saved. Imaginative uses have been found for empty buildings, providing new visitor attractions and cultural venues for people to enjoy.
Communities, working with funders and local authorities, have saved valued historic places for future generations.
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Grade II* listed former Providence Chapel was originally built in 1797 as the guardhouse of a barracks in Horsham during the Napoleonic Wars. After the war in 1815, the unusual wooden building was moved to Charlwood on horse-drawn wagons and opened as a non-conformist chapel by Joseph Flint who was a Protestant Non-conformist.
It was bought by the Providence Chapel Charlwood Trust in 2013 for £1.00 – the year it was added to the Heritage at Risk Register. The restoration work, which included repairs to the roof, guttering, timber structure and weather boarding have cost around £260,000, funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The building hasn’t been a place of worship since 2013 when the last remaining member of the chapel congregation died. It is now available for use by the local community and as a study centre for the nearby primary school.
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The Grade II* listed Leas Lift is a very rare cliff funicular railway built in 1885 to transport people between The Leas promenade and the beach and seafront. It is one of only three remaining water-balanced lifts in the UK but closed in January 2017 due to safety issues with the braking system. Since then, the buildings, tracks and machinery have degraded further.
A trust has been formed to care for and manage the building in the long-term. Their aim is to bring the lift back into use by making essential repairs and access improvements and to create a community facility to secure a sustainable future for the lift.
The trust aims to fund some of this work with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is in the early stages of planning their bid but hope that if successful, the lift will re-open by 2023. Historic England is working closely with the trust as they develop their proposal to secure the long term future of the building and water-balanced lift.
Although called a chapel, which was probably associated with the adjoining Boxley Abbey, Grade II* listed St Andrews Chapel became a house early on in its history. Dating from the 15th century, it has a colourful past: it was owned by Tudor poet Thomas Wyatt and acted as a local post office in the 20th century. The house still has its original open timber roof. It has been vacant and on the Heritage at Risk Register for many years and remains as a hidden time capsule.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) bought the building in November last year and is working with Historic England and others to bring it back to life. Known as their ‘Old House Project,’ SPAB’s aim is to showcase the very best conservation methods and materials to repair this medieval building. Over the summer, there was a working party held at Boxley Abbey and a lime kiln was set up in the grounds of St Andrew’s for the production of ‘hot lime’.
The most urgent repairs are to prop the west gable which is moving away from the rest of the building as well as roof repairs, repointing, and guttering works. It is SPAB’s philosophy to show the layers of history in a historic building, so the intention is to have a very light touch, with the minimum repair necessary to bring the building back into use over the next five years.
Across the South East, 21 sites have been removed from the Register in 2019 because their future has been secured, often by community intervention, while 10 sites have been added because of concerns about their condition. Historic England has spent £1,509,603 in grants in London and the South East over the past year, helping to save some of our most important historic sites.
The Heritage at Risk Register 2019 reveals that in the South East, there are 156 Grade I and II* buildings, 142 scheduled monuments, 82 places of worship, 25 registered parks and gardens, 3 protected wreck sites and 65 conservation areas that are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change. In total, there are 473 entries on the Register in the South East, 11 fewer than in 2018.