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Heritage at Risk in the South East Revealed
Today, Historic England publishes its annual Heritage at Risk Register for 2023. 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.
Highlights from sites saved in 2023
Over the past year, 25 sites have been saved and their futures secured in the South East of England. Many have been rescued thanks to heritage partners and dedicated teams of volunteers, community groups, charities, owners and councils, working together with Historic England.
From roofless ruin to a beautifully restored landmark, the Dockyard Church reopened in 2023, twenty-two years after it was gutted by fire. The Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust has transformed it into a new enterprise centre and cultural hub for the Isle of Sheppey. The £9.5m project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, along with Historic England and many other partners. Restoration work included dismantling the entire clocktower with every stone and brick sorted and labelled before reconstruction.
The Medieval remains at Wallingford have been repaired thanks to a grant from Historic England. Wallingford Castle was first built under William the Conqueror sometime between 1067 and 1071. It was later dismantled stone by stone on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.
Plants and roots were removed from the wall which was then stabilised, rebuilt where necessary, and repointed. The Castle Gardens, encompassing the ancient earthworks and ruins are managed by Wallingford Town Council.
Newport Minister is the Isle of Wight’s main Anglian church. The Victorian building replaced an earlier 12th-century church on the same site. Prince Albert laid the foundation stone in 1854 and the building was dedicated jointly to Saints Thomas of Canterbury and ‘doubting’ Thomas the Apostle.
The church was added to the register due to decaying stonework and leaking roofs. Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant-aided repairs have resolved these issues.
Highlights from sites added to the Register
In the South East, 15 sites have been added to the register because of concerns about their condition. They are at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
Dane John Mound is a prominent feature in a public park in Canterbury.
It is the remains of a medieval motte and bailey castle constructed under William the Conqueror’s rule, soon after the Norman invasion of 1066.
The Mound is a popular location but erosion because of the number of visitors it welcomes is taking its toll. Canterbury City Council is working on plans to protect and restore the scheduled monument.
Polegate Windmill, on the edge of the South Downs, dates back to 1817. Rainwater is causing damage to the large timber beams on all floors and eroding the mill’s brickwork. The beams which support the heavy mill stones and internal mechanism are currently propped.
An active volunteer group are passionate about saving the building and fundraising for its repair. A full condition survey and work to make the mill weather tight is urgently required.
All Saints Church is a small rural chapel with Norman origins and a chancel likely dating back to the 13th century. Problems with moisture are contributing to the building’s declining condition. The fragments of medieval wall paintings which survive inside are particularly vulnerable to the damp conditions.
The chapel is still used for Christian worship and a growing congregation hopes to develop a repair project.
Headline Statistics in the South East
The Heritage at Risk Register 2023 reveals that in the South East:
- 154 Buildings or Structures (Grade I and II* listed buildings and structural scheduled monuments across England, plus Grade II listed buildings in London)
- 82 places of worship
- 126 Archaeology entries (non-structural scheduled monuments)
- 25 parks and gardens
- 3 protected wreck sites and
- 64 conservation areas
…are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change.
In total, there are 454 entries across the South East on the 2023 Heritage at Risk Register.