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Heritage at Risk in the South East Revealed
Historic England has published 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.
In the South East, 20 sites have been saved and 15 sites have been added to the Heritage at Risk Register including Blake’s Cottage, West Sussex (added) and E Magazine in Gosport (saved)
Over the past year in the South East, 20 sites were removed from the Heritage at Risk 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 wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. Charities, owners, local councils and Historic England have also worked together to see historic places restored, re-used and brought back to life.
From 2020-21, Historic England awarded £1.23 million in grant funding to 23 South East sites on the Register (including conservation areas). In addition, £250,000 of COVID-19 pandemic recovery funding was awarded to the Former Sheerness Dockyard Church, Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
In the South East, a total of 15 sites have been added to the Heritage at Risk Register because of concerns about their condition. They are at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
Highlights from the sites saved in 2021
Saved: E magazine and enclosing walls, Priddy’s Hard, Gosport, Hampshire – Grade II* listed and scheduled monument
The 19th-century E Magazine and its enclosing walls are all within the older fabric of Priddy's Hard and were built for the bulk storage of gunpowder.
Priddy's Hard is a military site that retains the best-preserved range of structures that relate to a remarkable history of continual enlargement and adaptation of the British Navy, encompassing Britain's dominance as a sea power on a global scale.
The E magazine was converted to a cordite magazine in 1913. Located on the highest part of the site, during the Second World War it was surmounted by a police post to give a view over the area, and its massive construction made it a useful refuge during air raids.
The E Magazine building has since been repaired and recently converted to a micro-brewery and bar owned by the Powder Monkey Brewing Company.
Saved: Blenheim Roman Villa, south east of Woodstock, Oxfordshire – scheduled monument
Blenheim Roman Villa is a site comprising the remains of a villa building and its associated paddocks. Excavations of this Romano-British site in 1985 revealed artefacts from the 4th century and earlier, including pottery, two Constantinian coins, and oyster shells.
It has been taken off the Heritage at Risk Register as, after being located under farmland for many years, it is now protected under grass, facilitated through the government-funded Countryside Stewardship scheme (reverting arable land to pasture is known to provide substantial additional carbon sequestration). Past excavations show clear signs of plough damage. Despite the damage, it is thought that beneath the remains of collapsed walls, coloured wall plaster may still exist on the lower courses of the walls, as might the original floor surfaces.
Owing to the efforts of Historic England, farmers, landowners and other key partners, a wide range of monuments within the rural landscape have been saved from erosion. By working together over the past five years, long-term changes have been made to agricultural practices and land management in a way that conserves and enhances irreplaceable archaeological sites without compromising livelihoods.
Saved: Bradwell Abbey, Bradwell, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire – scheduled monument
Bradwell Abbey was a Benedictine priory which was dedicated to St Mary and founded about 1154 by Meinfelin, Baron of Wolverton. The site contains a 14th-century former chapel, built of rubble stone, which was originally attached to the west wall of a Priory church (since demolished).
The medieval chapel building contains original wall paintings dating from about 1330 to 1340, which have been restored. Since 2018, Historic England has provided funding for repairs (completed this summer) to make the building stable and watertight, and to protect the important paintings. The owner, Milton Keynes Council working with MK City Discovery Centre, is providing additional funding to improve and safeguard the remainder of the Bradwell Abbey site for future generations.
Highlights from sites making good progress on the Register
Good progress: Swing bridge, Rewley Road, Oxford – scheduled monument
London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) Swing Bridge is a disused railway bridge over Sheepwash Channel in west Oxford, and is one of only two moving bridges on the Thames (the other being Tower Bridge, London). The swing bridge was designed by the engineer Robert Stephenson, built in 1850-1, and rebuilt with steel girders by 1906.
A scheduled monument, the bridge is an important and unique site telling the story of Oxford’s involvement in the history of the nation’s railways. However, it had been disused for many years – it had closed to passenger traffic in 1951 and to goods in 1984 – and was suffering from decay of the plating and paintwork which was protecting its original parts, including the 1850s mechanism.
In recent years the bridge was acquired by Oxford Preservation Trust. It was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2020, and following funding from Historic England and fundraising by the trust, repair work was completed in summer 2021.
Highlights from sites added to the Register in 2021
At risk: Blake's Cottage, Felpham, Bognor Regis – Grade II* listed
This 17th-century, Grade II* listed thatched brick and flint cottage was the home of the 18th-century poet, artist and visionary William Blake and his wife Catherine from 1800 to 1803, and was where he wrote the words to the famous hymn 'Jerusalem'.
In recent years the cottage was purchased by The Blake Cottage Trust who placed it into trust for the nation in 2015 and are now launching a fundraising appeal to restore the building. The trust applied to Historic England to put it on the Heritage at Risk Register due to the decay and failure of part of the thatch, roof structure and supporting masonry.
We are very grateful for the support of Historic England. The trust aims to renovate the cottage, with sympathy and imagination, in time for the 200th anniversary of the death of William Blake in 2027. Fundraising and renovation can be challenging but as Blake himself wrote: 'Eternity is in love with the productions of time.'
At risk: Bursledon Brickworks (The Brickworks Museum), Swanwick – Grade II* listed
The Brick Kiln, Chimney, Drying Sheds, Boiler and Engine House at Bursledon Brickworks have been added to the Heritage at Risk Register. This steam-driven brickworks complex was in use from the 19th century until the 1970s, with what is thought to be the earliest surviving Staffordshire-type continuous kiln with 10 chambers.
Now a museum, the buildings are mainly constructed of red brick, with corrugated sheet roofs. The buildings are at risk due to the vulnerability of the roofless drying sheds’ unsupported walls, and due to the leaking roof above the brick kiln. The National Lottery Heritage Fund have grant-aided a Development Phase for repairing and converting the drying sheds but funding is required to implement the scheme.
At risk: The Cock Pitt Café, 47-49 High Street, Eton, Berkshire – Grade II* listed
This 15th-century, timber-framed building is an unusually complete and high-quality example of a pair of medieval houses. The building was in the process of being restored and converted into residential use. Unfortunately, works ceased part of the way through, leading to problems with water ingress. Urgent repairs were completed in 2020, however with no roof, the building remains at risk. The building has recently been sold and Historic England hopes to work with the new owners to enable it to be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.
At risk: The Restoration Shipwreck, Goodwin Sands – protected wreck
The Restoration is protected shipwreck lying off the notorious Goodwin Sands near Deal in Kent. Built in 1678, this 1,055-ton Third Rate British warship sank in the Great Storm of 1703. It is a graveyard for many ships over the centuries.
The Restoration has been added to the Heritage at Risk Register this year because a recent geophysical survey revealed that the highly mobile sandbank had almost completely migrated off the wreck, exposing the surviving archaeology to an extent not previously seen in years. The surviving material, including the wooden remains of the hull, and several iron cannons are now exposed. This will result in erosion due to wave action and biological attack from marine organisms.
Historic England is analysing how best to help protect the wreck from further deterioration.
At risk: Christchurch Church, St Leonards, East Sussex – Grade II* listed
This large, late Victorian town church in Early English style, designed by the architect Arthur Blomfield, was consecrated in 1884 and sits in a prominent location in St Leonards. It includes a five-light East window and high-quality 19th-century stained glass. It has an impressive exterior, and a grand, richly decorated interior which includes figure painting and wall paintings.
The building has suffered from severe erosion due to vulnerable stonework and its proximity to the coast. Repairs to the tower and spire are being carried out this year with funding from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, but further restoration and repair work is needed to secure its future.
At risk: Church of St Thomas and the English Martyrs, Hastings – Grade II listed
This late Victorian church was built in 1889 by architect Charles Alban Buckler, with a striking, visually spectacular interior scheme created in 1908 and 1911 by the artist Nathaniel Westlake. The church’s chancel arch is covered in wall paintings by Westlake depicting the Company of English Martyrs. The chancel ceiling is covered with paintings of Evangelists and Prophets and there is an elaborate ‘reredos’ (screen) of angels, painted on copper plates under canopies.
By 1945, some of the church’s murals had deteriorated because of water penetration and the wall paintings were restored in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the interior is currently deteriorating due to water penetration caused by inappropriate building work, poor drainage of rainwater, and the roof requiring repairs.
Heritage at Risk 2021 in brief
In the South East, there are 463 entries in total on the Heritage at Risk Register, including:
- 155 buildings or structures
- 75 places of worship
- 137 archaeology sites
- 25 parks and gardens
- 4 wreck sites
- 67 conservation areas
Over the past year in the South East, 20 sites were removed and 15 sites were added to the Heritage at Risk Register.
The variety of South East places coming off and going onto the Heritage at Risk Register shows that our region’s heritage sites still need our help and support.
From the wreck of the Restoration off Goodwin Sands to the Cock Pitt Cafe at Eton, the Register highlights special places in need of love, and gives us an opportunity to celebrate those which we have saved together.